Breath - what it tells you about metabolism

Breath - what it tells you about metabolism

Your breath has a story to tell. No, I don't mean telling a story about what you ate or drank, but about how your body used food to create energy. Metabolism, as we like to call it. Let's find out how.

When we eat food, our bodies use oxygen to "ignite" the carbon stored in the food. Think of this as trying to ignite a log of wood with a matchstick.

The oxygen from the air is burning the carbon stored in the wood. The heat from the matchstick is the catalyst. The same thing happens inside your body.

When this happens, your body produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct, the same way a burning forest fire produces carbon dioxide.

When you exhale, your body releases the carbon dioxide produced and inhales fresh oxygen to kick-start this process all over again.

So if we measured how much oxygen and carbon dioxide we exhaled, we would know how effectively we were metabolizing our food.

This measurement is called the respiratory quotient.

Your respiratory quotient is a measure of the relative amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the breath that we exhale.

Here is where it gets interesting. Remember that what we ate was a complicated mess of different types of energy? Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats from earlier conversations?

So the ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide will tell the story of which source of energy you are using at that point in time.

Assume that you have more oxygen and less carbon dioxide, say 1:0.7. This means you are burning fat as your primary source of fuel.

A ratio of 1:1 of oxygen and carbon dioxide means you are burning more carbohydrates.

In case you are wondering why this matters, let me explain. You have a limited amount of carbohydrate in your body. Extra carbohydrate gets converted and stored as fat, as we know only too well.

Therefore, the more fat you can burn, the more effective your body is at "metabolism."

In this case, the story told by your breath.

Reach out to me on twitter @rbawri Instagram @riteshbawriofficial and YouTube at