Previously we had talked about how difficult it can be to lower our fat percentage, mainly due to the balance that the human body tries to maintain through the hormonal processes that govern homeostasis.
Although knowing these control systems in the body gives us a general vision of the situation (about reducing sizes), it is also necessary to address the problem using a specific approach that allows us to fully understand this whole issue more. Thus, in this blog, we will talk about the process of fat oxidation itself, since its understanding will offer the tools to diagnose what prevents fat oxidation in a specific situation.
• Degradation & Synthesis Processes
First of all, we must indicate that fats in the body undergo two types of processes: one of DEGRADATION and the other of SYNTHESIS.
In the first, large molecules known as TRIGLYCERIDES are hydrolysed "breaking" into their constituents FATTY ACIDS and GLYCEROL.
In the second process, the opposite is developed, which is from fatty acids and glycerol, triglyceride molecules are formed.
• Adipose (Fatty) Tissue
ADIPOSE TISSUE is a specialized tissue made up of cells called ADIPOCYTES. Although there are small stores of triglycerides in the muscles, adipocytes function as the main store of triglycerides in the body.
Understanding these basic concepts, we proceed to explain the process of fat oxidation.
Fat Oxidation Process
1. Mobilization of fatty acids from adipose tissue:
It is important to point out that triglycerides are not oxidized (burned) in adipose tissue, so the first part of the oxidation process consists of stimulating adipocytes to carry out lipolysis that allows the fatty acids to be transported to where they will be finally oxidized.
Now, lipolysis in adipocytes is generated by different catabolic hormones, mainly:
• Growth hormone; stimulated by FASTING, INTENSE EXERCISE, SLOW WAVE SLEEP, among other factors.
• Cortisol; stimulated WHEN WAKING AND IN THE EVENING, INTENSE EXERCISE.
On the other hand, there are two main factors that prevent the stimulation of adipocytes: the production of the hormone Insulin, stimulated by food intake, and the production of lactate, due to high intensity exercises.
This implies an apparent contradiction, since intense exercise is required to produce growth hormone and cortisol that stimulate lipolysis, but this implies a production of lactate that inhibits stimuli to adipocytes. The experienced trainer knows that there are several strategies that take advantage of the production of growth hormones and cortisol while avoiding inhibiting the stimulation of adipocytes by lactate production.
2. Transport of fatty acids to the muscle.
In order to be transported, fatty acids need to bind to other molecules that serve as "transport" in the different environments of the body. Thus, once they have crossed the adipocyte membrane, they will move between the cells bound to the interstitial albumin protein, they will cross the vascular wall and now they will bind to another type of protein, plasma albumin.
However, during moderate exercise, the concentration of fatty acids increases more than 20 times, producing an imbalance in the proportion;
This implies that most of the fatty acids are not transported to the muscle because there is not enough albumin to do it. The result is that these fatty acids that could not be transported RETURN TO THE ADIPOCYTE TO BE SYNTHESIZED AGAIN IN TRIGLYCERIDES!!!
This problem is partially compensated for when you have efficient blood flow. That is, a flow that mobilizes a large amount of plasma (and fatty acids/albumin) at a low-moderate heart rate (avoiding increases in lactate).
Once they reach the muscles, the fatty acids must be released from the albumin in order to enter the muscle capillaries.
3. Transport of fatty acids to the muscle cell
Once in the muscle, the fatty acids leave the albumin and cross the muscle cell membrane by passive or facilitated transport.
• Passive Transport - It is carried out by simple diffusion, that is, the simple increase in the concentration of fatty acids outside the muscle fiber generates the passage of these towards the cell.
• Facilitated Transportation - It is performed by the intervention of fatty acid transporter proteins associated with cell membranes
4. Oxidation of fatty acids by the muscle cell
Once inside the muscle fibers, the fatty acids can follow one of two paths:
a) They are stored as muscle triglycerides.
b) They are activated to enter the mitochondria and be used as energy.
The activation process involves entering the cellular mitochondria. Depending on whether or not the fatty acid is long-chain (LCFA), it may require the assistance of L Carnitine for its transport across the mitochondrial membrane.
Finally, in the mitochondria, oxidation occurs that will produce Acetyl CoA for the Krebs cycle and generate energy.
By knowing the Fat Oxidation Process and each of its steps, we can better understand why many people find it difficult to reduce sizes and lose fat. It is understood, then, that they are not completing the process by not including a step or by performing it incorrectly. Thus, we see the reason why they fail to achieve their objectives.
This allows the Professional Trainer to design training programs that focus on the points of the process that are not being completed, offering strategies that achieve the desired objectives.
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The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Healthy Options Market. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright. They are solely intended to spark discussion and the thought process behind issues pertaining to general health, wellness and are for sharing knowledge and information on research only. They are not medical advice. Always seek the advice of a Professional Healthcare Provider when making any decisions regarding your health.