Where Does Fat Go When We Lose It?

You started exercising more often, and you’ve been eating a more nutritious diet – so it’s no shock when you notice that your pants are getting looser as your body fat composition is decreasing. But what may surprise you is where exactly the fat you shed ends up. Because it doesn’t just disappear – it has to go somewhere – but most people don’t think about what happens as the numbers on the scale go down.

Your fat cells remain intact.

First thing you should know: your body can create more fat cells, but it does not destroy them when you lose weight. Fat cells will shrink as the fat within them is burned off, but the cells themselves will stick around—which means it’s easier to gain weight back if you don’t follow good habits. The only way to remove these fat cells once you have them is to undergo a procedure like liposuction or cryolipolysis, which actually removes fat cells from the body.

Stored energy is burned off in a few ways.

Secondly, fat is stored energy—and when you lose it, that energy is burned through a conversion process that generates a few different byproducts, like water and carbon dioxide, which are lost through urination and breathing. But what may surprise you is how much of your lost fat is exhaled, which is not consistent with the common belief that it’s converted to muscle or lost through feces. Rather, it’s disappearing into thin air. In fact, research shows that during weight loss, 84 percent of the fat that is lost turns into carbon dioxide and leaves the body through the lungs. However, this doesn’t mean you should quit working out and start practicing deep breathing instead. Building muscle does aid in burning fat, so you should continue exercising to increase muscle mass, if your end goal is to lose fat.

Losing weight can bring up a lot of questions, and it’s crucial to discuss any weight loss plans with a medical provider before you get started. You can spare yourself a trip to your primary physician though by consulting a medical profession about your weight loss goals online through a MeMD consultation.