Maybe you’ve heard that you need to consume 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight. Perhaps you got some more specific info that gave you a recommended range: “Estimates range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men.” That’s a pretty big spread; of course, it depends on your age, height, weight, and activity level. You can factor all that in, but first you’ll have to figure out if you are moderately active or very active. How do you define the difference?
In the end, that’s a lot of guesswork. And guessing doesn’t lead to results. If you guess wrong, your progress will screech to a halt or, worse, go in reverse. If you’re a trainer, you might design great workout programs, but you’ll lose clients if you incorrectly calculate their caloric needs because they won’t see the results they’re looking for.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to guess. You’ll reach your fat loss and muscle gain goals much faster if you know exactly how many calories you need to consume each day, and we can do that by performing a resting metabolic rate test.
What Is the Resting Metabolic Rate?
Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the number of calories your body needs to survive if you didn’t do any physical activity; put another way, it is “The minimum metabolic rate required to keep you alive and functioning while at rest. On average, it accounts for up to 50–75% of total calorie expenditure.” This includes cell, brain, and nerve function, for example.
RMR is sometimes used interchangeably with the term basal metabolic rate (BMR). They are, essentially, the same; however, the American Council on Exercise touches on the difference:
“BMR measurements are typically taken in a darkened room upon waking after 8 hours of sleep, 12 hours of fasting to ensure that the digestive system is inactive, and with the subject resting in a reclined position…. RMR measurements are typically taken under less restricted conditions than BMR and do not require that the subject spend the night sleeping in the test facility prior to testing.”
What Factors Impact Your RMR?
Our systems all function a bit differently, and there are a lot of factors that will determine your RMR:
- Age: As we get older, our metabolisms tend to slow down.
- Genetics: Some of us have naturally faster or slower metabolisms to begin with.
- Gender: Men usually have higher metabolisms than women.
- Height and Weight: Contrary to what you might think, heavier individuals often have higher metabolisms. However, people with a high body fat percentage often have lower metabolisms than their leaner counterparts.
- Diet: If you don’t eat enough, your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolism slows down.
- Temperature: A high body temperature (as when you are sick) may temporarily increase your metabolism. Exposure to cold external temperatures can also increase the RMR since your body has to work harder to stay warm.
- Physical Activity: As you build lean muscle, you increase your RMR.
Some of these, like age, gender, and genetics, are out of our control. However, we have significant influence over our body fat percentage, diet choices, and physical activity levels.
Why It’s Important to Determine Your RMR
Considering those factors, this study highlights the big problem with using a formula to determine RMR for everyone:
“Adhering to the nearly universally accepted MET convention may lead to the overestimation of the RMR of approximately 10% for men and almost 15% for women and be as high as 20%–30% for some demographic and anthropometric combinations…. Failure to recognize this discrepancy may result in important miscalculations of energy expended from interventions using physical activity for diabetes and other chronic disease prevention efforts.”
Conventional weight loss wisdom goes something like this: move more, eat less, and you’ll lose weight. That’s true in a very general sense; however, it has a limit. If you don’t eat enough to fuel not only your activity level but also your basic survival needs, your body starts to worry. It tries to conserve energy because it’s afraid it’s not going to receive enough calories to feed the brain, heart, lungs, and so on. If you eat too little, you’ll struggle to build muscle and you won’t see the weight loss you want to see.
Of course, if you eat too much, you won’t see those results, either.
As this video explains, if you’re on the wrong end of the guesswork, even by just one hundred or two hundred calories a day, it could add up to a 10- to 20-pound weight gain over the course of the year—probably not exactly what you were looking for, which is especially frustrating if you’re strictly following your healthy meal plan and workout routine. You need to figure out exactly what your body needs. When you know that number and account for your workouts and other physical activity, you know how much you need to eat in a day to maintain or lose weight and build muscle.
What to Expect During a Resting Metabolic Rate Test
The RMR test is quick and simple: you breathe through your mouth into a device for about 10 minutes. During that time, your nose is gently held shut and you keep your lips sealed closely around the mouthpiece. All the while, you’re relaxing in a chair!
The key to the RMR test is in the preparation. It’s important to follow a few guidelines before your test:
- Don’t eat for at least five hours before the test. You can keep drinking water as normal.
- Don’t exercise for at least six hours before the test. Avoiding exercise for up to 24 hours before testing is even better.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- If you don’t feel well, you should cancel your appointment.
You can come to the Elite Body Data Lab or we’ll come to you and you can complete the test in the comfort of your home.
What To Do With What You Learn
When the test is over, you’ll have a magic number: the number of calories your body needs every day to sustain itself at rest. For example, let’s say that number is 2,200. From there, consider that you do a high-intensity interval workout three days a week where you regularly burn about 500 calories, according to your fitness tracker. You also do some walking and lifting of boxes and materials during your work day, so you burn another 300 calories there. If you’re trying to maintain weight, you’ll want to consume about 3,000 calories on work days when you also workout. On a Saturday spent at home watching movies with your family, you’ll want to take that number back down to 2,200.
You can plan and record your meals with an app that helps you track calories and macros, like MyFitnessPal or FatSecret.
If you’re struggling to lose weight and your RMR is low, you can work on increasing it. Here are a few tips:
- Sleep Better: Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can slow your metabolism. (Lack of sleep can also lead to difficulty concentrating, moodiness, and forgetfulness, among other things.) Practice going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
- Exercise: Increasing your lean body mass will help you improve your metabolism. Go to some classes or work with a trainer to learn proper form and technique.
- Drink More Water: It’s important for overall health, and this study indicated it improves metabolism, too. Fill a large bottle or jug every morning and make sure you finish it by evening.
- Make Sure You’re Eating Enough: Tracking your food intake via an app is a great way to make sure you’re eating enough (and not too much) throughout the day. Sometimes, we have a faulty perception of how much we’re actually consuming, or we underestimate the amount of calories in certain food items. Sometimes, we simply forget to account for little bites and snacks throughout the day.
After a few weeks or months of exercise, diet changes, and better sleep, your RMR may change. It’s a good idea to do a resting metabolic rate test on a regular basis to make sure you’re continuing to consume the right amount of calories.
Whether you’re looking to build muscle or lose body fat, it starts with specific, personalized calorie and metabolism data. The Elite Body Data RMR test will give you what you need to get your health and fitness program back on track—and not just any track, but the track that’s right for you. No more fitness plateaus. No more guessing. No more hoping you’re eating the right foods in the right amounts. After your RMR test, you’ll understand what your body needs and you can create a healthy eating and exercise plan with confidence. Please contact us if you have questions or if you’re ready to schedule your resting metabolic rate test.