How and why overweight students lose weight with breathing exercises
Module 11-5. Nutrients and diet for better body oxygenation
My most common explanation or suggestion, when teaching overweight students who practice breathing exercises and follow lifestyle changes, is following. With higher CPs due to and after breathing exercises and overall breathing retraining (e.g., 5-10 s morning CP progress in a week), it is easier for the body to access their own fat stores and use this fat as an energy source. Then these students have higher levels of energy and experience less hunger naturally. As a result, eating the same amounts of food as before (or the same calories) usually results in sleepiness, low energy levels, and a drop in the CP. Therefore, it is sensible and useful, in these conditions of progressive breathing retraining, to either reduce meals (e.g., to eat half of expected amounts) or to limit/cancel consumption of fats and carbohydrates (especially starches) while keeping vegetables and lean sources of protein.
My common approach to such situations is to provide students with an option to learn from their own mistakes (for better overall learning and better final results). Thus, students still have an option to eat as before, but they need to monitor the effects (of overeating). Some students chose this option to eat as before, while others simply follow their natural body desires (when, what, and how much to eat).
Note that generally the weight loss process is slow and not very noticeable. For example, a breathing student who has only 40-60 min of breathing exercises per day may not see visible or dramatic changes in their eating habits. As a result, their weight loss may take many weeks or some months.
The situation can be very different in those students who devote 2+ hours per day to breathing retraining. Some of these overweight students may not eat for days when practicing a lot of breathwork (e.g., 2+ hours of daily breathing exercises, with at least 50% of sessions with devices). Other diligent students may have only 200-300 kCal (kilo calories) per day. I.e., due to intensive breathing reetraining, they eat several times less calories than they spend and feel totally fine. What is going on with metabolism of these students? What is the source of their energy?
Metabolic changes due to intensive breathing retraining
The explanation that I read many years ago in some Russian sources was the following. With higher CO2 levels in the arterial blood (and body cells), the permeability of membranes of fat cells changes. In the past, due to hyperventilation and low body CO2, glucose, with the help of insulin, was driven inside fat cells making most people overweight naturally (simply due to their overbreathing). With breathing retraining and higher CPs, this process is reversed. Now fats cells are able to release their stored substances making breathing students energetic and having less hunger.
This process is relatively slow for those who practice for about 40-60 min per day. Having 2+ hours of daily breathwork usually dramatically intensifies weight loss.
I do not remember the exact Russian source of this explanation and could not recently find it using searches. It was suggested there that fat cells release glucose into the bloodstream. (Although biochemistry textbooks deny that fat can be converted back into glucose, numerous studies identified various mechanisms and other studies confirmed using isotopes that up to 10% of released lipids can be converted into glucose.) Fat stores can be also released from fat cells in the form of ketones. Whatever the mechanism of this process of natural weight loss, breathing retraining in overweight students causes increased levels of ketones, and/or possibly glucose, in their blood.
In case of increased ketones, breathing retraining triggers metabolic physiological processes that are similar to metabolic processes created due to fasting, calorie-restriction diets, or ketogenic diets. These health methods also cause increased blood ketone concentrations.
An interesting connection here relates to effects of ketogenic diet on weight loss. Current research and clinical trials suggest that ketogenic diet, in a long run, outperforms low-fat diets, calorie-restriction (low-calorie diets), and even low-calorie diets combined with medical drugs designed to lose weight (see references below).
Role of physical exercise in weight loss and normal weight
For many decades, it has been a common assumption among knowledgable or experienced Buteyko practitioners that physical exercise is a necessary factor for weight normalization. Indeed, we can see the link between the amount of daily exercise and the maximum expected morning CP in the table from this page: Benefits of exercise. However, this table has been based on observation related to those breathing students who used carbs as their main energy source. With application of ketogenic diet and achieving stable ketosis, normal weight would probably not require 4-5 hours of easy daily exercise that is equivalent to 2 hours of intensive exercise and 1 hour of easy exercise such as walking.
There are not enough keto students yet to suggest approximate reduction in the level of required physical exercise to achieve certain morning CPs and normal body weight. However, you can find my guess right below here as your bonus content.
- Yancy WS Jr1, Olsen MK, Guyton JR, Bakst RP, Westman EC, A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia: a randomized, controlled trial, Ann Intern Med. 2004 May; 18; 140(10): p. 769-77.
- Hussain TA1, Mathew TC, Dashti AA, Asfar S, Al-Zaid N, Dashti HM, Effect of low-calorie versus low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet in type 2 diabetes, Nutrition, 2012 Oct; 28(10): p. 1016-21.
- Yancy WS Jr1, Westman EC, McDuffie JR, Grambow SC, Jeffreys AS, Bolton J, Chalecki A, Oddone EZ, A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet vs orlistat plus a low-fat diet for weight loss, Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jan 25; 170(2): p.136-45.
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