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Where Does Fat Actually Go?

2 MIN READ • 3rd July 2022
Alison Davies by Alison Davies

If you’re planning on prepping your midriff for some serious bikini action this summer, you’ve probably got a killer wokout routine in place to achieve your flat tum goals. But ever wondered where your fat actually goes? Alison Davies investigates...

It’s that time of year, when we shed the layers and reveal our toned torso to the world! This tends to mean one thing: an increase in motivation when it comes to the usual exercise routine. Who doesn’t want to look their bikini best? But for those of us needing to burn a little tummy fat, there comes a rather tantalising question… where does it all go? I recently lost a stone and a half in weight and was more than delighted to see the muffin top I’d cultivated over the past couple of years suddenly disappear. It was as if the fat just melted away. Of course that sounds a little ‘hocus pocus’. I mean, fat doesn’t just evaporate into thin air, does it?

I’ve been under the illusion for some time that the fat cells simply reduced in size and the mass was converted to energy, and apparently, I’m in good company. According to a new study carried out by the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences in Australia, 50 percent of 150 doctors, dieticians and personal trainers thought the same. However, the study, whose lead author is physicist and science presenter Ruben Meerman, proves this isn’t true. According to their results, the fat evaporates into thin air as the extra mass is breathed out as carbon monoxide. This sounds more like a clever magic trick, but there’s evidence to support this theory. The paper, which appeared in the British Medical Journal shows that to lose 10kg of fat you’d need to inhale 29kg of oxygen, which in turn produces 28kg of carbon dioxide and 11kg of water. The authors of the paper went on to examine the atoms in the fat being lost and discovered that for 10kg of fat, 8.4 percent is breathed out as carbon dioxide and the remaining 1.6 becomes water. This water is excreted in a number of ways through sweat, tears, urine, faeces and other bodily fluids. So when we burn fat, the majority really is absorbed into the air.

This begs the question, if it’s that simple why can’t we ease up on the exercise regime and just increase our rate of breathing? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. If we breathe more than we need to for our metabolic rate we cause hyperventilation which makes us dizzy and light-headed. We still need to put the work in to see the results, and that takes drive and determination. There’s no quick fix to zapping the flab. But one thing the study proves is that the more we work up a sweat, the more likely we are to lose some of those fatty atoms and obtain a body worthy of a beach goddess!

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