Humans want results and only results. We turn a blind eye to all the processing happening in the background to produce these results or don’t bother to understand what brings about results. The world is obsessed with obesity, overweight, weight loss, slimming and toning but most of us don’t know where the excess kilograms that gets knocked off our body go!
What Reasons do People Give?
It’s both shocking and surprising to know that there is widespread confusion and misunderstanding regarding the process of weight loss among the general public as well as people involved in the health industry too. This does not come as a statement but does need a strong mention here due to conclusive evidences showing the same! A group of 150 doctors, dietitians and personal trainers who were surveyed on the question ‘Where does fat go as a person loses weight?” mostly responded wrongly, according to an article published in the reputed journal, BMJ. Most of them assumed that fat is converted into energy/heat while some others believed that fat is excreted via feces/urine or in fact, converted into muscle. Almost more than 50% of the 150 individuals responded that fat was converted into energy during weight loss. Amongst the 150 individuals, only 3 of them gave the correct answer which means that 98% of the health professionals were unaware of the right response. Is the answer extremely peculiar or something out of the ordinary that most respondents couldn’t hit it right?
Hitting the Bull’s Eye
The common misconception to fat burn might be due to the ‘energy in/energy out’ principle and the concept of energy production. Carbohydrates, fats and protein are the three macronutrients that get stored in our body through the food we consume. Our body uses these nutrients to produce energy for day-to-day activities and the excess carbohydrate or protein in the diet is converted into triglyceride and stored in the lipid droplets of adipocytes. Excess dietary fat undergoes lipolysis, a process of fat breakdown to generate energy. People trying to lose weight are actually trying to metabolize these triglycerides stored in the adipose tissue. Triglycerides contain three kinds of atoms-carbon, oxygen and hydrogen-and when broken down, 4/5th of it becomes carbon dioxide (CO2) and 1/5th of it forms water (H2O) molecules. When you wish to lose fat, you increase your energy output and decrease your energy input so that your body tries to use the energy stored in fat cells to keep performing (the body might also break down muscle for energy, but this again depends on the ratio of calorie in and calorie out which is why crash dieting or any other fad diets are strictly disallowed). At the cell level, triglycerides from the adipose tissue are released through lipolysis resulting in 4 different products from every triglyceride-1 glycerol and 3 free fatty acids.
If we were to jot down the whole process in the form of an equation:
Triglyceride (C55H104O6) + 78O2→ 55CO2 + 52H2O + energy
The results also showed that an individual trying to lose 10 kilogram of fat (triglyceride) requires 29 kilograms of oxygen to be inhaled and this process results in 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide and 11 kilograms of water expelled out of the body. The equation clearly shows that 1 triglyceride molecule is converted into multiple carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) molecules with the help of oxygen (O2). While researchers tried understanding the logic behind such a distribution, an earlier analysis showed that oxygen atoms are shared between carbon and hydrogen in fat in the ration 2:1 (resulting in CO2 and H2O). This helped the researchers arrive at the conclusion that 84% of a fat molecule’s atoms are exhaled as carbon dioxide and the remaining 16% is exhaled as water. When someone loses 10 kilograms of fat, 8.4 of these kilograms are exhaled as carbon dioxide and the remaining 1.6 kilograms becomes water and excreted via urine, feces, sweat, breath, tears or other body fluids. But none of these are clear because the carbon dioxide gas that we exhale is invisible. While the excreted water can be replenished by drinking water, the exhaled carbon from the CO2 molecule can be replenished only by consuming food or beverages.
Simply put, fat is breathed out as carbon dioxide and the lungs serve as the primary excretory organs for weight loss. If your next question is whether you can lose more weight by breathing more, the answer is a definite no! Breathing more can lead to hyperventilation that can make you feel dizzy, palpitate or lose consciousness. The only way to increase carbon dioxide production in your body is to exercise and move your muscles. A normal-weighted person who consumes a balanced diet exhales around 200 ml of CO2 in 12 breaths per minute. On any given day, time spend in leisure work, rest, sleep or light activity expels around 200 g of carbon. Replacing one hour of sedentariness with moderate activity or workout helps to expel 40 g of carbon (20% of 200 g) from the body increasing total amount expelled to around 240 g. Foods such as muffins, pancakes and other carb-rich snacks might seem small, but they represent a large portion of an average person’s energy requirements. A 100-gram muffin easily amounts to 20% of your energy requirement. Consuming such foods can be deceptive due to their small size, but physical activity can easily go in vain when such foods are consumed on a regular basis in between.
Eating a healthy diet and burning more than what you eat will enable weight loss. It seems simple when put on paper but an individual must eat all of the required nutrients within the stipulated calories that can be consumed for weight loss and for this purpose, it is better to get in touch with reputed dietitian nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com. But getting to know how this happens is essential, interesting and a must-know!
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.