Where does fat go when it's burned? - BroScience

Where does fat go when it’s burned?

For those who are not lucky enough to be skinny, the topic of fat loss has become borderline taboo.

However, as people learn more about the complexity of the human body, there are certain things that beg to be questioned.

One of them is – Why do people gain fat in the first place?

The problem with obesity


In a previous article, we talked about the abundance and accessibility of processed foods, that has only been around for a couple of decades.

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Unfortunately for some humans, even 50 years are not enough for the body to adapt and establish weight-control mechanisms that would prevent excessive weight gain.

That’s exactly why it is easy to lose track and gain a couple extra pounds.

People nowadays get fat simply because they consistently eat at an excess of energy (food) and the body stores what it doesn’t need for later.

All fat is, is an energy storage.

Now, there is something else that is often questioned

When someone loses weight, where does it go?

Contrary to popular belief, we do not:

  • Instantly use it as energy and emit it as heat
  • Excrete it
  • Sweat it

Or, well, at least not completely.

We need to understand that the body is a closed biological system, in which, chemical reactions do happen.

If you know basic physiology, you’d be aware that fat is burnt in a reaction with oxygen.

So, how much oxygen do we need to breathe, in order to burn 20 lbs of fat?

We won’t give you the complex chemical formulas, but we’ll just tell you the end result – About 67 lbs of oxygen.

The end result of this reaction is about 60 lbs of CO2 (Carbon dioxide) and 25 lbs of water.

Generally, a bigger part of the fat we lose transforms to CO2, and a lesser part turns into water, which we then excrete via urine, sweat and other bodily fluids.

Should you just breathe more?

Okay, so if fat is burnt in a reaction with oxygen and it is turned into CO2 for the most part, can breathing more make you lose more fat?

Well, unfortunately it is not that simple, as there are other things we need to factor in.

Energy in vs. Energy out

Even though all of us learned in school that “energy in = energy out”, the whole idea of the word energy is sometimes confusing for many people and even some health professionals.

Now, if you put 3.5 kg of food and water in your body, as well as 600 grams of oxygen (which is the average daily oxygen intake of a human), that makes a total of 4.1 kg of energy in.

According to the energy in = energy out law, that means 4.1 kg need to come out of your body, or you will gain some weight.

Needless to say, that’s just maintenance. If you want to lose weight, more than 4.1 kg will have to leave your body, given the 3.5 kg of food and liquids + 600 grams of oxygen.

The secret…?

law of energy balance

In the end, fat loss is all about maintaining a negative energy balance.

Meaning that you have to give the closed biological system (the body) less energy than it requires to maintain its weight.

This is the so-called caloric deficit.

Then again, the diet must be sustainable so that you don’t damage your body and so that it can actually turn into a new, healthy habit that’s established.

There are far too many problems that pop up with weight loss, which is why you can also check our previous article, where I talked about introducing diet breaks to your weight loss plan.


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