Does It Hurt When Fat Cells Shrink? (Explained)


You have finally begun your journey to lose weight, but you might be wondering, does it hurt when fat cells shrink?

No, it does not hurt when fat cells shrink. This is because the fat cells are simply releasing their stored energy, not being physically damaged. 

Let’s jump in and talk more about this process.

Does It Hurt When Fat Cells Shrink?

It does not hurt when fat cells shrink. One of the most common misconceptions about weight loss is that it is painful.

After all, how could something as simple as burning off a few extra calories be anything but unpleasant? However, the reality is that fat cells do not shrink per say, they simply release their stored energy.

This process is known as lipolysis, and it is essentially the reverse of lipogenesis, which is the process by which fat cells are created.

While it is true that some people may experience discomfort when they first start to lose weight, this is typically due to muscle soreness or other factors unrelated to fat loss.

In fact, once the body becomes accustomed to burning stored energy, weight loss can actually be quite pleasurable.

Many people report feeling more energetic and alive after they have lost a few pounds.

So, while it may not be pleasant to think about shrinking fat cells, the reality is that there is nothing painful about it.

In fact, weight loss can actually be quite enjoyable once the body gets used to it.

Overview on Fat Cells

Let’s discuss what fat cells actually are and how they function within the body.

Fat cells, or adipocytes, are cells that store lipids (triglycerides) in the body. They are found in all mammals, and their primary function is to store energy in the form of lipids.

There are three different types of fat cells in the human body:

  • White fat cells

White fat cells are the most common type, and they store energy in the form of triglycerides.

  • Brown fat cells

Brown fat cells are more metabolically active, and they help to regulate body temperature.

  • Beige fat cells

Beige fat cells are a mix of the two, and they have the ability to change into either white or brown fat cells depending on the body’s needs.

All three types of fat cells are essential for a healthy body, but too much of any one type can lead to problems.

Excess white fat can lead to obesity, while too much brown fat can cause diabetes.

Beige fat cells may hold the key to controlling weight, as they have the ability to change into either type of cell depending on the body’s needs.

Fat cells are found throughout the body, but they are most concentrated in the abdominal region for most people.

In humans, fat cells make up approximately 20-25% of the total number of cells in the body. The average adult has 30-35 billion fat cells!

Fat cells vary in size, but they are typically about 10 times larger than other cells in the body.

They are also much more voluminous, meaning that they take up a lot more space than other types of cells.

When a person gains weight, the volume of the fat cells in their body increases. When a person loses weight, the volume of the fat cells decrease.

The human body requires a certain amount of body fat to function properly. Body fat insulates and cushions vital organs, and it provides a reserve of energy that can be used when food is scarce.

Fat also helps to absorb certain vitamins and minerals. Too much body fat can lead to obesity and its associated health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems.

Losing weight requires the body to burn more calories than it consumes. When this happens, the body will begin to break down stored fat for energy.

This process is known as lipolysis, and it results in the shrinkage of fat cells.

How Does Lipolysis Work?

Lipolysis is the process by which fats are broken down into their component parts.

In order for this to happen, enzymes known as lipases must be present.

Lipases are found in a variety of tissues, including the liver and pancreas, but they are most concentrated in fat cells.

Once the lipases have done their work, the resulting fatty acids can be used for energy by the body.

Lipolysis is stimulated by a number of different hormones, including adrenaline and glucagon.


When these hormones are released into the bloodstream, they bind to receptors on the surface of fat cells. This triggers a series of events that ultimately leads to the release of stored fat.

First, the hormone-receptor complex activates a enzyme known as adenylyl cyclase.

This enzyme converts ATP (adenosine triphosphate) into cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate). cAMP then goes on to activate another enzyme called protein kinase A.

Protein kinase A phosphorylates a number of different proteins within the cell, including those that make up the cell membrane. This makes the cell membrane more permeable, allowing stored fat to leak out into the bloodstream.

How Do Fat Cells Leave The Body?

When you lose weight, where does the fat go? The answer, according to science, may surprise you!

It turns out that most of the lost fat is exhaled through your lungs. Who knew?

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that when people lose weight, they exhale 84% of the lost fat as carbon dioxide.

The remaining 16% of the fat is excreted through urine and feces.

So, how does this happen? Fat cells are composed of triglycerides, which are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol.

When you lose weight, the triglycerides are broken down and converted into carbon dioxide and water.

The carbon dioxide is then exhaled through your lungs, while the water is eliminated through urine and feces.

Thus, when you lose weight, most of the lost fat leaves your body as carbon dioxide gas.

It is important to remember however, that through lipolysis, fat cells are simply being emptied of their contents, which causes them to “shrink” because the contents inside are being broken down to be used for energy.

The fat cell itself will always be inside the body and can expand again once you go into a calorie surplus.

Can You Feel Fat Burning Tingling?

You can not feel any tingling sensation from fat burn. This is because fat cells themselves do not contain pain or sensation receptors.

Any tingling you may feel would be the result of the use of muscle breakdown in your strength training or cardiovascular workouts, if you choose to partake in them.

Changes to your skin may also cause tingling or itchiness.

While you will not feel any tingling or burning when you burn fat, there is evidence to suggest that pain receptors are actually linked to the generation of energy burning fat cells.

Pain receptors Are Linked to the Generation of Energy Burning Fat Cells

In a study published by Harvard Stem Cell Institute, there is evidence that shows Trpv1; a receptor that senses noxious stimuli (including pain and temperature) can be a new way to hone in on brown fat development.

Investigations with mouse models did in fact confirm that the Trpv1 positive smooth muscle cells gave rise to brown energy burning versions of fat cells, especially when exposed to colder temperatures.

Brown adipose tissue is the major heat generating organ in the body, and increasing brown fat heat production and general energy expenditure is seen as one potential way of treating obesity.

So while fat cells do not contain their own pain receptors, there is evidence to show that they can work hand in hand with them, which is very interesting.

Can You Feel Fat Cells Shrinking?

The answer is no, you cannot feel fat cells shrinking. While the process of fat cells being broken down to be used for energy by the body is complex, you will not actually feel any of this occurring within your body.

As discussed, fat cells do not contain pain or sensation receptors, they are simply cells made up of stored triglycerides.

Any sensation you may feel when losing weight will be the result of muscle breakdown or skin changes as a result of changes in skin elasticity.

Muscle breakdown occurs when the body breaks down muscle tissue for energy, which can lead to feelings of weakness, soreness, and even a tingling sensation.

Changes in skin elasticity occur as the skin stretches or becomes more lax due to fat loss, which can lead to feelings of tightness, discomfort, or cause itching.

These sensations are not the direct result of fat cells shrinking or becoming smaller.

In Summary

To sum it up, it does not hurt when fat cells shrink because they do not contain pain or sensation receptors.

The process of losing weight and burning fat is complex and interesting, but it does not involve any tingling or burning sensations.

You can rest assured knowing you can continue to lose weight and be pain free as it relates to burning your unwanted fat.

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