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The Fat - Where Does it Go?

When people say they need to lose weight, what are they generally referring to is to lose body fat, and change their body composition? There are clear and undeniable links between excess body fat and a myriad of health problems, diseases and chronic conditions that affect many people, with over 60% of the Australian population considered overweight or obese. Our lifestyles are often the number one reason we are carrying extra body fat. We consume excess calories and don’t move our bodies enough to manage this challenge.

What’s the go with fat? Where does it go when you put it on? And how do you get rid of it and where does it go?

Fat is a crucial macronutrient, essential for bodily functions. Fats in the body are usually stored as a molecule called a triglyceride. In structural terms, the molecule looks like the letter E. The vertical backbone of the molecule, is a glyceride molecule and the three arms that come off horizontally are separate fatty acid molecules. In these molecules there can a large amount of variation of these three fatty acids. They can be the same, all different, or any combination in between. An average triglyceride molecule has approximately 160 atoms – 55 carbon atoms, 104 hydrogen atoms and only six oxygen atoms.

This misinformation about fat storage, using and burning fat and how many fat cells we have as an adult is commonplace even in today’s society. The common misnomer that until 20 years of age, you didn’t produce any more fats cells has been disproven. One study overfed normal, active and overweight males and females. In the upper body, they laid down an average of 1.9kg of fat, and the fat cells in this area swelled and increased in size. While, below the belt, the fat cells stayed the same size and grew an extra 2.6 billion of them.

Now if we look at the question, where does the fat go when we lose it? In a survey of 50 GP’s, dietitians and personal trainers, they were asked where does the weight go when we lose it? Approximately 60% stated that it got converted to heat or energy, which is incorrect.

Only the dietitians, a few per cent got the answer correct. The triglyceride molecules are broken down into molecules of carbon dioxide and water. As discussed earlier, the average triglyceride molecule has 55 carbon atoms, 104 hydrogen atoms and only six oxygen atoms. If we look at carbon dioxide, or C02, it has two oxygen atoms, while water, H20 has one atom of oxygen. If we need to break down triglyceride molecules into carbon dioxide and water molecules, we need to add lots of oxygen.

Let’s say we want to lose 10kg of fat. That requires us to add 29 kg of oxygen! That’s a lot of extra huffing and puffing! And as a result, we should get rid of some 28kg of carbon dioxide and 11kg of water.

How do we get rid of this extra 39kg of carbon dioxide and water? The answer may surprise you. By breathing it out! We lose a little through sweat and urine, but the majority of those atoms that make up the triglyceride molecules inside your fat cells will come out through your mouth as carbon dioxide and water. Who doesn't love science!

By looking at it this way, the major excretory organ is your mouth. As each breath removes approximately 33 milligrams of carbon dioxide and 8.9 milligrams of carbon. Another way to look at it is, you are what you eat.

To lose weight, you need to unlock the carbon in your fat cells and lose weight by breathing more. The most effective way to do this is, wait for it… Exercise!

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