When we lose weight, where does it go?

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Kilograms in versus kilograms out

We all learn that “energy in equals energy out” in high school. But energy is a notoriously confusing concept, even among health professionals and scientists who study obesity.

The reason we gain or lose weight is much less mysterious if we keep track of all the kilograms, too, not just those enigmatic kilojoules or calories.

According to the latest government figures, Australians consume 3.5kg of food and beverages every day. Of that, 415 grams is solid macronutrients, 23 grams is fibre and the remaining 3kg is water.

What’s not reported is that we inhale more than 600 grams worth of oxygen, too, and this figure is equally important for your waistline.

Walking increases our resting metabolic rate by 300%.
from www.shutterstock.com



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If you put 3.5kg of food and water into your body, plus 600 grams of oxygen, then 4.1kg of stuff needs to come back out, or you’ll gain weight. If you’re hoping to shed some weight, more than 4.1kg will have to go. So how do you make this happen?

The 415 grams of carbohydrates, fats, protein and alcohol most Australians eat every day will produce exactly 740 grams of carbon dioxide plus 280 grams of water (about one cup) and about 35 grams of urea and other solids excreted as urine.

An average 75kg person’s resting metabolic rate (the rate at which the body uses energy when the person isn’t moving) produces about 590 grams of carbon dioxide per day. No pill or potion you can buy will increase that figure, despite the bold claims you might have heard.




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The good news is that you exhale 200 grams of carbon dioxide while you’re fast asleep every night, so you’ve already breathed out a quarter of your daily target before you even step out of bed.

The metabolic fate of an average Australian’s daily intake of food, water and oxygen (Nutrient intake data: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients)

Eat less, exhale more

So if fat turns into carbon dioxide, could simply breathing more make you lose weight? Unfortunately not. Huffing and puffing more than you need to is called hyperventilation and will only make you dizzy, or possibly faint. The only way you can consciously increase the amount of carbon dioxide your body is producing is by moving your muscles.

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