For many of us, the quest to slim down and lose weight can often feel never-ending and frustrating.
If you’ve already tweaked your eating habits and are moving your body more, then the following breathing tips can help you accelerate your weight loss.
Yes, you read right – breathing better can boost your metabolism and curb your appetite, helping you slim down faster.
But how, you ask?
The oxygen levels in your body greatly impact your metabolism and hunger/craving levels.
Each one of your trillions of cells uses the oxygen you inhale to boost your metabolism, improve your digestion, and regulate your blood pH levels which directly impacts your food cravings.
According to breathing coach for Olympic athletes and author of “The Oxygen Advantage,” Patrick McKeown, overweight individuals exhibit three distinct breathing habits:
1) They chronically overbreathe (taking in bigger-than-necessary volume breaths.)
2) They mouth breathe (instead of breathing through the nose.)
3) They breathe from the chest (instead of breathing by engaging the lower belly.)
Overbreathing can 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.
You inhale oxygen, which is alkaline, and therefore raises blood pH levels.
You exhale carbon dioxide, which is acidic, and therefore lowers blood pH levels.
Your body is extremely intelligent, and always striving for a balance point (the Goldilocks Zone) so when levels get too high or too low mechanisms kick in to bring the scales back to balance.
Overbreathing can lead to low carbon dioxide levels.
This can make you feel tired, fatigued, and lethargic, not good if you want to keep a consistent workout practice.
On the other hand, when you increase acidity in the body by consuming high amounts acidic foods (ie: processed or sugary foods) your body automatically increases your breath rate (overbreathing) 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 overbreathes will expel too much carbon dioxide, increasing blood pH to alkaline levels above 7.45.
One hypothesis for the relationship between overbreathing 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 overbreathing and chest breathing.
Mouth breathing can significantly impact the quality of your sleep, leaving you feeling tired and irritable the next morning.
Many studies have 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 Optimal Breathing Practices:
1- Breathe through your nose so you optimize your oxygen levels and avoid overbreathing, which as we’ve seen can lead to increased food cravings.
2- Breathe with your lower belly (engage your diaphragm) to relax the body, lessen cravings, improve digestion, and reduce emotional eating.
3- Activate your body’s rest-and-digest response by trying this belly breathing exercise at least 15 minutes before and after meals:
Step 1: Sit comfortably and relax your body.
Step 2: Inhale by extending your lower belly outwardly for 5 counts
Step 3: Hold your breath for 4 counts
Step 4: Exhale by drawing the lower belly inwardly for 8 counts
Step 5: Hold your breath for 4 counts
Step 6: Repeat Steps 2-5 for at least 3 minutes each time.
4- 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.
Please do 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 a daily breathwork routine WITH clean eating, proper hydration and supplementation, effective stress-management, quality sleep, and mindful movement you set yourself up to win over the long haul.
Let me know how you get on!