Have you ever wondered where exactly our fat “goes” when we lose it? How it exits our body?
The answer is certainly interesting, and knowing exactly how the process works may actually help you lose more fat and/or push through a plateau.
Fat Gain and Fat Loss: What’s Really Going On
First things first: fat is simply an accumulation of excess energy. Typically, we refer to this “energy”as calories in the form of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
When we consume this energy or calories in excess, our bodies begin to store the excess as fat (there are certain cases in which your body may also store excess sugar as fat in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels, but for now, we’re going to look at how base fat gain/loss works).
When we consume less than the energy or calories our bodies require to function, it begins using that stored fat for energy.
*On a side note, if you’ve ever wondered why it seems so easy to store fat, yet so hard to get rid of it, you can thank biology: because we have adapted over thousands of years within periods of “feasts” and “famines,” our bodies have become accustomed to storing energy quickly for later. In fact, this is the only time in recorded history that food has been so plentiful at such a consistent rate.
And not to mention, we also have processed foods that are more energy-dense than any natural foods our ancestors may have eaten … so we can’t necessarily blame our bodies for still being tuned into our ancestral past!
How Fat Loss Occurs
Know that before your body begins to get rid of fat, it uses up the energy floating around in your bloodstream and muscles. A great way to think of this is to think of stored fat like your savings account – you don’t touch it unless you have to. On the other hand, your immediate energy stores in other places are your checking account or cash – ready to be used immediately.
When “fat” is “burned” off, it is simply transformed into energy and used as fuel by your body. Once it is burned, the fat cell that was holding the fat shrinks down, which is where we then see a smaller, slimmer us!
Now, when we say that fat is “burned” off, what we’re really saying is that it’s actually broken down into its various molecular components like carbon, hydrogen, etc… As such, these components are either exhaled (carbon) or excreted through urine or sweat (hydrogen and oxygen). This is a very simplified version of the exact science, but it makes it easier to grasp.
Now you can see why a calorie deficit is almost always necessary to promote fat loss: it causes you body to have to pull energy from your fat stores to be “burned,” since all of your other immediate “cash” has been used up.
Why Is It So Easy To Regain Fat?
Remember those fat cells we mentioned earlier? Well, when the fat in them is used up, they may shrink … but they don’t disappear. In essence, the number of fat cells “waiting” patiently to store fat again remain the same.
This is why, especially if you’ve been overweight before (aka: have quite a few fat cells, even if they’re empty) it can be so easy to put weight back on. When you gain fat, you don’t just gain fat, you gain additional fat cells to store them in.
How Can You Lose Fat More Efficiently?
As you can see, maintaining a calorie deficit is essential to losing fat; however, it’s not the entire equation. The type of foods you eat can significantly increase your chances of storing fat (see here) and exercising, building muscle, and even intermittent fasting can also help you burn through your immediate fat stores in order to begin emptying out those fat cells.
Training in the morning on an empty stomach is also a technique used to help get your body in fat-burning mode faster.
Overall, focus on eating only high-quality produce, wild fish, eggs, lean meats, tons of veggies, gourds like butternut squash, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, and avoid processed foods like flours, candies, pastas, breads, dairy, etc..
Keep a mindful awareness of your calories and develop a training regime, and you’ll be well on your way to shedding stubborn fat for good.