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When We Lose Weight Where Does the Mass Go?

author image Lisa Sefcik paralegal
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.
When We Lose Weight Where Does the Mass Go?
Excess fat burns off with exercise. Photo Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

When you reduced your daily caloric intake and get plenty of regular exercise, you will eventually notice that there is a lot less of you than there was before you started your weight-loss program. The way your body burns fat is not a mystery. According to nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky of, what happens to that extra fat when you lose weight involves complicated metabolic processes.

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Understanding Body Fat

To understand where body fat goes when you lose weight, you must understand how it first came to be there. According to, you burn a certain number of calories just to sustain basic body functions, such as breathing and circulation. This is called your basal metabolic rate, or metabolism. Another 10 percent of the calories you consume are expended through thermogenesis, the process needed to digest and absorb food and convert it into a usable form of energy. The excess calories not used for these functions are stored in your body in the form of fat. If you are overweight, you are taking in too many calories that your body does not need and not performing enough physical activity to burn them.

Where It Goes

Once you start burning calories, your body uses triglycerides, one form of bodily fat, as its fuel; as a result, your fat cells become smaller, explains Zeratsky. Your triglycerides then break down into two other components, glycerol and fatty acids. Your liver, kidneys and muscles absorb glycerol and fatty acids, after which they go through yet another process that gives your body yet another fuel source. Anything that your body does not need is removed in the form of waste, such as urine and sweat. You burn body fat -- your surplus stored calories -- through physical activity, namely exercise.

Eliminating Fat

When you store fat, it is distributed all over your body. However, the first place where you notice extra body fat is likely to be the last place where you will you lose it. A big exercise myth is that you can exercise to reduce body fat in certain parts of your body. This is untrue, according to the American Council on Exercise. Research has shown that targeting one body area, such as your belly, through situps and other core exercises produces only a nominal amount of lean muscle mass. To lose weight, you need regular aerobic activity.

Burning It Off

You need to get more physical activity if you want to see pounds melt away. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you are likely to get the best results by performing more than 250 minutes of moderate intense aerobic activity, broken up during the course of a week, as well as twice-weekly strength-training sessions. You do not need to run a daily marathon or engage in intense aerobics classes that take you out of your comfort level. Choose from among many physical activities, such as walking, hiking, cross-country skiing and dancing. Calorie control is important for weight loss. A helpful number to remember is 500, which is the number of extra calories you need to burn each day if you want to lose 1 lb. per week. The American Council on Exercise suggests setting a weight-loss goal of 1 lb. per week. Trim 250 calories from your diet and burn the remaining 250 through exercise.

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