Understanding your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is one of the most important measurements to take as you progress towards your weight loss goal. Knowing this one metric can provide you with understanding and simplicity regarding your caloric goal, however make a mistake with this number and you may become helpless and frustrated. Below we will highlight a few of the common mistakes people make when trying to determine their metabolic rate and from that their daily caloric targets.
Mistake 1: Entering the wrong data in a metabolic rate calculator
Most RMR calculators online ask you basic questions, such as your age, sex, height and weight. However, the place where common mistakes are made is when we are asked to approximate our activity level. Generally speaking, as a population, we tend to underestimate our food intake and overestimate our energy output (exercise). This sets us up for coming up with an RMR value that is artificially high. We believe and report that we are more active than we really are. You can recognize you have set your metabolic rate too high because weight loss is extremely difficult or not occuring.
When you are trying to determine your RMR always be conservative with your activity level. Start with one level lower than what you think you are. This will most likely be the level you should be setting for yourself. If you set your activity level properly, you should see one to two lbs of weight loss per week. If you are seeing more than this, then you have set the level too low. Consider raising the target calorie level, as research suggests those that lose greater than two lbs per week have an increased risk of gaining their weight back after they end their diet.
Mistake 2: Assume you have a low metabolic rate due to a hormonal condition
Having a low metabolic rate is a very rare medical condition, despite what many think. In most cases, when we wonder how others can eat “so much” and still not gain any weight we are comparing apples and oranges.
For example, a LightenUp Fitness client noticed how her husband seemed to be able to eat anything he wanted and never gained weight. What she was not taking into account was that if the husband was the same height and weight, gender alone increased her husband’s calorie level by 200 calories on average. If you take into account that men are typically taller and heavier, the metabolic rate may have been even greater than the original 200 calories.
Besides gender, another contributor to increased RMR is lean muscle mass. If you have two individuals that are the same weight and only differ in lean muscle mass, the individual with the lean muscle mass will have a higher metabolic rate. This is why strength (anaerobic) training has proven to be a great way to increase your metabolic rate as opposed to diet alone or diet and aerobic exercise alone.
Mistake 3: Believe that your metabolic rate will increase as you lose weight
Another common mistake is the thought that as you lose your weight, your metabolic rate will increase because you are gaining more lean muscle mass at a faster rate than you are losing your body fat. Unfortunately, in almost every, if not every case, you will not gain muscle mass at a faster rate than you lose body fat. Therefore, as you lose weight, you will need to check your RMR in order to modify your caloric intake targets.
METABOLIC RATE AND AGING: The reason weight gain becomes more difficult as you get older is because your metabolic rate slows as your lean muscle mass decreases with age. Unfortunately, most of us do not start taking weight loss serious till we are faced with an urgent medical condition. The lesson, like most things in life; the earlier we start the easier it will be.
In conclusion, there are two primary ways one can determine their resting metabolic rate. The first is via an online calculator and the second is visiting a location that offers RMR testing by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels as you breath, otherwise known as expired gas testing. LightenUp Fitness Health Coaches can walk you through both types of RMR testing and help you establish the target caloric level that is right for you.
Once you find out your target caloric levels, remember to not have your daily caloric levels go below 1000 calories per day. If you need to burn more calories than this in order to achieve your weight loss targets, remember to incorporate increased activity levels into your weight loss plan. Engaging in a caloric deficit diet with proper physical activity will leave you with more energy and reduce the risk of your metabolic rate slowing down.
If you can, work with a health coach to help you determine the best path forward and provide support along the way.
In good health!