Can deep breathing help you lose weight?
We all want to look and feel our best no matter where we currently fall on the spectrum.
If you’re wanting to hit a healthy weight goal, or are a mama looking to release postpartum weight – we got you.
You may already be committed to regular physical activity, taking supplements like vegan fat burners, and clean eating (and maybe even the keto diet.)
But there’s another weight-release and weight-maintenance tool right under your nose you’ve probably discounted… your own breath!
Yep, you read right – the way you breathe appears to have an impact on your body’s ability to burn fat and can even influence hunger levels and food cravings.
The average person takes approximately 17,000 – 23,000 breaths each day.
That’s a minimum of 17,000 opportunities to make the breathwork for you and your fitness goals.
The constant act of inhaling and exhaling in strategic ways can become a secret weapon to help you reduce body fat in order to reach and stay at your ideal body size.
Now, this isn’t a magic pill, though.
As with everything, you still have to work it and stay consistent in order to see results.
Let’s look at how deep breathing helps to optimize our metabolism…
Overweight people exhibit these three less-than-desirable breathing habits
According to breathing coach for Olympic athletes and author of “The Oxygen Advantage,” Patrick McKeown, overweight individuals exhibit three distinct breathing habits:
- They chronically over-breathe (taking in bigger-than-necessary volume breaths.)
- They mouth breathe (instead of breathing through the nose.)
- They breathe from the chest (instead of breathing by engaging the lower belly aka diaphragmatic breathing)
These three habits can really impact oxygen levels in your body.
The amount of oxygen in your bloodstream influences your metabolism and hunger/craving levels.
Think of it like this:
Each one of your trillions of cells uses the oxygen you inhale to boost your metabolism, improve your digestion, impact the levels of acidity and alkalinity in your body, and even dictate your food cravings.
Over-breathingcan create an imbalance of the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange taking place inside you, which creates pH imbalances in your blood.
The pH scale measures the level of acidity and alkalinity in your body.
It’s a scale that goes from 1 to 14. Values 1-6 indicate acidity with 1 being the most acidic level, 7 is neutral (the Goldilocks Zone or optimal zone is around 7.25 – 7.45), and values 8 to 14 indicate alkalinity.
Oxygen is alkaline, and when you inhale it your blood pH levels rise.
Carbon dioxide is acidic, and when you expel it during exhalation your blood pH levels go down.
Your body is extremely intelligent and always striving for a balance point (aka the Goldilocks Zone.)
When pH levels get too high or too low your body sets off reactions to bring the scales back to balance.
Not breathing properly and especially over-breathing leads to low carbon dioxide levels.
This can make you feel tired, fatigued, and lethargic.
On the other hand, when you increase acidity in the body by consuming high amounts of acidic foods (ie: processed or sugary foods) your body automatically increases your breath rate (over-breathing) to balance out the increase in acidity.
Patrick McKeown explains it like this:
“Over-acidity of the blood may occur when we eat processed and acid-forming foods, leading to heavier breathing and symptoms of bloating, lethargy, and weight gain.
Conversely, an individual who chronically over breathes will expel too much carbon dioxide, increasing blood pH…
One hypothesis for the relationship between over-breathing and weight gain is that the body craves processed and acid-forming foods in an effort to normalize blood pH.
Correct breathing volume and a good diet work together to keep blood pH at a healthy balance.”
Mouth breathing & chest breathing
Chronic mouth breathing can lead to chronic over-breathing and chest breathing.
Mouth breathing can significantly impact the quality of your sleep, leaving you feeling tired and irritable the next morning.
Many studieshave linked poor sleep quality to weight gain and increased appetite. (1)
Breathing through your nose is much more optimal than breathing through your mouth because it results in improved and increased oxygen intake throughout your whole body.
Nose breathing also helps you engage your diaphragm, the muscle below your lungs, and over your digestive organs.
This helps you avoid chest breathing, which also leads to inefficient oxygen intake.
Engaging the diaphragm allows you to belly breathe, which helps optimize oxygen levels and it also activates your body’s rest-and-digest relaxation response, which helps you digest your food more efficiently so you manage symptoms like bloating better.
4 Breathing Practices To Manage Weight
1. Nose breathing
Breathe through your nose so you optimize your oxygen levels and avoid over-breathing, which as we’ve seen can lead to increased food cravings.
2. Belly breathing
Breathe with your lower belly (engage your diaphragm) to relax the body, lessen cravings, improve digestion, and reduce emotional eating.
3. Rest & Digest Breathing Exercise
Activate your body’s rest-and-digest response by trying this belly breathing exercise at least 15 minutes before and after meals:
- Sit comfortably and relax your body
- Inhale by extending your lower belly outwardly for 5 counts
- Hold your breath for 4 counts
- Exhale by drawing the lower belly inwardly for 8 counts
- Hold your breath for 4 counts
- Repeat Steps 2-5 for at least 3 minutes each time
4. Hold Your Breath
If you are in relatively healthy shape and can comfortably hold your breath for more than 20 seconds following a full inhale and exhale, try nose breathing and breath-holding during your next work out, as this can increase weight loss according to McKeown:
“Holding the breath during walking, jogging, or running to create a medium to strong hunger for air decreases the oxygen saturation of the blood to below 94 percent, which can lead to a suppression of appetite…
… Walking or jogging with nasal breathing allows the body to work with oxygen (aerobically) while incorporating breath holds every minute or so makes the body work without oxygen (anaerobically).
During an anaerobic state, the body is forced to burn calories from fat stores in order to produce energy.
Incorporating both aerobic and anaerobic workouts into your training program will lead to increased calorie burn and weight loss.”
And there you have it, 4 ways to help boost your body’s fat-burning capacity.
Again, keep in mind this is not a magic bullet or a once-off thing.
The process will require commitment, consistency, and a well-rounded effort.
A breathing practice alone won’t help you release weight.
But when you pair proper breathing and a daily breathwork routine WITH clean and mindful eating, proper hydration and supplementation, effective stress-management, quality sleep, and mindful movement you set yourself up to win over the long haul.
**While deep breathing techniques offer multiple health benefits including mental health benefits, it’s highly recommended you seek expert medical advice if you’re currently experiencing any kind of health problems before incorporating a breathwork or pranayama practice. We do not recommend weight loss during pregnancy as this can negatively impact your health and your baby’s development.