Fat Loss and Cold Exposure

How To Use Cold Properly To Stimulate Fat Loss: Succinate Release Is Key/Shiver 

According to a study in Nature, shivering in response to cold exposure is the key to increasing brown fat thermogenesis. 

The small movements of the muscles caused by shivering trigger the release of succinate, a molecule that acts on brown fat to increase thermogenesis and overall fat burning. 

Additionally, regular cold exposure and shivering can increase the amount of brown fat over time. 

One key thing to note is one must allow themselves to shiver for succinate to be released. If the shiver is resisted, thermogenic activity would not increase. 

This new information in combination with non-exercise thermogenesis (NEAT), can help individuals increase their metabolic rate and potentially lose fat. 

Even though it has not yet hit the mark, succinate is also being developed by pharmaceutical companies as a potential treatment for obesity. 

Lastly, the frequency of cold exposure and shivering required for maximum benefits will depend on the individual’s goals for fat loss and increased metabolism.

Exact Protocols: (1-5X per week); Don’t Adapt! Submerge and Exit “Sets & Reps” 

Cold exposures can be through cold showers, ice baths, or other cold water sources. It is recommended to participate in these activities one to five times per week.  

The length of time spent in the cold environment and the temperature of the environment are two important factors to consider. 

Instead of staying in the cold water until shivering stops, it is recommended to get in and out of the water several times to induce more shivering. After getting in the water and starting to shiver, it is suggested to get out and wait one to three minutes before getting back in for another one to three minutes. 

The ideal temperature for cold exposure should be just cold enough to be uncomfortable, but not so cold that it may shock or cause harm. It is important to consider one’s own cold tolerance when determining the ideal temperature.

It is always ideal to get medical approval before attempting cold exposure.

How Fidgeting Works: Promotes Epinephrine Release into Fat. “N-E-A-T” 

Huberman believes that burning calories and fat loss is not limited to just exercise but also involves small, fidgety movements called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). 

These subtle movements of the core and limb musculature trigger epinephrine release from neurons, which leads to higher rates of fat oxidation.  

Fidgeting can burn between 800 to 2,500 calories per day and it can lead to further fat loss for people who are in a calorie maintenance mode or subcaloric. 

These low-level movements also offset the negative effects of overeating or a sedentary lifestyle. 

This concept is often overlooked and Huberman wants more people to become aware of it because fidgeting movements are an effective way to mobilize and oxidize fat even for people who do not like to exercise. 

Fidgeting & Shivering: A Powerful Science-Supported Method For Fat Loss 

Rothwell and Stock, two famous scientists in the thermogenesis space, made the observation in the 1960s and 1970s that some people overeat and don’t gain weight, while others overeat and accumulate extra adipose tissue. 

The people who didn’t gain weight were engaged in lots of subtle movement throughout their day and were called fidgeters. 

These subtle movements include bouncing the knee, bobbing or nodding of the head, standing, and sitting a lot throughout the day and pacing. 

These scientists found that fidgeters burn anywhere from 800 to 2,500 calories more than the control group in the experiments they looked at. 

Studies conducted in 2015 and 2017 explored the concept of fidgeting using modern metabolic tracking and found that being a fidgeter led to considerable amounts of fat loss and weight loss.   

White, Brown & Beige Fat; & Using Cold-Induced Shiver To Burn Fat 

There are three types of fat in our bodies:

White Fat

This is stored in our bodies as an energy source and does not contain any mitochondria. 

Brown Fat 

This is located between the shoulder blades and the back of the neck. It is rich in mitochondria and can convert food into energy directly. 

Beige Fat

This is a hybrid between brown and white fat that contains some mitochondria but not as many as brown fat. 

Cold exposure is a science-based tool that can activate the release of adrenaline and epinephrine, which can trigger the activation of brown fat and the conversion of beige fat into brown fat. It increases the heat in our bodies which leads to an increase in energy burn and fat loss.

Brown Fat, Why Babies Can’t Shiver and Becoming a Hotter Furnace, Adding Heat 

Brown fat is present in high amounts in babies. To compensate for this, Mother Nature equipped all babies with an excess of brown fat, which is located in the upper back, middle of the back, and back of the neck.

However, as we age, if we do not expose ourselves to cold environments or engage in other activities that make us shiver, we lose a significant amount of brown fat. 

There is some evidence that brown fat can both increase in size and that new cells can be added. This idea is somewhat controversial, as it is commonly believed that one cannot change the number of fat cells, only their size.

The release of epinephrine from nerve endings in brown fat and the presence of succinate in the body may have the ability to increase the number of brown fat cells, possibly by converting beige fat cells into brown fat. This would allow us to metabolize food more efficiently and heat ourselves up without shivering, similar to what we experienced early in life.

Ice On Back of The Neck, Cold Underpants: Not A Great Idea For Fat Loss 

Cold exposure is also used for increasing testosterone and thermogenesis, as well as for fat loss. 

People who use cold packs on their bodies and groins should be careful because if they become too adapted to the cold, then they won’t see the same fat-burning effects.

It’s better to gradually increase exposure to cold rather than quickly moving from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Huberman also recommends alternating periods of cold exposure with periods of rest so the body doesn’t fully adapt to the cold.

If Fat-Loss Is Your Goal, Avoid Cold Adaptation: Remember Polar Bear Swimmers  

When one is exposed to cold repeatedly, they become “cold adapted.” This means that the adrenaline release from the cold is no longer as intense and therefore, the shivering and brown fat thermogenic effect also decreases. 

If the goal is to use cold for increasing fat loss, then it is necessary to get the shiver process going through cooling and rewarming, which will accelerate the amount of shiver. 

Cold water swimming can be fun and beneficial for resilience because it has a stimulating effect on the mind and body. However, it must be done safely.

Wrapping Up

Shivering and small movements can have a significant impact on fat loss. Huberman encourages everyone to embrace the low-level, fidgety movements to trigger epinephrine release and maximize fat loss.


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