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4 Possible Ways To Build Up Brown Fat For Weight Loss 2022

Cassi Donegan

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

how to increase brown fat

If you are trying to lose weight, you may wonder how to increase brown fat. Fat is typically the part of your body you hear about people wanting to get rid of when losing weight, not build up. 

Your body has three types of fats: 

  • White fat is the kind of fat that stores energy, and too much is bad for you. 
  • Beige fat is white fat starting to show some of the same properties as brown fat, like its ability to burn calories.
  • Brown fat is metabolic, meaning it can create energy and heat, helping to burn calories and increase weight loss.

Babies are born with plenty of brown fat to keep them warm. Researchers have found that adults also have brown fat, which can be activated. 

Activating and increasing brown fat is a good thing. Let’s look at how to activate brown fat cells to lose weight.

How To Increase Brown Fat?

You can do several things to activate and increase the amount of brown fat you have, resulting in increased heat and fat-burning energy for weight loss.

  1. Cold therapy
  2. Deep Sleep
  3. Do exercise
  4. Consume resveratrol

4 Ways to Activate Your Brown Fat To Lose Weight

Brown fat activation means turning on or activating the brown fat you already have in your body to produce heat and burn more calories. Activating brown fat will help burn white fat and sometimes change the white fat into brown fat, increasing your ability to burn more calories and lose weight. 

Turning white fat into brown fat is called “beiging.” When the white fat starts to develop properties of generating heat, like brown fat, it turns the color beige. Brown fat is colored brown due to its high amount of iron within its mitochondria, the part of the body that generates the energy to burn calories.

You can do several things to activate and increase the amount of brown fat you have, resulting in increased heat and fat-burning energy for weight loss.

Exercise, cold therapy, good sleep, and the compound resveratrol can all promote brown fat production. They may do this by promoting the release of the hormone norepinephrine, which is potentially the most effective[1] influencer in promoting brown fat production. 

Cold Therapy

how to increase brown fat

Cold therapies may be one of the easiest and most efficient things to try if you’re learning how to increase brown fat in adults. Brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissue, activates when you get chilly, produces heat, and helps to regulate your body temperature in cold weather. 

You may have heard of a cold plunge, where people immerse themselves in ice-cold water. Sometimes this is to help with inflammation after sports or for a dopamine mood boost to the brain. 

  • Harvard[2] mentions a study involving ten women and monitored their blood levels after 20-second cold plunges for three months. Their norepinephrine levels were remarkable for increasing 2-3 times the amount they were before the plunge. 
  • Water therapy studies[3] show submersion into the water at 14 degrees Celsius (57.2- degrees Fahrenheit) lowered cortisol concentrations and increased dopamine by 250% and norepinephrine by 530%. Metabolic rates increased by 350%! 
  • Cold therapy is also known to help people who have multiple health conditions regain control of their bodies and mind. Cold showers have a similar effect to cold plunging. Even a cold shower for 2-3 minutes once or twice a day can help reduce inflammation and promote a healthy weight. This therapy is also a potential treatment[4] for depression. 

You can find businesses that make cold plunges readily available for those who want to participate in this therapy. Some go find a cold river and add in nature therapy. You can find cold plunge and cold therapy channels on social media to hear results and testimonials.

Deep Sleep

how to increase brown fat

Getting enough sleep can help activate your brown fat and promote weight loss. To get good sleep, the temperature and darkness of the room are important factors. 

A dark room promotes the release of the hormone melatonin, which helps you reach a deep level of sleep. Melatonin increases growth hormone, the primary hormone for losing weight. 

  • This melatonin study on mice[5] shows that administering melatonin increased brown adipose tissue and mitochondrial weight.
  • A clinical trial[6] found that patients with a melatonin deficiency had an increase in brown fat amount and activity after receiving melatonin. 
  • Making sure you have enough potassium, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc in your diet can aid in adequate sleep, promoting a healthy release of growth hormone and increasing chances of weight loss.
  • Another way to get deeper sleep and activate brown fat is by keeping your household thermostat turned down and sleeping in cooler temperatures around 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit. 

One study[7] by the National Institute of Health took five healthy men for four months and placed them in a different room temperature setting for each month, exposing them to the temperature for at least 10 hours each night. 

This study says, “After a month of exposure to mild cold, the participants had a 42% increase in brown fat volume and a 10% increase in fat metabolic activity.” They set this mildly cold temperature at 66 degrees Fahrenheit, not so drastically cold that they couldn’t tolerate it. 

The warm weather setting in the last month of the study reversed all improvements the cooler weather had made in the brown fat and metabolic activity. 

Do Exercise

how to increase brown fat

If you are wondering how to increase brown adipose fat, you can incorporate exercise into your life. Exercising is popularly known to improve your metabolism, heart strength, and mental health. 

It also regulates irisin, a hormone in our skeletal muscle. This study[8] shows irisin functions as a direct communication signal to adipose tissue and activates browning. The type of exercise you choose may significantly affect the amount of irisin your body produces. 

This study[9] shows a significant increase in irisin levels in skeletal muscle after a session of high-impact intensity training (H.I.I.T.) workout compared to no effect on irisin levels from aerobic exercise. Irisin starts giving white fat the properties of brown fat, increasing the potential for fat burning.  

Exercise also releases norepinephrine, one of the body’s main inducers of brown fat.

Consume Resveratrol 

how to increase brown fat

Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol, a beneficial plant compound found in food that has several benefits.

A study on the anti-obesity effects of resveratrol[10] shows it significantly increases the production of brown fat, turns white fat beige, and increases oxygen consumption, all of which promote weight loss. When turning white fat beige, it turns these cells into calorie-burning helpers.

A study[11] shows that feeding mice resveratrol for ten weeks resulted in the browning of white fat and activation of brown fat, which improved glucose regulation. 

Resveratrol is available in supplement form, and like any other supplement, you should speak to your healthcare team before trying it. 

You can consume resveratrol naturally in many foods like 

  • Peanuts
  • Pistachios
  • Grapes
  • Red and White Wine
  • Blueberries and Cranberries
  • Dark Chocolate and pure cocoa
  • Spinach

What Does Brown Fat Do?

Brown fat activates when you get chilly and helps to regulate your body temperature in cold weather. Brown adipose tissue[1] thermogenesis therapy shows its potential to reduce obesity. 

Brown fat can burn more calories than any other cell in your body, with its mitochondria taking calories and burning them as fuel for your body as a furnace would. The more brown fat you have, the more calories you can burn. 

Through thermogenesis, brown fat has been shown in studies to be a potentially successful treatment[12] for obesity and related metabolic disorders. 

Brown fat improves metabolism[13], breaking down your food more efficiently and using it as energy to fuel your day.

One study[14] found that brown fat filters out certain amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine from your blood. These are good for you in average amounts, but having too much in your blood is linked to obesity and diabetes. 

The less brown fat you have, the harder it is for your body to filter out these amino acids when their levels get too high, and your risk of health conditions increases.

Foods That Increase Brown Fat Naturally

Foods that are low in carbohydrates, low in fat, and high in antioxidants support healthy digestion and the ability to lose weight. However, there are a few specific foods that have the potential to increase brown fat naturally. 


foods increase brown fat

Apple peels contain ursolic acid. A University of Iowa study[15] on mice shows that ursolic acid increases skeletal muscle and brown fat. This increases the number of calories burned. It may also reduce fatty liver disease, pre-diabetes, and obesity. 

Avocados and Olive Oil

Avocados and Olive Oil

Avocados and olive oil all contain oleic acid. Healthy fats and oleic acid turn into oleoyl ethanolamide (OEA) during digestion. OEA is a lipid (i.e., fat) that helps your body use and store fat. 

OEA activates factors that allow us to mobilize stored fats and increases fat burning. OAE also triggers oxytocin, which helps us feel less hungry.

A study[16] on OEA and mice found it turned white fat into brown fat and reduced weight. It also increased the weight and temperature of the brown fat already present. 

Green Tea and Coffee

Green Tea and Coffee

Coffee and some green teas contain caffeine. One study[17] showed that caffeine could turn white fat into brown fat and enhance the function of the mitochondria. 

Green tea studies[18] have shown its positive effect on weight loss. For example, one study[19] showed green tea has the potential to limit weight gain with the browning of the white adipose tissue. 

Turmeric and Curcumin

foods increase brown fat

Curcumin is the compound that makes turmeric yellow, and it has anti-obesity properties. One study[20] shows that curcumin induced brown fat-like properties in white adipose tissue. 

Turmeric can be grown in your backyard. You can add turmeric to rice, soups, salad dressings, and roasted vegetables.



L-arginine[21] is an amino acid found in turkey that can reduce white fat gain[22] while activating brown fat, promoting its growth and development. Red meat, nuts, oats, and chickpeas are also natural sources of L-arginine.

The Bottom Line

Activating and increasing your brown fat levels can help you burn more calories and supports a healthier weight. Cold therapy, deep sleep, resveratrol, and exercise help to activate brown fat and turn white fat into brown. 

You can also eat avocados, olive oil, apples, turkey, and turmeric, or drink coffee and green tea to boost your brown fat potential. 

+ 22 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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  2. Harvard Health. (2010). Out in the Cold – Harvard Health Publications – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/out-in-the-cold
  3. Mooventhan, A. and Nivethitha, L. (2014). Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. North American Journal of Medical Sciences, [online] 6(5), p.199. doi:10.4103/1947-2714.132935.
  4. Shevchuk, N.A. (2008). Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical Hypotheses, [online] 70(5), pp.995–1001. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2007.04.052.
  5. Fernández Vázquez, G., Reiter, R.J. and Agil, A. (2018). Melatonin increases brown adipose tissue mass and function in Zücker diabetic fatty rats: implications for obesity control. Journal of Pineal Research, [online] 64(4), p.e12472. doi:10.1111/jpi.12472.
  6. Halpern, B., Mancini, M.C., Bueno, C., Barcelos, I.P., de Melo, M.E., Lima, M.S., Carneiro, C.G., Sapienza, M.T., Buchpiguel, C.A., do Amaral, F.G. and Cipolla-Neto, J. (2019). Melatonin Increases Brown Adipose Tissue Volume and Activity in Patients With Melatonin Deficiency: A Proof-of-Concept Study. Diabetes, [online] 68(5), pp.947–952. doi:10.2337/db18-0956.
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  8. Castillo-Quan, J.I. (2012). From white to brown fat through the PGC-1α-dependent myokine irisin: implications for diabetes and obesity. Disease Models & Mechanisms, [online] 5(3), pp.293–295. doi:10.1242/dmm.009894.
  9. Archundia-Herrera, C., Macias-Cervantes, M., Ruiz-Muñoz, B., Vargas-Ortiz, K., Kornhauser, C. and Perez-Vazquez, V. (2017). Muscle irisin response to aerobic vs HIIT in overweight female adolescents. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, [online] 9(1). doi:10.1186/s13098-017-0302-5.
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  12. Kim, S.H. and Plutzky, J. (2016). Brown Fat and Browning for the Treatment of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. Diabetes & Metabolism Journal, [online] 40(1), p.12. doi:10.4093/dmj.2016.40.1.12.
  13. National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2019). How brown fat improves metabolism. [online] Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-brown-fat-improves-metabolism
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  16. Suárez, J., Rivera, P., Arrabal, S., Crespillo, A., Serrano, A., Baixeras, E., Pavón, F.J., Cifuentes, M., Nogueiras, R., Ballesteros, J., Dieguez, C. and Rodríguez de Fonseca, F. (2013). Oleoylethanolamide enhances β-adrenergic-mediated thermogenesis and white-to-brown adipocyte phenotype in epididymal white adipose tissue in rat. Disease Models & Mechanisms. [online] doi:10.1242/dmm.013110.
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  18. Hursel, R., Viechtbauer, W. and Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S. (2009). The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis. International Journal of Obesity, [online] 33(9), pp.956–961. doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.135.
  19. Chen, L.-H., Chien, Y.-W., Liang, C.-T., Chan, C.-H., Fan, M.-H. and Huang, H.-Y. (2017). Green tea extract induces genes related to browning of white adipose tissue and limits weight-gain in high energy diet-fed rat. Food & Nutrition Research, [online] 61(1), p.1347480. doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1347480.
  20. Lone, J., Choi, J.H., Kim, S.W. and Yun, J.W. (2016). Curcumin induces brown fat-like phenotype in 3T3-L1 and primary white adipocytes. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, [online] 27, pp.193–202. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.09.006.
  21. Wu, Z., Satterfield, M.C., Bazer, F.W. and Wu, G. (2012). Regulation of brown adipose tissue development and white fat reduction by L-arginine. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, [online] 15(6), pp.529–538. doi:10.1097/mco.0b013e3283595cff.
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Cassi Donegan

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Cassi Donegan, Licensed Practical Nurse, is a freelance health writer and editor. She has over 17 years of nursing experience in various specialties including Neurology, Orthopedics, Spine, and Pediatrics. Patient care has convinced her to be passionate about educating others on nutrition, natural childbirth, home birthing, and natural remedies for the holistic and alternative healthcare field.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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