“What’s your fitness goal?”

“To lose this stubborn fat!”

It’s not uncommon for people to have this conversation when discussing their fitness goals. This is of course a very sensible goal! But, body fat is actually a critical nutrient in the body. We NEED fat (to a certain extent)!

Less fat does not equate to better health!

Fat’s involved in immunity, energy production, muscle function, metabolism, and simply keeping you alive!

So it’s NOT innately ‘unhealthy’. But, when does it become a health problem?

Types of Body Fat and What They Say About You

Brown Fat

Brown fat is used for thermogenesis, meaning to generate heat and keep you warm.

It is most abundant in the neck, kidney, and spinal cord regions.

DID YOU KNOW: People with more brown fat tend to be leaner and ‘healthier’, compared to those with less, in terms of better metabolism and resistance to heart disease. In a reductive sense more brown fat, is actually more beneficial! A lot of athletes have more of this type of fat.

White Fat

White fat is the most abundant type of body fat, and can be described as the visible fat under the skin.

This is the stuff you notice around your arms, tummy, thighs and generally anywhere that fat accumulates when pinched. They store energy, and mediate essential hormone production.

In excess, too much white fat can increase your risk of health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Beige Fat

As the name suggests, this is a hybrid between brown and white fat. It has similar thermogenic properties as brown fat, while also sharing the energy and metabolic production qualities as white fat. How convenient? But of course, this type of fat is rarer…

Actually, there’s some new research suggesting this is like an ‘upgraded’ and more beneficial version of white fat, and maybe even is a somewhat precursor of brown fat. Fascinating stuff right!

Where Is This Fat Found?

Essential Fat

Essential fat lines all essential the components of the body such as the central nervous system, and heart. This is critical to staying alive!

Subcutaneous Fat

this is located under the skin, and is our ‘visible fat’. This type of fat is necessary to keep us healthy –  it offers us protection against bumps and falls, it helps to regulate body temperature, as well as serving as a passage way for nerves and blood vessels.  However, excess can increase our risk of health complications.

Visceral Fat

This is fat that is stored around critical organs.

A healthy level of visceral fat plays a critical role in the protection and compartmentalisation of our otherwise cocktail of a body system.

However, excess visceral fat will increase the risk of serious health problems.  It’s hard to measure visceral fat at home (you need body scanners for that), but the waist to hip ratio is a good estimate to see if you’re keeping the visceral fat level in check.  A waist-to-hip ratio above .85 for women and .90 for men may indicate unhealthy levels of visceral fat.

Key Takeaways:

Not all fats are inherently bad. Fat is needed for a lot of bodily functions, such as hormone production, insulation, and protection. But, a lot of the time, we reduce all types of fat as the “undesirable” excess fat and unhealthier white fat. But many healthy individuals also have high levels of brown and beige fat!

See, not all fat is built equal, but ALL ARE NECESSARY when maintained in a delicate balance.

When we lose this balance, with white fat becoming the dominant force, that’s when it begins to wreck havoc on the system, causing major health complications, and issues such as low self-esteem.

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