We talk about dieting in strange terms such as losing weight, burning fat, or shedding pounds. But have you ever wondered where fat actually goes when you lose it? If you think it gets converted into muscle, or burned off via sweat, you're wrong. But rest assured you're not alone in your misconceptions.
CNN recently polled 150 doctors, dietitians, and personal trainers and found that the vast majority (98 percent) thought fat was either converted to energy or sculpted into muscle. Neither of these options is correct. It's not flushed out in your poo or in your sweat either. So where does the fat go?
This is the question that perplexed Reuben Meerman, a former physicist and Australian TV personality after he lost about 30 pounds. He posed the question to Andrew Brown, a lipid researcher at the University of New South Wales, and the pair published their findings in the British Medical Journal.
Meerman and Brown concluded that the chemical formula for "burning" a molecule of fat looks something like this:
C55H104O6+78O2 —> 55CO2+52H2O+energy
If your high school chem is a little rusty, here's the breakdown: fat is converted into carbon dioxide, water and energy. In other words, you don't really "lose" weight, you exhale it via your breath and lose the rest through sweat and urine. Meerman and Brown figured out that the ratio of fat converted to carbon dioxide compared to that changed to water is around 84 to 16.
So does that mean the key to weight loss is just breathing more? No such luck. Fast breathing, or hyperventilating, will only make you dizzy. But if you really want to shed fat, you can concentrate on tackling activities that raise your respiration rate — such as going for a walk, run or bike ride. These actions will help you lose weight not by burning fat or converting it to muscle, but by helping you release fat from your body with every breath.