Why Your BMR is Important for Weight Loss

istock_000011742077xsmallHi Everyone! As I mentioned in last week’s article, the formula for losing weight is simple, you just have to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you consume. Now this week I want to share with you some very important information on how to best determine your caloric needs. So if you’re really serious about weight loss you need to keep reading because there is a lot of very valuable and helpful information here.

The secret to weight loss is really understanding your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Because there is so much great information to cover here, I’ve decided to divide this article into two parts. This week (part A) I’m going to focus mainly on your BMR, while next week I’ll discuss and explain your TDEE (Part B).

Ok, so let’s look at your BMR. Simply put, this is the number of calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day. It does not include exercise, typing on the computer, yard work, walking, talking, sitting, driving your car, shopping or even thinking for that matter. Yet, your BMR is important because it accounts for 60% to 70% of calories you burn each day. Wow, can you believe that!!! Nearly two thirds of the calories you burn every day are the result of your BMR which includes calories burned for basic bodily functions such as breathing, blood circulation and maintenance of body temperature. So many people don’t realize this but it is truly a key factor in weight loss. Now I bet I have your interest!!!

So since exercising only accounts for 10 to 20% of the calories you burn each day you need to look at ways of also increasing your BMR if you are serious about weight loss. There are many factors that determine your BMR, including your age, sex, height, weight, thyroid, diet , lean body mass and genetics, but unfortunately you only have control over a few of these factors.

Take diet for instance. Diet is something you can control and just about everyone knows their diet is important for weight loss, but did you know that reducing your calorie intake too much can result in your BMR dropping as much as 20 to 30%? You need to create a calorie deficit if you want to lose weight, but you have to be careful that you don’t reduce your calorie intake too much or your BMR will decrease. It doesn’t make sense to go on an extreme calorie reduction diet that causes your BMR to also decrease. The smarter way to lose weight is to reduce your calorie intake more moderately and then to also increase your calories burned by exercising more. The American College of sports medicine (ACSM) says that the daily calorie level consumed for women should never drop below 1200 calories per day and 1800 calories per day for men. In, some cases this may still even be too much of a reduction and could cause your BMR to drop significantly. I’ll go more into this in next week’s “Part B” of this article concerning your TDEE.

Your lean body mass is also a BMR factor you can control, in fact, it’s probably the most important. The lower you body fat the higher your BMR. By the way, statistically men have lower body fat than women and typically have a higher BMR of about 10 to 15%. Ok, so a special note to all the women out there…we need to work a little harder at keeping our BMR’s from dropping. But nonetheless, both men and women need to work at keeping their BMR working optimally and the two biggest things you can do to increase your lean body mass is to eat healthier and lift weights. I know, you’re probably thinking “what about cardio activities? Don’t they assist in weight loss and lean muscle mass?” Well in the short run, the answer is yes, since cardio exercise burns many calories at the exact time you are doing the activity. However, in the long run, strength training is better for weight loss because it causes people to burn extra calories not only during their workouts but also in their day-to-day activities, which get this, even includes sleeping! However, before I continue on with my point of strength training being a greater benefit to weight loss through developing lean muscle mass, I do not want to discourage or discredit the importance of doing cardiovascular activities. Cardio activities promote cardiovascular health which leads to a reduced risk for heart attacks and strokes and promotes an overall better quality of life…so keep doing your cardio!

Now that I have made that point clear, let’s get back to discussing the most prominent factor that affects your BMR….lean body mass. Simply put, the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn. I know from posts I receive in my discussion forums that many women are afraid of lifting heavy weights out of fear of gaining weight. Unfortunately, this myth really does a lot of damage by persuading a lot women not to strength train. The reality is that the only way to gain weight is to consume more calories than you burn. Weightlifting burns calories and does not cause weight gain. If you gain weight during a strength training program it is not from the weightlifting, but instead comes from the excess calories you have consumed or temporary water weight gain. Without a positive caloric balance it is impossible to gain bodyweight. Let’s look at it this way, regardless, if you weight train or not, you will gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn each day. These extra calories will mainly be turned into body fat by the person who does not train with weights, while the same extra calories consumed by the person who trains with weights will be used to create new muscle tissue. You might be thinking that you would rather do cardio instead of lift weights to burn those extra calories. But remember, lifting weights develops lean muscle mass and since muscle takes up about one third the space of fat, you will not only look leaner, but will also increase your BMR. Since your BMR is responsible for most of the calories you burn each day you would be foolish not to take advantage of the best way to increase it. And guess what? Increasing your lean body mass increases your BMR and that translates to burning more calories all day long, even while you’re sleeping. Do I have you searching for your hand weights yet?

But wait, there’s even more! As you age, incorporating a thorough weight lifting program becomes even more important because your BMR will decrease about 2% every decade after the age of 20. This may not seem like a lot, but a 2% decrease for a person with a BMR of 1500 means they would burn 30 calories per day less than they did the decade before. This translates into a weight gain of nearly 3 pounds per year without taking into account any increase in calories consumed or decrease in their activities or exercise routine. This best way to counter the decrease in your BMR as you age is to increase your lean body mass and turn your body into a fat burning machine all day long!

Ok, I’m going to stop here and let all of that info digest. In next week’s “Part B” of this article I will tell about how to determine your maintenance level (TDEE ) which is the total calories you burn each day after including all of your calories burned from your activities and exercise program. In the meantime make sure to check out our Workout Manager which now will calculate your BMR and TDEE automatically for you. Just make sure to first click on the “Settings” icon and answer the questions will you see. Don’t forget to click on the “Save” button. Lastly, click on the “Weigh In” icon and enter your current weight. When you return to the Workout Manager home page you will see your BMR and TDEE.

See you next week!

Cathe Friedrich

Hi, I'm Cathe

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