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July 26, 2020 10 Comments

Understanding Lipolysis and Beta-Oxidation

Lipolysis and Beta-Oxidation are the two most important steps in the process of losing stored fat.

As we have learned in the previous episodes, lipolysis is the breaking down of the triglycerides stored in the adipose tissues of the body into glycerol and free fatty acids. These fatty acids are then released to the bloodstream through Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL). The free fatty acids are then transported by serum albumin to the target cell and by carnitine to the mitochondria (the powerplants of the cell) where Beta-Oxidationhappens.

Beta-Oxidationis the process of breaking down the chains of these free fatty acids into usable energy which is called the Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). These ATPs, as energy currency of the body, fuel our muscles and tissues to be able to perform their respective bodily functions.

In certain cases where there is low energy demand from muscles, the fatty acids are converted to ketones which are also used by the brain as a source of energy.

Why is it important to know these essential steps in Fat Loss?

  • Knowing how these processes work will provide you greater perspective in developing and executing your health and nutrition plan toward losing stored body fat.


  • Having a working knowledge of the factors that inhibit and activate lipolysis and beta-oxidation will allow you more flexibility in customizing your diet and workout plans which will fit your lifestyle and align with your fitness goals.

Of course, it would be best to consult an expert like myself or one of the CJ Coaching team with the technicalities involved in these processes to maximize your efforts toward losing those unwanted fats.

Why is Lipolysis important?

Lipolysis is the first step in the fat loss process. Without lipolysis there will be no released fat that will be oxidized and turned into ATPs.

Lipolysis is important because it is the process which releases the free fatty acids from stored fats in adipocytes to the blood stream. It will trigger the burning process. Imagine that these free fatty acids released in lipolysis are the coal which will be thrown to the fire called Beta-Oxidation.

Thus, deeply understanding lipolysis and knowing the factors which influence this process to hasten or stagger relative to the release of these free fatty acids is key to an effective and efficient fat loss regimen.

Why is Beta-Oxidation important?

As mentioned, if lipolysis releases the supply of stored coal (free fatty acids) then Beta-Oxidation is the fire on the furnace – the burning process itself.

Beta-Oxidation eliminates the free fatty acids that were released to the blood stream through lipolysis. Without beta-oxidation, the fatty acids would just continue to be stored as fats in the body. These fats would not be transformed as reserved energy that the body could use for fuel 

In the world of fat loss, these processes go together. Their functions are intertwined and mutually inclusive.

What are the factors that inhibit lipolysis?

Lipolysis is inhibited, among other things by insulin, hypoxia (inflammation) of adipose tissue, ketones (hyperketonemia which indirectly increases the secretion of insulin), prostaglandins (E1- markedly enhance glucose uptake of adipose tissue)

When lipolysis is inhibited then there will be fewer fats that will be released in the blood stream which can be beta-oxidized into ATP.

The tendency of slowed or hampered lipolysis is that there would be over abundance of stored fats because the release is so far behind than the intake.

Imagine a pail with a small hole on it. The rate of filling up the pail will outpace the emptying of the water through the small leak. Because we need to consume food every day for sustenance, fat storage will greatly outweigh expenditure because of inhibited lipolysis.

With these inhibitors, even a controlled consumption of fat will not result to fat loss because the gate valve of fatty acids toward the blood stream is biologically impeded by these factors.

Thus, it is essential to know these inhibitors and seek the help of an expert in avoiding or lowering their impact to your body.


What are the factors that activate lipolysis?

Glucagon, adrenaline, growth hormones, cortisol, thyroid hormones, testosterone, and caffeine, among other things, induce or activate lipolysis.

Conversely when lipolysis is induced or activated, the rate of fats being released from adipocytes to the blood stream is at a healthy pace which could result in fat loss.

Of course, as we have learned in the previous episodes, caloric deficit is an absolute must in the quest to lose fat. It is only when glucagon is low that the body would signal the adipocytes to release the fats stored therein. 

So, these activators help in speeding up this release. A word of caution though, no amount of activation would hasten the process if there is overconsumption.

Consider a pail with a bigger leak this time. The rate of emptying would somehow catch up with the filling up at normal or lower rates. But if the pail is filled with a greater volume then a bigger leak will become insignificant.

Knowing the activators like the inhibitors is essential in coming up with a master plan geared toward using these factors to your advantage.


What are the factors which increase Fat Oxidation?

  • Exercise Intensity Levels

Studies show that exercise intensities effect fat oxidation. According to Horowitz and Klein, maximal fat oxidation occurs at low to moderate intensity – between 25 percent and 60 percent maximal oxygen consumption.

Counterintuitively, total fat oxidation is reduced to levels lower than that of moderate intensity at higher level exercise intensities of greater than 70 percent maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max).

The reason for this occurrence is at higher exercise levels, blood flow is directed away from the adipose tissue which prevents the fatty acids to be supplied to the muscles for oxidation.

Additionally, carbohydrate oxidation increases during higher levels of exercise which lead to the reduction in fatty acid oxidation. This rise in carbohydrate oxidation impede the carnitine shuttle that moves fatty acids from the cell’s cytoplasm to the mitochondria. Thus, negatively affecting fat oxidation.

We can clearly see here that fat loss is not as linear as most people think. Self-directed training or dieting, even to the point of slaving yourself in the gym or depriving yourself of food, will not guarantee results.

It is best to consult with a professional to guide you with these scientific nuances to avoid reversals to your efforts of getting fit and healthy. 

  • Insulin intake

According to numerous studies, insulin has a fat sparing effect from a whole-body perspective. Insulin drives cells to preferentially oxidize carbohydrates instead of fatty acids for energy. Thus, indirectly stimulating further accumulation of fats in adipose cells.

Insulin in a nutshell opposes the hormone sensitive lipases that releases free fatty acids in the blood stream in favor of glucose oxidation.

The more insulin in the blood, the less likely would lipolysis take flight to start the process of significant fat loss.

Thus, many experts suggest regulating insulin intake to augment chances of burning more fat through the release of fatty acids from adipocytes and limit reliance on carbohydrate oxidation.

  • Fasting and Reduction of Calories.

A 2018 study found that fasted resistance exercises relies more heavily on fat metabolism rather than carbohydrate. Specifically, the study showed that that during two of the three exercises performed (back squat and military press), the fasted state resulted in lower respiratory exchange ratio (RER) and therefore higher reliance on fat as fuel compared to the postprandial (or after meals) state.

It also found no difference in fasted versus postprandial RER in bench press, the exercise performed closest in time to the food consumption but did find greater fat reliance in the later-performed exercises like back squat and military press). Thus, it may be that 15 minutes is an inadequate rest time from food consumption to exercise, as the effect of the feeding may not be evidence at that time (Frawley, et.al, 2018).

As we have learned in episode 1 simply reducing calories will not suffice to lose fat without compromising one’s overall well-being. It is correct that caloric deficit will signal the body to use stored fats to compensate for low energy. However, unguided diet and exercise could do more harm than good considering the staggering statistic that 95 percent of those who try to diet on their own end up gaining more weight than what they have lost in a period of one year.

Thus, mere reduction of calorie intake and fasting aimlessly will not contribute much to your fat loss goals.

Only a learned professional like myself or one of the CJ Coaching team will be able to explain to you the true relationship of diet, fasting and exercise and thereby help you come up with a nutrition and exercise plan that will work for your body composition and lifestyle. 

If you would like to book in your FREE strategy session, please use the link below! 

-----------> Book Your Six Pack Strategy Session Here






  1. Deyle, M., et. al. 2014, The Physiology of Fat Loss.University of New Mexico.


  1. Frawley, K., et.al. 2018. Effects of Prior Fasting on Fat Oxidation during Resistance Exercise. International Journal of Exercise Science. 11(2): 827–833.







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