Excess body fat is the most unwanted thing in this world. Ask anyone what their fitness goal is and, chances are, it will involve losing or burning fat. It is so reviled that no one ever thinks about what happens to it when we lose it. Good riddance, we say.
But what really happens to the fat that we manage to lose? Surely it does go someplace, right?
Before we answer that question, here are some common misconceptions about what happens to fat.
Fat does not turn into muscle. Fat and muscle are two separate entities distinct from one another. Body fat is located atop our muscles. We cannot convert fat to muscle in the same way we cannot turn skin into bone. Neither do we excrete fat as solid waste.
Fat is not converted to energy. This is about the most common and seemingly logical conclusion most of us will come up with. Problem is, it’s not true. First of all, this violates the law of the conservation of matter.
Yes, our bodies have stored fat. But that fat is not directly converted to energy when we exercise or go about our daily activities. Fat goes through a series of chemical reactions to convert to energy, but ultimately, most fat is turned into carbon dioxide (CO2), with some of it turning into water.
A 2013 study by a group of Australian researchers published in the British Medical Journal reveals that 10 kg of fat turns into 8.4 kg of CO2 and 1.6kg of water which is excreted as urine, sweat and other bodily fluids.
So yes, we exhale out most of our fat. Consider our lungs the new hero in our war on fat. It is this organ that is largely responsible kicking the bad guys out. But let us put things in perspective; we do not actually breathe out chunks or even pieces of fat cells, but we’re actually exhaling out fat metabolic by-products in the form of CO2.
When doing cardio-vascular exercise or lifting weights, for instance, we increase our breathing and, subsequently, the amount of CO2 we produce, which is representative of the fat we are burning.
Generally, we have a fixed number of fat cells in our bodies. This cannot be increased nor decreased. But what happens when we gain weight is that these fat cells increase in size. On the other hand, when we lose weight, we are decreasing the size of fat cells.
Now that we know and understand our body fat just a little bit better, let’s get on a fitness program and show them the door.