Where does fat go when it’s lost?

Where does fat go when it’s lost?

by Pamela Ng 26 Feb 2020

Fat-burning is perhaps the number one goal of anyone who’s looking to achieve a lean and fitter physique and appearance. But have you ever where the fat you lose goes and what is their final destination?


Where does the fat go?


When we burn fat, we do not actually lose fat cells. Instead, the fat within the adipocytes are chemically broken down and split into glycerol and fatty acids. This reaction is catalysed by an enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase (HSL). The liberated fats are then released into the bloodstream and delivered to the muscles for use. As it is broken down, roughly 84 percent of the fat is expelled as carbon dioxide while the remainder becomes water.


As a result of the fats being freed from the fat cells, the fat cells shrink, reducing the appearance of extra flab to give the body a leaner appearance.


Can fat cells increase?


The short answer is yes. During different points in our lives, the number of fat cells can increase. These events include puberty, pregnancy and when weight-gain skyrockets. Some people are genetically predisposed to a higher count of fat cells, but that should not be a deterrent to becoming fit. After all, with proper exercise and nutrition, fat cells can be “emptied” and the person can still achieve a lean physique.


How to lose fat?


Two things: proper exercise and healthy diet.


When the muscles need additional energy, the fats are freed from the fat cells to produce extra energy for use. However, this process needs to be optimised for it to be truly effective. Aside from creating a small energy debt, other things like fat adaptation and insulin sensitivity need to factored into the fat-burning equation as well. Losing fat is only one part of the challenge; the other is keeping it off.


Fat-burning is optimised when there is calorie deficit. However, this does not mean you should starve yourself. Instead, eat food that is more nutrient-dense. For example, one way is to substitute processed carbohydrates (e.g. chips) with more wholesome ones (e.g. sweet potato). Furthermore, starving yourself can result in drastically slowed metabolic rate, which slows down the overall rate of fat-burning.


By the laws of thermodynamics, fat cannot just simply disappear into thin air (as much as we’d like to believe it could). Sobering as it may be, knowing the truth behind this aspect of fat-loss allows us to be more realistic in our expectations when it comes to training and dieting.