Does Farting Burn Calories?
We all need to stay in shape, but working out is, well, work. Sure, there are times when we get on the hype train and enjoy it, but eventually, it always turns into a chore. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a shortcut? What if we found a simple way to burn calories with an everyday function or activity that doesn’t require driving to a gym and sweating for an hour at a time? In search of this unicorn, people have explored many options, and a few years ago, someone thought they found the secret. They discovered that the simple act of farting can burn 67 calories. Sadly, this number has been debunked, but it leaves us wondering: how many calories do you burn when you fart?
Outlook Isn’t Good
Most farts burn 0 calories. That’s not a rounded number. We’ll talk about exceptions in a minute, but you normally burn literally no calories at all when you fart. If that’s all you were looking for, you can move along. If you want to learn way too much about farting, then keep reading. We’re about to get sciency on the stinky expulsions that come from your ass.
The first thing to understand is that farts are (hopefully) made entirely of gas. That gas is a mixture of things, but the bulk of it is nitrogen, oxygen, methane, carbon dioxide, and a little hydrogen sulfide (the part that smells bad). All of these gases build up pressure inside of your large intestine. When that pressure is sufficient, it creates discomfort. That’s the bubble you feel when you need to rip a big one.
It’s also why farting feels so good. What? We’re men; we can admit it.
We’ll skip the math on the kinetic theory of gasses, but the gist is that the nature of these gases is to expand. So, in order for you to successfully fart, all you have to do is open the sphincter that holds things inside of your colon. The gaseous pressure does all the work from there. And, since the gas is doing the work and not your muscles, you aren’t burning any calories. As much fun as it would be to get ripped from ripping ass, science is telling you it won’t work.
Instead, most of the muscular effort involved in you farting is holding it in. When the pressure builds up enough, you actually have to clench in order to keep the gas from finding its way to the outside world. You’ve experienced this with accidental farts and the dreaded fart walk (where every step seems to squeeze another little fart out of you). What this means is that holding your farts and being a gentleman burns more calories than letting them free. Maybe “better out than in” is missing something important. Of course, the energy required to hold onto your farts is nothing substantial. You’ll lose the battle and let the farts out (or injure yourself) long before any weight loss can happen.
There is a simple exception to all of this, and you’ve probably already been thinking about it. You can squeeze farts out of your body. In fact, a lot of us do that more frequently than just passively letting them free. Surely, forcing a fart has to burn calories, right? Technically, this is a muscular effort, so the answer is yes. The disappointing addition to that is that forcing your farts requires so little real effort that you aren’t burning meaningful calories. You’d have to be power farting for hours just to match the caloric burn of walking to the bathroom. You’d also very likely create strain damage in your body. That’s not something you want to experience. A few calories burned in blazing glory isn't worth being in a hospital bed.
Don’t Give Up Hope Yet
Ok. The act of farting doesn’t burn calories. Even when you give it the old college try, it’s just not an activity that can get you ripped. Naturally, there’s another side to this story, and we’re going to explore it now. Expelling farts might not burn calories, but producing them does. We’re not talking about minor league exercise here, either. When you fart, it’s the final stage of one of the larger metabolic processes in your body. Many calories were burned to get there.
We just mentioned that farts are made up of a mixture of gases. How did those gases get inside you? You didn’t breathe them, or else they’d be in your lungs. Do you eat gas? Actually, yes. You do swallow small amounts of gas when you eat, but most of that will usually be burped back up. When you swallow too much, you might even get hiccups.
Tangents aside, the bulk of the gas in your farts is produced as byproducts of digestion. If you’ve ever had to go a day without eating, you might have noticed a sharp drop in flatulence as a result. Basically, since your body has to break food down to absorb the nutrients and energy, it inevitably creates some gases in the process. Since all of this is happening in the stomach and intestines, the gas can’t easily go back up through a burp. It gets funneled out the other end, and you fart.
Here’s where it gets a little fun. In general, digesting food is a calorie-intense process. On average, you’ll burn 10 percent of the calories you eat. So, if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, you’re burning 200 just to absorb the food. For context, that’s the same as a 20-minute run or a 45-minute walk. And, every time you fart, it’s confirmation that you did all of this work. Congratulations! Your farts are getting you ripped after all!
Obviously, that’s not really the case. You’re almost always going to absorb more calories than you burn from eating them, so farting still isn’t evidence of weight loss. But it is a sign that your body is working hard, so take a win where you can get it?
There’s a final piece to this whole puzzle that’s worth mentioning. Not all of your farts are the result of concentrated, calorie-burning effort. Sometimes, you imbibe things that simply pass through you. The most common example is beer. A good beer isn’t flat. Instead, it tickles your mouth with a pleasant fizziness. That fizziness comes from carbon dioxide dissolved in the beer. When you drink it, you add gas to your digestive tract. Some of that will come back out in a triumphant belch, but plenty more will pass through the stomach and onward.
Ultimately, drinking beer causes flatulence. Maybe you’ve noticed this by now. The carbon dioxide can’t stay inside of you forever, so usually with an hour of drinking beer, you’ll start feeling the bubble, and that pressure will beg for sweet release. The point of all of this is that when you drink carbon dioxide, you aren’t burning significant calories by shuffling it down the line and out your ass. When you drink beer (or other carbonated beverages), your farts are not signaling calorie burn. They’re just passing through.
That about covers it. If you made it this far, you just learned way more than you ever bargained about the science of farts. Hopefully that won’t make them any less funny. Another hope is that you might stop and appreciate your farts a little more. You'll have an extra reason to smile when you secretly out your silent, deadly surprise. The next time you waft in your unique scent (don’t lie, we all do it), you can admire the work your body did to produce it. You know that the smooth muscle in your belly is still putting overtime and keeping you from turning into a total fatty.