No matter which latest diet fad you see in the news, there’s always a constant line you’ll have thrown your way: "Burn fat with the <insert diet name here>."
Now, I’m not here to tell you whether your diet works or not. You’ll be able to tell that for yourself.
But I am here to let you know what really happens to all that fat when it disappears from your body.
Your personal trainer, your dietitian and even your doctor will tell you how you "burn" the fat away into energy or heat. And how you can literally feel this sensation, in the form of warmth and sweat, when you’re exercising.
Yet, a recent study by Australia’s University of New South Wales proves this simply isn’t true.
"There is surprising ignorance and confusion about the metabolic process of weight loss," says Professor Andrew Brown, head of the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences.
"The correct answer is that most of the mass is breathed out as carbon dioxide. It goes into thin air," says the study’s lead author, Ruben Meerman, a physicist and Australian TV science presenter.
In their paper, published in the British Medical Journal today, the authors show that losing 10 kilograms of fat (about 22 pounds) requires 29 kilograms of oxygen to be inhaled (a little over 63 pounds). This metabolic process produces 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide and 11 kilograms of water.
The study was actually created out of interest from Mr. Meerman’s personal experience with weight loss.
"I lost 15 kilograms in 2013 and simply wanted to know where those kilograms were going. After a self-directed, crash course in biochemistry, I stumbled onto this amazing result," he says.
"With a worldwide obesity crisis occurring, we should all know the answer to the simple question of where the fat goes. The fact that almost nobody could answer it took me by surprise, but it was only when I showed Andrew my calculations that we both realized how poorly this topic is being taught."
If you follow the atoms in 10 kilograms of fat as they are "lost," 8.4 of those kilograms are exhaled as carbon dioxide through the lungs. The remaining 1.6 kilograms becomes water, which may be excreted in urine, feces, sweat, breath, tears and other bodily fluids, the authors report.
"None of this is obvious to people because the carbon dioxide gas we exhale is invisible," says Mr. Meerman.
More than 50% of the 150 doctors, dieticians and personal trainers who were surveyed thought the fat was converted to energy or heat.
"This violates the Law of Conservation of Mass. We suspect this misconception is caused by the energy in/energy out mantra surrounding weight loss," says Mr. Meerman.
Some respondents thought the metabolites of fat were excreted in feces or converted to muscle.
The misconceptions we have encountered reveal surprising unfamiliarity about basic aspects of how the human body works," the authors say.
Mr. Meerman and Professor Brown recommend that these basic concepts be included in secondary school curricula and university biochemistry courses to correct widespread misconceptions about weight loss.
So, how can you "burn" more fat? One way we’ve discussed in this space is to consume all your daily calories between noon and 8 p.m. Another is to work out in shorter, more-intense bursts.
Now that we know fat goes into "thin air," so to speak, I’d love to know what strategies for "losing" (instead of burning) fat work best for you. Give us your best ideas in the comments section!
Happy and healthy investing,
Uncommon Wisdom Daily