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Where does the fat go?

Given the prevailing flapdoodle that fills the weight loss marketplace, it’s not surprising most folks are confused about what happens to their fat if they manage to lose some. Asking some of our clients we got a wide variety of wrong answers. Most common were:

“Fat is released from fat cells and flows down the body under the skin to come out in sweat and that greasy gunk between your toes.”

Wrong. Only a minuscule bit of fat comes out in sweat {less than 1%} and even less in what is rudely called toejam. Sweat is a measure of water loss, not fat loss.

“Fat comes out in feces and urine, which is why daily regularity is so important for good health.”

Wrong again. Excretion of daily waste is important, because no creature, including us, can live in their own waste, which is made into waste precisely because it is toxic to the body. But the amount of fat loss by this route is negligible.

The body can lose fat in waste by going into the pathological condition of ketosis and producing ketone bodies from the fat which are then excreted as toxic waste. Reducing food intake to the point of ketosis, however, is not a healthy condition, and also involves loss of lean muscle mass, though it is often used to kick-start a fat loss program.

The most common answer we got was:

“Fat is converted to energy and/or heat, and simply disappears.”

Wrong again. Like all matter in the Universe, your body fat is subject to the laws of physics. Disappearing fat would violate the law of conservation of mass.

The Oxidation Process

So, where does the fat actually go? Despite clear instruction about the fate of fat in college textbooks, even many health professionals have little or no idea. A survey published in the British Medical Journal asked 50 family doctors, 50 dietitians, and 50 personal trainers.

More than 95% of all three categories of professionals got it dead wrong. Not a single one of the physicians or the personal trainers knew where the fat goes. Only six of the dietitians got the right answer.

It might be useful to know the right answer if you intend to control your body fat, especially if you are just starting. Here it is, simple and unadorned by the complex science behind it.

Body fat can only be lost through oxidation. First, you have to encourage the fat molecules to leave the fat cells, which happens efficiently only by the right exercise. Then you have to mix the fat molecules with oxygen to oxidize them, which only happens efficiently if you take in a lot of oxygen. (I will leave out the hundreds of biochemical steps involved here.)

Suffice to say that if you don’t persuade the fat molecules to leave the safety of the fat cells, it does not work. And if you fail to provide enough oxygen, it does not work.

So you can restrict your eating to starvation level, but without regular exercise to increase oxygen uptake, and correct breathing to provide a big supply of oxygen, all you will get is a temporary loss of some body fat. You will also get a loss of muscle that is much harder to correct.

The Bottom Line

To lose 10 pounds of body fat you have to inhale approximately 14 pounds of extra oxygen which then oxidizes the fat you have persuaded into the bloodstream by exercise, This activity produces about 13 pounds of carbon dioxide that you exhale, plus about 8 pounds of water.

The average person in North America exhales only about 1.5 lbs of carbon dioxide per day from all bodily functions So it takes at least a month of heroic effort to exhale 13 lbs more in order to dump the fat. Most of us never get enough oxygen or exercise to do the job, which is one big reason for the obesity epidemic.

We are a carbon-based creature, and what you are really trying to do is to get the carbons of your fat out of the body. The weight of fat that you exhale in your breath as carbon dioxide is the weight of the 55 carbon atoms in each fat molecule (plus 4 oxygen atoms). That works out to about 80% of the all the weight of the fat you lose. Thus, by simple physiology, your lungs are the main organ of fat loss. To maintain control of body fat for life you have to increase your carbon footprint and breathe it all out.

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Need help in your fitness program? Contact Pavel to get you on the right track. You may call him at 417-890-1616.

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