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Does Power Breathing Work for Weight Loss?

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If you’ve struggled to lose weight before you might find yourself looking for a new, innovative way to drop body fat with less effort.

Power breathing is a technique advocated by a small number of gurus and trainers as a way of breathing your way to a thinner, learner body shape.

It’s never been studied and to be honest, it’s not something we’d come across until now (we’re familiar with the Valsalva block breathing for increasing strength, but that’s different).

Can you really breathe your way to successful weight loss?

We take a look at the (serious lack of) science behind this latest fad…

  • What is power breathing?
  • Does it help you lose weight?
  • What’s the best way to burn more fat and reach your target weight?

What is Power Breathing?

Respiration is an autonomic function needed to survive. It’s a basic requirement of human life.

Breathing in (inspiration) allows oxygen to get to your cells so that you can convert it into usable energy.

And breathing out (expiration) then allows you to get rid of any unwanted toxic gases such as carbon dioxide.

On average, you take between 12 and 20 breaths per minute at rest. That’s enough to saturate your cells with oxygen, without using up needless energy.

And when you need more oxygen because you are out jogging or playing sports for example, your breathing rate gets quicker and you ventilate deeper to bathe your cells with more oxygen.

Deep breathing is often used to promote relaxation and lower your heart rate

Deep breathing techniques are often used to promote relaxation. When you’re stressed or nervous (maybe you have a job interview or a public talk for example), you’ll often find that taking a large, deep breath to compose yourself really helps.

As you control your breathing you also calm your heart rate – both are closely connected via your autonomic nervous system.

The notion of heart rate variability suggests that during controlled breathing, your heart rate begins to rise as you breathe in… and slow down as you breathe out.

This is why most deep breathing techniques focus on a prolonged expiration.

Deep breathing techniques are used in everything from yoga and deep sea diving to medical interventions and meditation.

Power breathing is said to calm your body and mind

This technique is said to have originated in Russia.

As a specific type of deep respiration, the so-called ‘power breath technique’ sees you taking a deep, slow breath in through your nose.

The idea is to inhale to around 75% of your lung capacity and focus entirely on drawing air into your stomach and lower abdomen. You’d do this using your diaphragm, as opposed to just expanding your chest cavity.

Placing your hand on your stomach and purposely trying to push your hand away helps.

Once you’ve done this you exhale through your mouth slowly while tensing your abs. Plugging your mouth by pressing your tongue against your teeth stops you from breathing out too quickly.

You’re aiming for your breathe out to be around 20 seconds long.


Bearded man outside taking n fresh air and power breathing for weight loss

Key Point: Power breathing is a respiratory method where each inspiration and expiration is long and controlled.


Can Power Breathing Boost Weight Loss

The actual origin of why or even how power breathing might help with weight loss is hard to find. In fact, there’s no research on it at all.

But just 2-5 minutes of power breathing each day is said to ‘really help with weight loss’.

There are a high number of ‘breath experts’ and gurus that are more than happy to tell you that they discovered the link between power breathing techniques and weight loss by ‘accident’ or ‘while meditating’.

They’ve also got books and programs to sell you too.

Which of course is unsurprising.

When you burn fat you breathe most of it out

Referred to as the ‘breath diet’ by some so-called experts, the power breathing method is said to raise your metabolism and burn more fat.

The rationale kind of makes sense at face value. too.

Kind of.

When you burn fat it gets ‘oxidized’. This means that it has to leave your body somehow (remember from High school how energy can’t be created or destroyed, only transferred from one state to another).

For many years, scientists presumed that fat left your body through fluid excretion, but more recent research shows that around 84% of fat is actually breathed out as expired gas [1].

That’s because when triglycerides (fat molecules) are broken down for energy, they are separated into three components – hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. And it’s these byproducts that your body chooses to then breathe out though water vapor and carbon dioxide.

Note: the remaining fat is excreted through urine and sweat. Yep, that’s right – sweat really is ‘fat crying’.

Here’s why power breathing won’t work for weight loss

It kind of makes sense then that if fat leaves the body through expiration, power breathing will lead to you removing more fat from the body.

But it really doesn’t work like that.

When it comes to weight loss there’s always that small part of you that will look for a shortcut or biohack to lose weight faster. Power breathing isn’t it.

Just because you breathe more powerfully doesn’t mean you’ll oxidize more fat. That’s the job of your mitochondrial cells, deep down in your physiology.

Breathing is just the mechanism of elimination.


Athletic man with muscles and abs power breathing in gym

So How Do You Lose Weight and Burn More Fat?

Power breathing won’t lead to better weight loss.

So what will?

Here’s your solution to develop a leaner, more athletic physique that shows off your hard work and fitness levels…

Control calorie balance

The key to effective weight loss is calorie balance.

If you burn more calories than you consume each day, you’ll trigger the breakdown of triglycerides… that you’ll then breathe out of course.

There are a lots of ways you can work out your daily calorie requirements, but we’ve attached a handy calorie calculator for you at the bottom of this article. Once you’ve got your ‘maintenance’ amount you just need to plan your energy deficit.

A 20% drop in calories will lead to slow, but manageable weight loss. A more aggressive 40% will see fat fly from your frame, but it’s harder to adhere to because you’ll constantly feel hungry.

Increase your activity levels

An easy way to pull calorie balance in your favor is to increase energy expenditure through exercise.

Yes, it’s easy to avoid eating extra calories in the first place, but exercise lets you eat just that little bit more food while still achieving a calorie deficit.

It could be high-intensity interval training, long runs in the woods or just getting under a heavy bar and lifting heavy weights. But it all helps to keep you fit, healthy and lean.

Even just being on your feet burns a surprising amount of calories. Fidgeting, walking, housework and even sex all burn extra energy.

Focus on fat burning nutrients

Once you’ve achieved your calorie deficit you can begin to harness the fat-melting power of fat burner nutrients.

Found to influence appetite, energy expenditure, metabolic rate, fat oxidation, these nutrients are your key to faster, more effective changes to your body composition.

  • Glucomman – the next big thing in appetite regulation. This fiber helps to keep you feeling fuller for long.
  • Green tea extract – ramp up metabolic rate and turn on the fat burning trigger with this antioxidant-rich healthy nutrient.
  • Cayenne pepper – contains the compound capsaicin that burns fat through a process called thermogenesis.
  • Green coffee bean – unroasted coffee beans are green in color and contain the nutrient chlorogenic acid. It also controls blood sugar and cravings.

Summary – Power Breathing Wont Help You Lose Weight

The idea that controlling breathing will lead to weight loss just doesn’t cut it. Even if you do excrete most broken down fats through expiration, breathing is only a tool for elimination.

Just because you focus your breathing patterns doesn’t mean your cells will burn more energy.

In order to trigger triglyceride use for fuel you have to elevate your metabolic rate, increase energy expenditure and ultimately acheive a calore deficit.

The best way to lose fat and develop a healthy physique is to exercise, eat in a controlled manner and focus on nutrients that support your journey by speeding up results.


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References

  1. Meerman, R et al. When somebody loses weight, where does the fat go? BMJ. 2014; 349: 7257