I have always maintained that knowledge is power. It is often assumed that dietitians choose their career paths based on an inherent interest in healthy eating. While this is for the most part true, this does not mean that we always were our healthiest selves. It is through our studies that we became healthier, because once you have learned exactly how each food can and will affect your body, it is quite impossible to turn that off.
In the interest of empowering knowledge, have you ever stopped to think where the fat mass actually goes when you lose weight? Let’s shed some light on that, as well as other, previously unanswered questions.
1. Where Does the Fat Go?
When you lose weight, the majority of the mass is breathed out as carbon dioxide.
If you would not have guessed this, you are not alone. In fact when dietitians, doctors and personal trainers were asked to explain where lost weight went to, few were able to give the correct answer. The University of New South Wales released a study in 2014 to reveal the common misconception amongst health professionals, and the real mechanism by which we lose the physical weight when changing our diet or exercise program.
To briefly explain the process, fat can be broken down to create energy (as you may have guessed). Over and above this energy production, the fat molecule itself (with the help of added oxygen) is converted to a bunch of carbon dioxide molecules, and water. When you lose fat, approximately 84% of this is exhaled as carbon dioxide, with the remaining 16% being excreted as water. This means that your lungs are the primary excretory organs for fat. It should be added here that breathing more will not make you lose more weight, it will just mean that you are hyperventilating.
2. Can I Change My Metabolism?
You are not stuck with the metabolism you were born with.
Your metabolism is linked to your weight, but a slow metabolism is not the root cause of excess weight gain. The primary determinants of your weight are your food and drinks intake, along with your exercise pattern. That being said, your metabolism can in fact be boosted to give you a helping hand on your weight loss journey.
In 2014, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that strength training burnt approximately twice as many calories per minute than cardiovascular-based training. Furthermore, the researchers found that strength training could even reverse up to 50% of an age-related slow metabolism. This metabolism boost was not only during the exercise session itself, but also continued after the session is completed. This means that it may benefit you more to hit the weights section, than just the treadmill.
3. Will Exercising More Make Me Lose More Weight?
Exercising just 30 minutes per day is sufficient for weight loss, and in some cases, preferable to longer sessions.
Exercise is crucial in the formula for health, and very beneficial for weight loss. However, the common misconception is that more will be better when it comes to exercising for weight loss. In fact, a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that sedentary men who worked out daily for 30 minutes lost more weight over a period of 13 weeks than those who worked out at the same intensity for an hour. The researchers concluded that shorter exercise sessions led the men to burn calories without the need to replace them as much.
The idea behind shorter, higher intensity workouts versus longer training sessions is not that difficult to understand. When you exercise for longer periods of time, you are more likely to overeat later to replace the energy expended during the workout, according to the research. This explains how a popular fast food chain can achieve success by moving in next to the new gym in town. You work out really hard for over an hour, and feel fantastic, then very hungry and possibly lightheaded. More than likely, you will crave something deep fried and salty, with a side of sugar in a can. It’s marketing 101.
There is more to weight loss than hitting the gym and sticking to salads (whilst that is a good place to start). It can be a relatively complex subject matter, however it is worth exploring so that you foster a “food conscience” to guide you towards your best and healthiest self.