As obesity becomes more of an epidemic, there is also a push for healthier living. This can include everything from new fad diets to advanced exercises; anything to shed some weight and become a more fit and healthier version of the self. However, while people are more invested in their health, there is still a lot of mystery involved when it comes to exercise and fat burning. Put simply, when you’re putting in serious time at the gym, where does the fat go once it has left your body? Have you ever pondered that? If so, you might be in the minority; but that being said, you’re right at home with the staggering percentage of the population that doesn’t know.

For the record, the lack of this particular bit of medical knowledge is not relegated strictly to patients and health gurus, but also medical and fitness personnel, such as doctors, dietitians, and personal trainers. Ultimately, the belief that fat turns into energy was the most common; however, while this describes the end result (losing fat and gaining energy), fat does not convert into energy itself. Perhaps more embarrassingly, some indicated that fat turns into muscle (it doesn’t and it can’t). Believe it or not, it also isn’t passed out of the body as feces.

The Truth About Fat Burning

Burns Fat

In actuality, when your body burns fat, it is converted into carbon dioxide. As you are likely aware, we exhale carbon dioxide with every breath. Essentially, that means for every 10 pounds of fat that you burn off, 8.4 of it ends up coming out as CO2, while the remaining 1.6 becomes water, and therefore, sweat or urine. Given the way that we go to the bathroom to expel waste, it’s quite a surprise that we remove more than air when we exhale.

However, this result is not unique to fat. The same thing happens to digested carbohydrates, including alcohol. The same is true of protein as well, though some of it does end up in the urine. Pretty much, the only thing that makes it into the colon is dietary fiber, as you might expect.

While one might think it is upsetting that this information is not well known, it’s not surprising. Ultimately, the digestive process is not generally explained with an in-depth link to how the body makes energy from what it consumes. As such, even for specialists with higher levels of education in health fields, it can be a difficult question. The answer, as with many things, involves zooming out to see the big picture, how everything is connected. In this case, it’s not just about keeping track of kilojoules or calories, the measures of energy, but also kilograms and pounds as well.

Related: 14 Quick and Natural Ways to Burn Your Belly Fat

In Context: How Digestion Works


What does that mean for Americans? On average, Americans shovel down about 125 ounces of food and beverages a day. Typically, 15 of those ounces are solid macronutrients, which are protein, carbohydrates and fat, while .6 of them are fiber, with the bulk of it being water. On top of that, what we inhale may also have an effect on our waistlines: on average, that’s 23 ounces of oxygen daily.

Ultimately, that translates to about 148 ounces of weight in various. Which means 148 ounces must be dropped to avoid gaining weight, and more needs to come off to lose weight. Still, it gets more complicated, as 148 ounces of food, water, and air don’t just turn into 148 ounces of waste. You end up with about 30 additional ounces in excess. About 20 of those ounces will be burned off even if you maintain a resting heart rate. You’ll get another seven when you sleep.

In theory, you could breathe your way to a smaller waistline. However, it’s more complicated than that. You might think that hyperventilation will do the trick, but this doesn’t release carbon dioxide faster. To clarify, you need to increase the amount of carbon dioxide being generated by the body, which means you need your muscles to put in work, converting more oxygen into carbon dioxide for you to exhale.

The Solution: Exercise


It’s better to get exercise, as exercise increases your metabolic rate threefold. Ultimately, it comes down to ensuring you use more resources than you take in. This, fortunately, includes the energy we burn to break down our food into more energy. Because of this, how much we eat matters more than what we eat when it comes to gaining or losing weight, but having a variety of nutritious foods is still important for other reasons, though maybe not the ones that you might think. All this means is that a proper diet providing balanced nutrition, without too much in the way of caloric gains. On top of that, regular exercise (half an hour daily) forms the other half of the weight loss equation.

Related: 12 Simple Solutions to Revitalize Your Metabolism


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