Lean Muscle ,More than eye candy.

             Start your Optimal Health Journey here!

Less than a couple of decades ago, most scientists would not have thought of body fat as anything more than a place where the body stores energy. Later, research found that it is much more than that  a metabolic organ capable of spewing out all sorts of inflammatory molecules that could cause the body harm with age and depending on where it?s located.Now, growing evidence suggests that skeletal muscle also acts as an organ and, especially when exercised, could counteract some of fat's deadly nature.

The link between physical activity and lower risk of chronic health problems has had scientists debating for the past 50 years. In the early 2000s, the relationship between exercise and health, or the exercise factor, was finally given a face with the identification of muscle as a secretory organ (1). Within the last decade, more answers have emerged and it has to do with a certain class of signaling molecules that only muscle makes called myokines.The discovery of myokines as protein messengers produced and secreted by contracting muscle fibers is a scientific breakthrough, drastically altering traditional views on metabolism and physiology, and finally providing a framework to explain how physical activity and muscle improve health and protect against chronic disease.

Think of myokines as couriers sent out by exercising muscle to relay messages both locally within the muscle itself, as well as to other organs throughout the body such as the brain, pancreas, liver, bone, and adipose tissue. They mimic hormones, much like their more recognized counterpart, adipokines from adipocytes (body fat cells).

Moving Myokines When skeletal muscle is a dominant organ over body fat  as in lean adults, where muscle can make up about 40 percent of body weight  myokines have ample opportunity to make an impact on many different systems and metabolic processes in the body. With their discovery still in its infancy, the number of identified myokines and their roles continue to grow. So far, studies have found that myokines influence muscle growth, fat breakdown, insulin sensitivity, pancreas function, calorie burning, and risk of certain chronic diseases.

But of the various myokines discovered to date, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and irisin are two of the most interesting, and the human body makes a lot more of them when it moves more, as in performs more physical activity.When IL-6 was first identified in 2000, scientists noted that levels of it rose 100 times after exercise (2). For this reason, it was believed the myokine was an inflammatory mediator produced in response to muscle damage (2). However, it was later revealed that IL-6 could fight inflammation, depending partly on where it is made such as in muscle.

Irisin is another myokine getting attention within the last few years due to its exciting ability to increase energy expenditure (burning of calories). It does this through the development of a type of body fat called brown fat. Brown fat normally exists in small quantities and is found mainly in locations of increased fat burning. It also tends to use up more energy in comparison to white fat, which is chiefly used for storage (3).

Exercise and muscle? beyond aesthetics Up until recently, physical activity has been primarily viewed as a tool to balance energy intake with expenditure and bring about weight loss. The discussion of muscle has primarily revolved around its role in strength and capacity to improve metabolism. But with the existence of myokines coming into the picture, it is expected that even more attention will be devoted to exercise?s role in protecting health. As with body fat, skeletal muscle is now finally getting the recognition it deserves as an endocrine organ. Did you think that building muscle was only for looking good in a bathing suit? Turns out it?s so much more than just another pretty tissue.

 Ah, the visual joy of weight loss, in your face is more defined, your belly no longer protrudes over the waist of your pants, and parts that used to jiggle are now toned. On the outside, fat loss seems like a fairly simple process. However, what happens in your body during weight loss involves an intricate web of metabolic changes that include structural transformation of fat cells, the breakdown and use of fat for energy, as well as changes in hormone production.

Performing Health Flex clense days a combination of intermittent fasting with herbs and vitamins that support detoxification is an effective approach for weight loss, especially for targeting fat loss. In fact, the Health Flex Protocol includes intermittent fasting, nutrient dense lower calorie meals and exercise. 

Health Flex's system had more fat loss and twice as much visceral fat loss than those who followed a heart healthy diet.

How does fat loss occur when you incorporate Cleanse Days into your routine? To understand, we'll have to start with the basics, or Fat 101:

Getting to know fat Adipose tissue or body fat is comprised of millions of fat cells, also called adipocytes, with the average adult having around 40 billion. The weight of adipose tissue is about 20 percent of body weight, making it one of the biggest organs in the body. Fat can be defined by where it's found in the body: subcutaneous fat is located just below the surface of the skin while visceral fat is found in the abdominal cavity, surrounding the internal organs. Furthermore, there are two types of adipose tissue: white and brown. White adipose tissue is primarily used as an energy reserve and brown adipose tissue functions to generate heat.

Adipose tissue is a metabolically active organ rather than just an inert mass as many may have guessed. In fact, each depot of the organ even receives its own vascular and nerve supply.

Adipose tissue has been identified as an endocrine organ because of its production of hormones known as adipokines. These signaling proteins influence several important functions including glucose and lipid metabolism, blood coagulation, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and steroid hormone modulation (1). Excessive adipose tissue has been shown to disrupt the normal endocrine functions of fat cells and can negatively affect health through insulin resistance, abnormal blood lipids, and even increased cardiovascular disease risk.

Leptin is an adipokine that regulates hunger and appetite by telling the brain, "I'm full!" Although intuition may assume that leptin levels would be low in obese individuals due to chronically excessive food intake, the opposite is true. Leptin has been shown to be tightly related to fat cell size: the bigger the adipocyte, the greater the expression of leptin (2).

This would mean that obese persons are constantly feeling full, right? Wrong. Obesity is associated with resistance to the effects of leptin on the brain appetite centers, so they actually end up having an impaired response that doesn't indicate fullness. This exemplifies how complex the relationship is between adipose tissue and the endocrine system.

Fat cells increase in size, then in number

When energy balance becomes positive (meaning there are more calories consumed than burned), the adipose organ increases, particularly in the amount of white adipose tissue. White adipocytes undergo hypertrophy (increase in volume) followed by hyperplasia (increase in number).

It's been proposed that adipocytes have a maximum volume, referred to as critical cell size that may be genetically determined (3). This means that fat cells can only get so big. Once they reach their critical cell size, they trigger production of new adipocytes. In other words, your existing fat cells are filled until they reach their capacity (much like a balloon) and then signal the body to make more fat cells.

You are more likely to make additional fat cells at certain times in your life. Research has shown that the natural production of fat cells steadily increases during childhood and levels off in early adulthood (4). Although more research is needed, this could indicate that children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults and experience greater difficulties in trying to achieve weight loss.

How the body burns fat

When energy balance is negative in the body (meaning there are more calories being burned than consumed), the hormones that access stored fuel are increased, namely glucagon. In short, the body flips from an energy-storing state to an energy-burning state.

First, the body will burn stored carbohydrate, also known as glycogen, which is found mostly in the liver and muscles. Once the glycogen energy reserve has been exhausted, the body breaks down fat in a process called lipolysis.

What happens to fat cells during weight loss?

During negative energy balance such as on Cleanse Days, the body will use the fat for fuel causing the fat cells to shrink in size. As fat cells decrease in size, so too does the amount of signaling molecules produced. Over time, this reestablishment of normal endocrine function can be immensely beneficial for health including decreasing the molecules that induce inflammation.

Additionally, fat loss accompanied by adequate intake of optimal nutrition?such as  vitamins (B vitamins, vitamins C and E), minerals (selenium, zinc, copper), and other bioactive nutrients including coenzyme Q10 and polyphenols support the detoxification systems of the body in the removal of toxins. (Read more in  Basic detox principles

It is interesting to note that fat cells have the ability to shrink but rarely decrease in number. However, during fat loss, cells can decrease as much as 400 percent in size! For many, this morphological transformation supported by dietary interventions such as Cleanse Days means more than just a slimmer appearance; it can improve health and even add years of quality life.



1.    Rossmeislova L, Malisova L, Kracmerova J, Stich V. Adaptation of human adipose tissue to hypocaloric diet. Int J Obes (Lond) 2013;37:640-50. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.80

2.    Skurk T, Alberti-Huber C, Herder C, Hauner H. Relationship between adipocyte size and adipokine expression and secretion. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2007;92:1023-33.

3.    Cinti S. The adipose organ at a glance. Dis Model Mech 2012;5:588-94.

4.    Spalding KL, Arner E, Westermark PO et al. Dynamics of fat cell turnover in humans. Nature2008;453:783-7. doi: 10.1038/nature06902

 Dr. Thomas Hiatt 

 CWC, DPT,Sports and Nutrition/Physical Therapy. 


1.) Mohr T et al. Long-term adaptation to electrically induced cycle training in severe spinal cord injured individuals. Spinal Cord. 1997 Jan;35(1):1-16. Erratum in: Spinal Cord 1997 Apr;35(4):262.

2.) Pedersen BK. Muscles and their myokines. J Exp Biol2011 Jan 15;214(Pt 2):337-46. doi:10.1242/jeb.048074.

3.) Boström P et al. A PGC1-?-dependent myokine that drives brown-fat-like development of white fat and thermogenesis. Nature. 2012 Jan 11;481(7382):463-8. doi: 10.1038/nature10777.