Breathe to Slim: CO2, the Secret Agent.

Active breathing and Coronavirus.

In the middle of the Coronavirus crisis, it seems a bit superficial to write about breathing in order to lose weight. First, though, I should mention Active Breathing, a form of conscious and controlled breathing based on a number of breathing exercises and practices stemming from ancient traditions such as yogic breathing, Pranayama, and Qigong breathing, as well as modern tools such as cardiac coherence breathing or the Wim Hof Method.
Active Breathing is important to maintain good health, to stimulate the immune system, develop lung capacity, activate the production of red blood cells and much more. It is particularly important with a virus such as COVID-19 that attacks the lungs as a primary target. I intend to write about all these other vital topics in due time. Active Breathing is more than ever crucial to practice. Furthermore, it is an activity that is really easy to pursue under staying-at-home enforcement! No need for any equipment or anything else but ourselves and our own bodies!

A lighter perspective.

However, I want to start with a “lighter” subject: how to lose weight while breathing? In fact, slimming in a period of stress and anxiety might become a growing concern when stay-at-home is probably entangled with multiple visits to the refrigerator and lack of exercise. A few extra pounds seem to crawl onto the scale and end up around our bellies.

So, let’s explore this surprising idea of losing weight whilst breathing. It seems to be an interesting perspective.

Where does the fat go?

But how is that possible? Will I just breathe and slim? Well, in fact everybody knows that we lose weight during the night, even if we do not go anywhere else but to our bed, even if we do not sweat or urinate during the night…

However, losing weight just through breathing seems too good to be true. This was precisely my first reaction when I heard Ruben Meerman, an Australian scientist, during his Ted talk* explaining where fat goes when losing weight.

Where does it go? A spontaneous answer would be: it is transformed into energy/heat or it is excreted in feces or converted into muscles, or lost in sweat or urine.

The crucial role of CO2.

However none of these answers are correct. By looking into the molecular composition of fatty acids and by highlighting the crucial role of CO2 in fat loss, Meerman discovered that :

“Our lungs are the primary excretory organ for weight loss’

The crucial role of Oxygen.

Let’s go back to the formula of the average human fat: adipose triglyceride C55H104O6. No worries! My objective is not to take you into molecular biology! I give this formula just to show that our fat is made of atoms of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. When metabolized and fully oxidized, this molecule of triglyceride produces energy AND molecules of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). The formula of this oxidation [(C55H104O6) + 78O2→ 55CO2 + 52H2O + energy].

“When oxidized, fat is converted to carbon dioxide, water and energy”

The carbon dioxide is exhaled and the metabolic water is excreted as urine or sweat.

In which proportions?

Ruben Meerman and Andrew Brown did the calculation for us: 100 grams of fully oxidized fat will result in 84 grams of CO2 and 16 grams of metabolic water.

“In other words, most of the fat we lose is exhaled”

Eat less, Move and Breathe more.

So if fat turns into CO2, does that mean that breathing it out is the only thing we need to do to lose weight? Of course not!
We definitely need to breathe properly to oxygenate our blood as much as necessary to increase our oxygen intake in the process. But the best way to increase the production of CO2 is by moving our muscles: exercising, walking, running, or moving to increase our metabolism. And of course reducing quantities of what we eat is also a key element in the equation!

The triple Win!

So, yes, I am all for ‘Breathe, Breathe, Breathe!’
I am all for “Eat Delicious And less” to benefit from the pleasure and satisfaction of eating without feeling over-full and heavy.
And I am all for “Move, Move, Move!” and learn how to transform the negative into the positive!

Your reward will be: “Win, Win, Win!” Win the battle of the scale. Win better health. Win a ticket to the 130 club!

* To know more: see Ruben Meerman during his Ted talk, December 4, 2019. His research was published in the British Medical Journal (2014) with Andrew Brown under the title “When somebody loses weight, where does the fat go?” See also Meerman’s book Big Fat Myths (2016)
See also an interesting contribution of both Ruben Meerman and Andrew Brown on the Academic website, March 13, 2018.
Andrew Brown is Professor and Head, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW (University of South Wales, Sydney).

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