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Does Tanning Burn Fat Or Is This A Complete Myth? The Answer

Anthony Diaz
Published by Anthony Diaz
Last updated: October 3, 2022

As a personal trainer, I’ve heard many different crazy ideas that should promote weight loss. One interesting conversation I recently had with a physician was about how the sun could impact fat cells.

I was researching other health benefits of sun exposure, but impacting fat cells seemed a bit strange to me.

Our team decided to spend a few weeks researching and talking to some experts to find out what’s behind this idea and if sunbathing can actually burn calories.

Let’s find out what the experts say.

Quick Summary

  • Sunlight has a bad reputation because it can cause skin cancer, but it also has several benefits, including a reduction of fat.
  • Scientists have found links between lack of sun exposure with winter weight gain and fat storage.
  • What is particularly interesting is how UV rays may directly impact subcutaneous fat cells.

Can Tanning Make You Lose Weight?

Tanned individuals with great physique

Yes, tanning can make you lose weight.

According to a study from the University of Alberta, lipid droplets reduce when the sun's blue light wavelengths penetrate below the skin [1].

These are white fat cells and the type you generally want to get rid of as part of a weight-loss plan.

Researchers accidentally uncovered that the blue light emitted by the sun, and not the ultraviolet light is what interacts with fat tissue.

This is the blue light that your eyes can see.

The same study also found that a lack of sunlight in the winter may promote fat storage and be a key reason why people experience the typical weight gain in the darker months of the year.

What surprised me the most about this is that it wasn’t UV but visible blue light because I was researching vitamin D production in the skin at the time.

Does Tanning Burn Calories?

A tanned woman sitting on a beach

No, laying in the sun and tanning doesn’t burn calories.

The reason for this is that as the sun heats up your body, your basal metabolic rate will decrease [2].

And with a lower metabolic rate, you’ll burn calories at a lower rate as well.

That means that lounging in the sun won’t have the desired effect on your body, and you won’t burn as much fat as if you were in a cooler environment and active.

I also checked if there was other research about the impact of sunshine on burning calories. And none of the studies I found was able to link increased sun exposure to increased calorie burning.

Related articles:

Are There Other Health Benefits?

Yes, there are other health benefits from tanning as long as you do it in short doses.

First of all, UV light has a direct impact on your skin’s ability to naturally produce vitamin D [3].

And vitamin D plays a key role in maintaining a functioning immune system and promoting stronger bone density.

“When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D.”

- Anne Marie McNeill, MD, Ph.D., skincancer.org

Insufficient sunlight exposure has also been linked to higher levels of depression and reduced mental health [4].

What Are The Risks?

The major risk with tanning is that you could be increasing your chances of skin cancer.

This is entirely dependent on how much sunlight you’re exposed to and how sensitive your skin is to UVA and UVB rays.

Medical professionals recommend that you limit your direct unprotected sun exposure to about 15 minutes per day [5].

FAQs

Does the Sun Shrink Fat Cells?

Yes, the sun can shrink fat cells. However, the effect is slow and limited to the cells directly below your skin. And you should be limiting how much sun exposure you get each day to avoid developing skin cancer.

Should You Tan Every Day to Lose Fat?

No, you shouldn’t tan every day to lose fat. Occasional and limited sun tanning is fine, and up to 15 minutes a day without sunscreen is generally classed as safe.

But daily and prolonged time in the sun could cause more problems than benefits.

Take The Sensible Approach To Tanning

While there is scientific evidence that tanning will burn fat, there are also very good reasons to limit how much time you spend in the sun.

Healthy sunshine exposure of 15 to 30 minutes is not going to start burning fat in large amounts, but it certainly does bring other helpful benefits.

To lose weight more efficiently, I’d recommend using any of the following fat burners:

These can naturally raise your body temperature through a process called thermogenesis. The result is that you burn more calories from stored fat reserves throughout the day.


References:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180110113007.htm
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5389254_Climate_variables_as_predictors_of_basal_metabolic_rate_New_equations
  3. https://www.skincancer.org/blog/sun-protection-and-vitamin-d/
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
  5. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-sunlight-health-effects
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