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What Happens to Fat When you Lose Weight

Have you ever wondered where the weight that your body lost goes? Well, the human body metabolizes, or breaks down fats, as fatty acids first, but then it’s released in a very peculiar mechanism…

How Fat is Metabolized

When fat is being stimulated for release in the body, it is converted to carbon dioxide and water. You exhale the carbon dioxide and the water mixes into your circulation until it’s lost as urine or sweat. Let’s say that you recently lost 20lbs of fat. About 8lbs of it is released through your lungs and the rest turns into water. In other words, nearly all the weight you lost is exhaled! As a matter of fact, almost everything you eat comes back out via the lungs. Every carbohydrate you digest and nearly all the fats are converted to carbon dioxide and water. The same goes for alcohol. Protein shares the same fate, except for the small part that turns into urea and other solids, which you excrete as urine. Actually, the only thing in food that makes it to your colon undigested and intact is dietary fiber. Everything else you swallow is absorbed into your bloodstream and organs and, after that, it’s not going anywhere until you’ve breathed it out!

Breathe More to Lose Weight?

So if fat turns into carbon dioxide, could simply breathing more make you lose weight? Unfortunately not. Huffing and puffing more than you need to is called hyperventilation and will only make you dizzy, or possibly faint. The only way you can consciously increase the amount of carbon dioxide your body is producing is by moving your muscles.

But here’s some more good news. Simply standing up and getting dressed more than doubles your metabolic rate. More realistically, going for a walk triples your metabolic rate, and so will cooking, vacuuming and sweeping. This is great news for yoga lovers too!

how your body burns fat

How the Body uses Fat

First, there has to be a need for energy that is not being fulfilled by readily available resources. These resources include carbohydrates, most common being glucose floating around in either the cells or the blood stream (“blood sugar”). If there is need for more energy than there are carbohydrates floating around, the cells can switch to fatty acids. Keep in mind however, that this doesn’t happen in every cell. It’s very possible that the cell may start using other compounds first before switching to fatty acids like proteins, subject to each compound’s availability. For example, during vigorous or lengthy exercise, if the muscles are starved, they will actually switch to eating themselves, degrading and metabolizing the very protein that makes them muscle cells before switching to fatty acids for energy. The reason being very simple: the quickest way to get energy is the most efficient in such a constraint.

However, if sufficient time is allowed, then the cells can switch to fatty acid metabolism. Fatty acids are released into the blood stream from fat stores. Fatty acids in the blood stream or already existing in the cell are degraded and oxidized inside the cell through 2 different cycles. Water is needed for fatty acid degradation in both the cycles. In a way, water is “split” during this process and the oxygen/hydrogen are used up. So staying hydrated ensures that there is plenty of water that will help push the equilibrium towards fatty acid degradation.

To help metabolize fat at the greatest efficiency, you have to control your diet and intake. There is a specific diet that people with epilepsy sometimes use called the ketogenic diet. In such a diet, they cut out all carbs and eat only fats and protein. The result is that their body starts becoming very efficient at using fatty acids and proteins as the energy source instead of glucose/carbs.

Someone who wants to lose weight/fat has to get on a similar but balanced diet. That would mean making sure that they get enough nutrients, proteins, fat and carbs to sustain a healthy body, but also make sure that their energy intake is just below their energy expenditure. This deficit will mean that your body is at a need for more energy that you’re not taking in, and if that gap is maintained just right and with proper time, your body will know to start using fatty acids to fill that energy gap in a healthy manner.  In short, any diet that supplies less “fuel” than you burn will do the trick.

If you’re interested in learning more about how your body metabolizes fats, consider the Dr. Nirvana Diet to discover your body’s best alternatives to weight loss.

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