What Breaks Down Fat In The Body?

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: March 25, 2024
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I had an interesting conversation with my nutritionist a few days ago about how the body has amazing processes to store and retrieve excess energy.

It’s a very complex system, but understanding it allowed me to better explain to athletes and regular weight loss clients why they have to follow certain instructions to effectively lose weight.

So, I decided to put that research and feedback from my nutritionist into a simple-to-follow post that will give you a solid understanding of what happens to body fat cells.

Quick Summary

  • The combination of enzymes, digestive juices, and bile helps break down fat in the body into fatty acids.
  • Supplements containing natural ingredients, such as capsaicin, can assist in safely and effectively burning fat while you sleep.
  • A commonality among most obese individuals is that they do not engage in at least 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise for weight loss.
  • As a fitness trainer, incorporating a balanced diet, regular exercise, and the use of natural fat burner supplements can aid in breaking down more fat stores and accelerating the weight loss journey.

What Helps Your Body Break Down Fat Cells?

Woman showing her weight loss

Enzymes, digestive juices, and bile help break down fat cells. According to research published by the National Institute of Health, the process starts in the mouth, where saliva, containing enzymes, moistens food.

Swallowing triggers peristalsis, guiding it to the stomach, where acids and enzymes continue the breakdown. However, primary fat digestion happens in the small intestine.

Pancreatic enzymes in the small intestine break down fats, carbs, and proteins. The liver produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder and delivered to the small intestine, aiding fat digestion [1].

Background To The Body’s Energy Storage

ScienceDirect research shows that the body stores fat cells in loose connective adipose tissue, primarily white fat with small amounts of brown fat. This process stores energy for future use and provides insulation against the cold [2].

From an evolutionary standpoint, the practice of gaining weight in the fall helped accumulate energy for scarce winter food and protection from the cold.

Unfortunately, research from the National Institute of Health suggests that modern lifestyles deviate from this seasonal pattern, resulting in a continuous increase in fat stores rather than cycling between fat and lean seasons [3].

What Can You Do To Break Down More Fat Stores?

Pinching tricep fats

There are three factors you can consider to help your body break down more body fat.


I often suggest to clients that 70% of their weight loss comes from diet. To burn more fat, eat fewer calories with a balanced diet—complex carbs, ample protein, and healthy fats.

While there are debates surrounding high-protein or high-fat diets, research from Time suggests that eliminating simple carbs and sugar while reducing calorie intake can yield positive results [4].

I recommend you start by cutting out all simple carbs and sugar and lowering your calorie intake to help you on your journey to lose weight effectively.

You can check out our article about the best fat-loss diets.


You will also have to burn more calories than you’re taking in to target subcutaneous fat. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, the extra energy to fuel the exercise will have to come from somewhere, and your metabolism will kick into target fat [5].

One thing obese individuals have in common is that they don’t get at least 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise for weight loss. Not only will it help you avoid gaining more weight, but it can seriously reduce the risks of cardiac disease, WebMD reports [6].

“Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It helps cut your chances of getting heart disease. It's good for your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, energy level, and mood, too.”

- James Beckerman, MD, FACC, WebMD.com


Different supplements on ground

Whether you’re on a high-fat diet, keto, Weight Watchers, or any other restricted diet, you can burn fat more effectively with a few supplements.

There are natural fat burners for men and women that can help to trigger thermogenesis that will target energy stored in fat in a completely natural way [7].

These aren't magic pills to get you slim on the couch, but if you’re eating a healthy diet and regularly exercising, these fat burners can get you to your weight goals faster.

Avoid Bad Lifestyle Choices

Obese individuals often consume an excess of calories, which predominantly leads to the storage of surplus energy in fat cells. According to BMJ Journals, this is commonly associated with the consumption of highly processed, high-calorie foods that are rich in sugar and simple carbs [8].

Conversely, some individuals opt for a very low-calorie intake.

However, this can prompt the metabolism to break down protein from muscle mass rather than utilizing fat reserves. Therefore, it's crucial to adopt a healthy lifestyle by moderating calorie intake without resorting to extremes.


Do You Poop Out Fat When Losing Weight?

No, you don’t poop out fat when you lose weight. What happens is those fat molecules break down into energy, water, and carbon dioxide. And you get rid of those by sweating, urinating, and breathing.

What Burns Fat While You Sleep?

Some natural ingredients like capsaicin can burn fat while you sleep. They activate thermogenic processes that raise your core temperature slightly by burning off more calories. It’s completely natural, and certain foods and supplements can help with it.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2692399/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/loose-connective-tissue
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424456/
  4. https://time.com/4021985/simple-carbohydrates/
  5. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/fitness-fat-burning
  6. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-disease-prevention-exercise
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/thermogenesis
  8. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/3/e009892
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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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