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Where does all the fat you burn while on diet, GO ?
We’ve been told for years.
You’re committed to FAT BURNING.
Emptying out, over full fat cells will make you feel better, look better and save you money.
So where exactly does the fat you’re burning go ?
If you’re like most people – you probably have a picture of FIRE burned into your mind. You see the fat turning into heat.
It makes sense.
Burning does imply the release of lots of energy in the form of heat. And, heating your ice cold self-up, is a great way to BURN MORE FAT.
But, the picture is not all that scientifically accurate. Two Aussies decided it was time to put EVERYONE straight.
So what is the story ?
Fuelling the fire
First thing to understand, is that the BURNING all takes place, in a very special little organelle, known as the mitochondrion. It really is a little power station, located in the cytoplasm of a cell.
Cells typically have lots of these power stations all firing on all four cylinders.
Unfortunately, these mini-power stations can overheat, rather easily. And when this happens, they limp along, functioning inefficiently, or worse………………. stop functioning at all. Mitochondrial dysfunction, is implicated in a whole host of diseases – including, neuropathies, diabetes, Parkinson’s etc.
Which fuel ?
To be honest – the mitochondria aren’t all that fussy.
They’re happy to accept ANYTHING that will burn. Their definition of ANYTHING that will burn, includes
- Proteins (specifically branch chain amino acids)
Now, they can burn anything – but they do have preferences.
The process is carefully regulated……………..
As a rule, they burn carbs when carbs are available and switch to fat, when carbs are not available.
Translated, this means, they only burn fats when you’re “FASTING”.
Fast and furious
This is one of the reasons why munching 24/7 is not a recipe for fat burning. Eating lots of little meals, all day long, just keeps the furnace churning on carbs. Your fat reserves remain UNTOUCHED.
And…………. if you want to lose weight, specifically fat, not muscle – you have to burn up some of the fat that is in storage.
FASTING can be a deliberate endeavour. Ouch !
But, that is not really the FASTING the mitochondria have in mind. Mitochondria expect you to be fasting,
- when you’re in bed sleeping and
- when you’ve been for a workout
This is why sleeping is CRITICAL to weight loss and exercise can be helpful.
Fat burning the process
So……………… it all happens in the mitochondria.
The question is WHAT HAPPENS ?
For some of you, the very word is conjuring up nightmares. You’re seeing some very long complicated chemical equation.
The gist of the equation…..
FUEL + OXYGEN = CARBON DIOXIDE + WATER + ENERGY
If you want to be fancy, we can put some real numbers in………….
Fat as a fuel
The thing about fat is there are lots of “carbons” to burn.
A typical fat is made up of three fatty acids plus a glycerol. Fatty acids come in a range of sizes from short chain, to medium chain to long chain fatty acids.
The ones we typically store are around 16-18 carbons long.
So……………. if we want to put something REAL into the fuel part of the equation, we’re probably looking at something quite monstrous, like C55H104O6.
Contrast this with a little old glucose molecule which is C6H6O6.
Now you know why everyone has their nickers in a knot about fats. They are FULL of energy. Although, it is not quite that simple.
Plugging it all in
If we plug this into our equation above….
C55H104O6 + 78O2 = 55CO2 + 52H20 + energy (lots of it)
So far so good………….
But, energy is not something tangible. It is important, but you cannot weight it. Carbon dioxide and water are real. You can actually weigh them……………. and this is important.
When fat is BURNED, it produces carbon dioxide and water.
Mostly carbon dioxide.
You breathe out your fat
Since we breathe out carbon dioxide…………………
The fat you burn, exits your body, via your lungs.
Yup. You breath it out.
If you follow the atoms in 10 kilograms of fat as they are ‘lost’, 8.4 kilograms is exhaled as carbon dioxide through the lungs. The remaining 1.6 kilograms becomes water, which may be excreted in urine, faeces, sweat, tears OR BREATHED out as, water vapour.
A clue, to burn more fat ?
You do need to create the physiology that encourages your mitochondria to choose to burn fat.
It will also help to supply enough oxygen, because lots of oxygen, a whopping 78 molecules, is needed to get the reaction going.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. The reason exercising helps fat burning.
You breathe in more oxygen. Hopefully ! And you simulate “FASTING”.
Of course, you do have to do A LOT of exercise to burn through all that energy contained in a molecule of fat. Eish !
This is why losing weight and keeping it off, is so……………………..challenging.
It might sound counterintuitive, but when you’re battling insulin resistance, you don’t want to aim to eat like a bird, you want to eat like a horse. Go BIG.
If your body rhythms are off, there is a good chance your mitochondrial furnace never turns off. This means ROS 24/7 and oxidative stress is what kills .
The most effective strategy to decrease oxidative stress, is to simply eat less, but starving is not actually required…. burning fat is all that is needed.
Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind those extra fat layers ?
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