Written by: Tawanda Amedio Taderera (Pharmacist)

What is fat? Where is it really stored in the body? What actually happens when you burn fat? Where does the fat go? What else do I need to know about fat? These are some of the few questions that have a lot of us quite simply baffled when it comes to understanding fat and weight loss.

Let us systematically deconstruct this fatty and perplexing issue to see if we cannot turn you into a “Fat Expert” by the end of this article. Please note that last statement is by no means intended to offend you by calling you “FAT”, what the statement means is; after reading this article you will most likely become an expert on fat related issues. You will have a greater knowledge and understanding about fat than a many people out there. We will start by answering the questions above one by one.

What is fat and where is it stored in the body?

Fat is a blubber of oil found inside the human body that the body uses to store energy. It is located inside special types of fat cells called adipocytes that are found under the skin. These fat cells are distributed all over of the body and you will most likely find different amounts of fat cells in different parts of the body. The most common places that you will find a lot of fat cells are; on the butt, arms, thighs, belly, neck and face. Men tend to store of their fat on the belly and women mostly store theirs in the butt, arms and thighs.

If you take a deeper look inside the fat cells, you will discover that, the fat inside them is actually stored as a substance called triglycerol. The greater the triglycerol is inside a fat cell, the bigger the size of that fat cell.

What actually happens when you burn fat and where does the fat go

When a caloric deficit is created in the body, the body will utilize any fat that is available and stored in the fat cells. Through a sequence of complex biochemical processes, the fat cells release the triglycerol into the blood and it is transported as free fatty acids to where it is required for use. The fat cells shrink and get smaller as they release triglycerol into the blood. A simple analogy is to imagine fat cell as little bubbles in your body containing fat inside. When you burn fat the fat bubbles get smaller and smaller. When more and more fat cells in your body shrink, you lose weight and start to look leaner. Fat cells will never disappear or go away; they just get emptied of their fat content, the triglycerol

On the other hand, if a caloric surplus is created in the body the same fat cells will start to store fat inside them again. This is why it is important to always maintain the correct caloric balance in the body.

When maintaining a caloric deficit, you must always keep it between 500-700 calories. Once the caloric deficit goes beyond 700 calories, the body automatically goes into starvation mode and it will start to save all the fat in the fat cells for future use and start using muscle tissue as an immediate and alternative energy source.

What else do I need to know about fat?

A certain portion of the population that is known scientifically as endomorphs has a predisposition to gaining fat. Generally speaking, people will gain and lose fat at different rates and when you gain weight, both the size and the number of fat cells in your body increases. This means that it is much more difficult to lose weight and maintain the lost weight if you gain an excessive amount of weight. To avoid this problem, you must start a weight loss programme immediately when you discover that you are now overweight. Go on a diet and start exercising early to avoid huge pains in the future. If you do not do this and you procrastinate taking action you will probably find yourself morbidly obese in a few years.

Finally, here are a few take-home lessons from this article:

  1. The body stores energy in the form of fat. It is stored in the form of triglycerides inside fat cells called adipocytes.
  2. When you burn fat, the triglycerides are released as fatty acids into the blood and travel to the other areas in the body where they are required.
  3. As you burn fat, the fat cells get smaller in size. They never disappear , they can grow back in size and start storing fat again if ever there is of a caloric surplus
  4. To lose weight it is essential maintain a caloric deficit while avoiding going into starvation mode
  5. The more weight you gain the harder it will be to lose the weight. You must not wait too long before you start a weight loss programme

Now that you know enough information to be called a “FAT EXPERT” what are you going to do with it?


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