Where All The Fat Goes When You Lose Weight

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Where Does Fat Go When You Lose Weight?
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By Michael De Medeiros

This may seem like a silly question, but it's one we've all pondered at least a few times along our weight-loss journeys.

Where doesfat go when we lose weight?

Do the fat cells burst and flush out? Do we expel it during bathroom breaks? Do little fairies fly in at night and swipe away all that unwanted jiggle?

Let's get into the science, dispel some myths, and answer some (fat-) burning questions. 

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First of all, there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss.

Weight loss is an overall decrease in the number on the scale. This could be from water loss, muscle loss, fat loss, or even getting a drastic haircut (and no, we're not referencing your bangs in high school).

Fat loss, however, is the amount of body fat we lose, and this is done when the body burns off more calories than it consumes in a given day. 

According to certified personal trainer, Heather Neff, "To lose fat, you need to rev up your metabolism with plenty of exercise and good nutrition." But you can't live without fat. It's as indispensable to your body as muscle, blood, and bone! 

Sounds crazy, right? The truth is that fat doesn't make you fat, as many have been led to believe, but "it helps to burn fat and aids in so many body processes," Neff said. Fat is the delivery system for hormones. It is essential for brain function, muscle growth, and so much more.

Now, before you jump for joy on the way to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts, I have the unenviable task of making it clear that we're talking about healthy fats that can be found in foods, such as avocados, eggs, lean meats, organic dairy, nuts, seeds, bananas, and others. 

Okay, so you can't exactly cut fat out of your system, but where does fat go when you lose it?

The answer to that may surprise you.

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According to a 2014 study by Australian physicist Ruben Meerman, and University of New South Wales professor Andrew Brown, the majority of the "lost" mass is breathed out as carbon dioxide.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, suggested that many doctors and dieticians still harbor the misconception that fat is converted to energy, heat, or muscle. In reality, as Mr. Meerman points out in a news release, it simply "goes into thin air."

So, the fat doesn't leave your body in the form of urine or feces (well, not completely). If you lose 20 pounds, just over 80 percent of that is going to be exhaled by the lungs, and the remainder will be excreted via urine, feces, sweating, and tears (happy ones, we hope).

All of this might make you rethink your next workout in favor of some breathing exercises to ramp up your fat loss. Unfortunately, you cannot lose weight simply by making yourself breathe faster (hyperventilating). It doesn't work that way.

It happens through a metabolic process, so don't go making yourself light-headed. Just keep your metabolism in check by moving during the day and eating whole, healthy foods.

Also, drink plenty of water, because it needs to be replaced as we lose it faster during exercise through sweat and respiration.

Eventually, the weight will come off and it'll mostly be expelled through your breath — but you'll only see real results by working out and eating right.

RELATED: These Photos Show What Losing 110 Pounds Really Looks Like

Michael De Medeiros has been editor in chief of several men's lifestyle magazines, including Men's Fitness. He has authored 15 books, and has been nominated and shortlisted for several awards, including best book and best book in a series.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in November 2017 and was updated with the latest information.

This article was originally published at PopSugar. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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