Seriously. Answer that question before you continue reading.  Did it turn into muscle? Did your intestines convert it to energy and magically make it disappear? Well, those answers are wrong. Don’t feel bad. A survey showed more than half of all personal trainers, dieticians, and doctors couldn’t answer this question correctly (neither could I for that matter until a year ago). So, what does happen to the fat in our bodies?

The short answer: we breathe it out. That’s right. You expel 85% of your fat mass via carbon dioxide. Crazy right? And, just in case you’re wondering where the other 15% go they leave via sweat, saliva, urine, and fecal matter (“ya!” for poop!).

So, what does this mean for your training? If we lose most of our fat via carbon dioxide then shouldn’t we all run like crazy? I mean, any cardio intense exercise causes our hearts and lungs to work harder. This means we have to breathe more than normal and breathing, as we’ve seen, is how we lose fat. Well, yes and no.

Yes, if you perform cardio based workouts you will breathe more and lose fat….to a point. The problem is that over the course of your training you will reach a point where you body adapts to said routine. You’ll burn fewer calories and not have to breathe as intensely. Think of the first time you ran 1 mile. It was pretty hard. After a month or two running several days a week it became easier and less tiring to run 1 mile. Well, if you want to continue burning more fat then you have to do 2 things: run further and run faster. There’s going to be a point where you can’t push yourself any more or you can’t allocate the necessary time to keep up with your body’s ability to adapt. I don’t know many people who have time to run 10-15 miles every day unless they’re running a 6-min. mile and can be done in 60-90 min.

What about weight lifting? Sure, you breathe a bit harder in bursts while lifting but not as much as cardio. Yet, I’ve repeatedly pointed out lifting for fat loss over cardio. Why? Well, we all know lifting helps break down and then build lean muscle tissue. Increased lean muscle increases our resting metabolic rate (RMR). What do you think is required for an increased RMR? Breathing! Aside from a higher RMR, your body needs to divert the calories going to fat cells to muscle cells. Muscle cells grow and stay strong while fat cells wither away. Technically, this process is true for runners but only in very, very small amounts and only for the lower body.

If you want to increase the amount of “breathing” you do then I have a few activities that can do that for you. Remember, sitting still huffing and puffing like you’re in a birthing class is not going to cut it….and you’ll probably pass out. So, here’s what you should do instead:

  1. Clean your home.  Seriously, it works and you’ll have a clean home when you’re done
  2. Walking the dog for 15-30 min. Hey, your dog needs exercise and some fresh air after being indoors all day
  3. Practice playing an instrument. Not only will it increase the amount of calories you burn in a day it will work the most important muscle in your body…your brain
  4. Ride a stationary bike or treadmill while watching TV. You’d be surprised at how much time will fly while binge watching your favorite show for 2 hours.

If you have other activities worth mentioning please post them in the comments section below.


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