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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Staying Warm With Brown Fat

BAT or Brown Adipose Tissue (also known as brown fat) are recently discovered brown-colored cells that consume calories and generate heat while activated by the cold. Considering the amount of time that many open water swimmers spend in the cold water and shivering in temperatures in their swimwear while others are bundled up in warm clothes, it may be probable that open water swimmers are rich in brown fat relative to other athletes.

BAT is a specialized highly vascularized tissue whose function is to produce heat. It is filled with mitochondria that contain iron, giving the tissue a reddish brown color. In adults, BAT is located in the upper back, on the side of the neck, in the dip between the collarbone and shoulder, and along the spine. Infants have it mostly as a sheet of cells covering their backs.

Researchers believe that thinner people have more BAT than heavier people; younger people have more than older people; and women have more than men.

English Channel swimmer Laurin Weisenthal wrote a fascinating article on brown fat vs. white fat. Her article reads:

When I first started on this journey to conquer the English Channel, people emphasized two things to me:

Cold exposure: I needed to spend a lot of time in cold water so that I would "get used to it"

Weight gain: Nearly everyone who found out I wanted to swim the Channel would look me over and say, "you’re gonna have to put on some weight!"

This raised some issues in my head. To address the second point, intentionally gaining weight for an athletic endeavor seems unhealthy to me. To address the first, what does "getting used to it" actually mean? It can’t just be a mental thing that allows your body to adapt to spending hours on end in cold water. There had to be some corresponding physiological change that allowed the body to tolerate cold better.

The Difference Between a White Fat Cell (fat storage) and a Brown Fat Cell (heat factory)

One possibility people have raised is the existence of brown fat. Unlike white fat, which is found under the skin, deposits of brown fat are present around vital internal organs and along the back and sternum. Further, brown fat has mitochontria: it is metabolically active. White fat is not. This means that brown fat is capable of generating ATP. Or, more simply, brown fat generates heat.

The only problem with this theory is that brown fat was only thought to be present in infants. No one had ever detected brown fat in adults. However, in the April publication of the New England Journal of Medicine, not one, but THREE independent labs proved the existence of brown fat in adults. Further, using different experiments, all three groups demonstrated that prolonged exposure to cold resulted in an increase in an adult’s amount of brown fat.

Summary: brown fat generates heat. Exposure to cold increases an individual’s brown fat. More brown fat = more heat = you can stay warmer in cold longer.

Beautiful.

Going back to the two points: point 1 addresses the way to increase brown fat, while point 2 addresses the way to increase white fat.

Sure, white fat can provide *some* increased insulation. But brown fat not only insulates the core (the most important part of the body to keep warm), it also acts as a heat factory. Hence the way you can “get used to” the cold.

Here’s an even cooler implication of this discovery: you can train for the Channel even when you aren’t actually swimming. Any time you expose your body to the cold, you are helping your body produce more brown fat, thereby increasing your cold tolerance.

In light of these publications, I’m finally taking the advice of my friend: I’m now going around with bare legs and flip-flops, whether rain, shine, wind, whatever, intentionally exposing myself to being cold to increase my brown fat stores. In my opinion, it’s a more healthy approach to cold water swimming, though it earns me some funny looks when I’m sporting a skirt and Rainbows in the arctic South San Francisco winds.

For the abstracts of these papers, see :

Identification and Importance of Brown Adipose Tissue in Adult Humans

Functional Brown Adipose Tissue in Healthy Adults

Cold-Activated Brown Adipose Tissue in Healthy Men


Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source

2 comments:

  1. BAT is detectable in 3% of males and 7% of women. In this small population where it is detectable it makes up 10-20 grams of the total body mass. There is an inverse correlation between BMI and BAT content, but there is no data that BAT helps with cold tolerance in humans.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "there is no data that BAT helps with cold tolerance in humans."

    Not correct, to wit:

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240759.php

    ReplyDelete

Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac



An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

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