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How do we burn fat?

August 16, 2022


Understanding what happens to our fat in the body is the first step to understanding how to eliminate it and also how to maintain a healthy body fat percentage, especially over time, that will help us live longer and healthier.


There is a misconception that says that if you were overweight at some point in your life and you manage to lose those extra pounds, the cells that stored that fat never disappear, only when they are emptied of fat they decrease in size.


This concept implies several things, first of all it implies that if you have been overweight at some point in your life and managed to lose weight, it will be much easier for you to gain that weight back than for a person who was never overweight. And secondly, it implies that if these cells are not eliminated and are always stored in the same place where you had fat before. Therefore, if you gain weight again, the fat that you form will tend to be deposited in the same place where you had accumulated fat before.


But I said this is a misconception because it is not necessary for these adipose cells or fat cells to survive. Your fat deposit in specific places of the body will depend on which hormones you have unbalanced. Obviously, you will have a greater or lesser tendency to accumulate fat again depending on your metabolism, a slower metabolism will make you accumulate more fat.


Fortunately, by changing just one thing you can cause these fat-accumulating cells to be eliminated, or better yet, replaced by other tissue that is metabolically healthier and faster. The factor that you have to modify for all this to happen has to do with your diet, and it is specifically about inflammation. The more inflammation there is in your body, the more insulin resistant you are going to be, and therefore, you are going to have more insulin than someone else after eating the exact same food and this will make you accumulate more fat.


In response to this surge in insulin, your body slows down your metabolism. This implies that you burn fewer calories per day than another person without doing anything special, making sure that these adipose cells do not die because you are justifying their existence by storing the excess calories that you are consuming through this excess of insulin.


This is not only bad for weight and body fat, but also because of the negative effect it will have on your life expectancy. Therefore, to lose weight in a lasting and healthy way, you have to lower inflammation.


What happens to body fat when we lower our fat percentage or we “burn fat”? 


Many people believe that fat is converted to energy or converted to heat, but this is not really what happens in our body. We eliminate fat by breathing, and this is important because if you understand how your body gets rid of excess fat, you can favor that mechanism.


In general, the accumulated fat in our body is in the form of triglycerides. These triglycerides are mainly made of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen atoms and when we oxidize fats to be able to break them down and use them, we need oxygen, that's why this process is called oxidation. 


To oxidize 22 pounds of fat, we need to inhale approximately 64 pounds of oxygen. Those 86 pounds that you have in total between what you inhale and the fat that you had, you have to get rid of it in some way (and of course this happens slowly, not all at once). About three quarters of the total mass that you have to get rid of, will be eliminated in the form of carbon dioxide (the gas that you exhale from the oxygen that you inhale). The remaining quarter you will eliminate it as water. This can be done through sweat, urine or even water in your stool.


On a normal day with very little physical activity you're going to exhale during your normal breaths a third of a pound of carbon. If you add exercise, you are going to increase the amount. This is obviously positive because it means losing weight by releasing carbon dioxide about 20% faster. 


An additional variable to this equation is that we also eat carbohydrates that are putting new carbon in your body. That’s the reason why carbohydrates are the type of food that make us gain weight the most since they are the same substances that we have to get rid of if we want to reduce our fat percentage.




The idea of ​​this article is not to breathe a lot thinking that simply because of that you will lose weight more quickly, but rather to make you understand how the processes in your body really work and avoid common mistakes while trying to lose weight.


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