facts about resting metabolic rate

When it comes to losing weight, the fact is that most people focus more on their exercise and diet without taking into consideration a lot of other important factors that affect both of these weight loss components. To really be able to lose weight or build muscles, it is imperative to have a somewhat fair understanding about what metabolism and resting metabolism rate (RMR) are actually all about.

Metabolism is the process through which the body converts food (burns calories) into energy fuel to be able to run all its functions in order to keep us alive. Our metabolic rate can therefore be said to be the rate at which our body carries out this process. Out metabolism rate can therefore either be slow or fast.

A fast metabolism means that the body is able to effectively process significant amount of the food you eat with little left for storage. However, a slow metabolism indicates that the body is not that effective at converting your food intake into energy and therefore ends up storing the surplus in your body cells as fat.

The energy derived from the metabolism process is used by the body to power itself because even when at rest your body still needs energy to keep your vital involuntary functions such as breathing, temperature control, heartbeat, blood circulation and the activities of the nervous system and internal organs running properly.

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About 60-80% of the energy (measured in calories) you convert from your food intake generally goes toward carrying out these involuntary activities. This process is what is generally referred to as Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) and sometimes also referred to as Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your resting metabolic rate is therefore considered as the total amount of calorie that your body needs to maintain itself when at rest.

Apart from your resting metabolic rate (RMR), there are three other major components which play significant roles in determining your overall metabolic functioning. These are as follows:

1. Thermic Effect of Food

The fact is that your body uses a small amount of energy when you chew, swallow, digest, and absorb the food you eat. This process of thermogenesis increases your metabolism – although only slightly – and account for about 5-15% of your total calorie requirement depending on how many meals you eat per day. This is partly why you are often advised to eat more small meals more frequently.

2. Physical Activity Level (PAL)

This comprises of exercise or other physical activities that you do in the course of a day. Exercising and getting more physically active during a day causes your body to require more energy (calories) to meet the energy requirement for these activities. This can account for up to 15-30% depending on your intensity level and duration of exercise.

3. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

This is the amount of calories that your body uses for such daily activities such as walking, sitting down, getting up, fidgeting etc. A Mayo Clinic study showed that leaner individuals spend more than two hours a day standing, walking and fidgeting than obese people do and that this translates to a difference of about 350 calories a day. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis makes up about 5% of your total daily calorie expenditure.

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Although most people claim that resting metabolic rate and basal metabolic rate are the same, there are howbeit some slight differences to need to be noted. Both terms refer to the measured amount of energy required to be able to maintain the various systems of the body and to regulate temperature while at rest, their difference however lies in the research settings under which the test were carried out.

The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is also known as the Basal Energy Expenditure or BEE. It is usually measured after the individual has stayed overnight in a metabolic chamber or research lab and has not eaten anything in the last 12 hours. However, Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which is also referred to as Resting Energy Expenditure or REE is less strict. While the individual has equally not eaten for the last 12 hours, he or she slept at home and later drove or was driven to the test center. The results from these two approaches often differ by less than 10%.

Resting Metabolic Rate Calculation

There are several formulas available for calculating one’s resting metabolic rate (RMR) and these include the Harris Benedict Equation, Muffin Formula, Katch-McArdle Formula and Cunningham Resting Metabolic Rate Calculation.

The most popular of the above system is the Harris Benedict Equation. This equation uses the metric system for its calculations. This means that you have to convert your weight into kilograms (kg) and your height into centimeters (cm) to be able to use this metabolism calculation.

For weight conversion into Kilograms:

Your weight in pounds / 2.2 = Weight in Kilograms (kg)

For height conversion to centimeters:

Height in inches x 2.54 = height in centimeters (cm)

Men RMR Calculation:

(13.75 x w) + (5 x h) – (6.76 x a) + 66

Women RMR Calculation:

(9.56 x w) + (1.85 x h) – (4.68 x a) + 655

A more preferable and accurate calculation will be that of the Muffin Formula illustrated below:

Men RMR Calculation:

(10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) + 5

Women RMR Calculation:

(10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) – 161

Where w = Weight in kilograms (kg)

h = Height in centimeters and

a = Age in years

However both of these calculations have certain limitations the most pronounced being the fact that they do not take body composition – increase or decrease in lean body mass – into consideration. As a result both tend to indicate that if you have more muscles the fewer calories you will burn while if you are overweight, they indicate that you burn more calories than you actually do. This is due to the fact that these calculations did not factor in the actual fact that lean body mass burns more calories than fat does.

This obvious downside was however taken care of in the Cunningham Formula given below:

RMR = 500 + (22 x Lean body mass in kg)

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Remember to convert your weight in pounds to kilograms by dividing your lean body mass by 2.2. Also, since this calculation uses lean body mass measurement, there is therefore no need to have separate formulas for men and women.

Obviously, it goes without saying that your RMR is actually the major factor affecting your daily calorie requirement. Retrospectively as can be seen from the above equations, your lean body mass and age are two very important factors that come into play when calculating your actual resting metabolic rate (RMR).

There is also the need for anyone who wants to lose extra body weight to understand that cardio exercising alone contributes just a small percentage (9%) of the total daily calorie requirement and would therefore be very inefficient in achieving long term weight loss. The same can somewhat be said of dieting too.

Therefore, there is the need to focus some of your weight loss efforts on developing some extra lean body mass this as has been shown by several studies and the RMR formulas above to have the ability to effectively increase your resting metabolic rate and therefore your overall fat burning capability.