Category: Nutrition

RMR. The Key To Your Calorie Intake


RMR stands for resting metabolic rate.  RMR by definition is the number of calories your body burns at rest to maintain normal body functions and structures.  These structures include but are not limited to muscle tissue, hormones, antibodies, collagen, and many of the bodies vital organs.  Your RMR generally accounts for between 60-75% of your body’s overall calories used in a day.

Your RMR is determined by a number of factors.  They include your age, height, gender, amount and type of physical activity performed regularly, dietary habits, environmental temperature, and most importantly your muscle mass.  Muscle mass is the key determinant in determining how many calories you burn at rest because this is where most of your calories are “burned”.  Think of muscle as an engine.  I know everyone is going green to become more fuel efficient but if your goal is weight loss the last thing you want is a fuel efficient engine.  You want your muscle to become a large eight cylinder engine burning lots of fuel (i.e. calories).  This does not mean you need to have large muscles but more specifically highly metabolic muscle that is capable of burning lots of calories at rest.

In my experience, individuals who regularly perform weight training have the highest RMR’s.  Weight training has been shown to significantly elevate RMR more than most forms of cardiovascular exercise.  Cardiovascular exercise performed at high intensities such as sprint and interval training being the exception.  The bottom line is the more intense the exercise, the greater effect on your RMR.

So why would you want to have a higher RMR?  It’s quite simple if you are trying to lose weight.  You will burn more calories at rest.  It is possible that if you never change your diet but elevate your RMR you will experience weight loss.
Be careful.  I’ve often seen people who start exercising more intensely rapidly increase their RMR and start eating uncontrollably leading to a gain in weight.  This can result from a higher metabolic rate causing more cravings throughout the day.  If you fail to eat balanced meals and go for high carbohydrate foods you may find yourself craving food all day long as result of erratic blood sugar levels.  I strongly recommend anyone considering exercising more frequently and/or more intensely to meet with a sports nutrition coach to help design a nutrition plan to prevent these cravings.

The single #1 mistake I see many people make is once they find out their RMR, they eat below this number.  Remember earlier I mentioned RMR is the minimum amount of calories you need to sustain vital structures in the body such as lean muscle, hormones and antibodies?  If you fail to give the body the calories it requires, your body will be forced to breakdown these structures and use them as an alternative form of energy.  Will you lose weight?  Absolutely.  Is it the right weight?  Probably not.  Calorie restricted eating often results in a loss of muscle.  Loss of muscle can result in a smaller engine that doesn’t burn much fuel.  Remember, if your goal is weight loss, you want muscle that burns as much fuel as possible. You’ll have to pay more for your fuel (your grocery bill…not your gasoline!) but it’s a small price to pay for your health.

The correct way to experience weight loss and maintain your muscle is to first determine your total daily energy expenditure.  This equates to your RMR + everything else you do in the day that requires calories.  Exercise, work, playing with the kids, doing laundry, or simply getting out of bed all adds to your total daily energy expenditure.  The ideal calorie intake is somewhere between the RMR and your total daily energy expenditure.  This assures weight loss (more specifically fat loss) but the preservation of muscle and other structures in the body thus leading to better health.  Weight may come off slower but over the long haul you stand a much greater chance of getting to that ideal weight you may desire.  Instead of becoming harder to see weight loss over time, it is just the opposite.  Unlike most calorie restricted plans, weight loss will occur slower at first but pickup a lot of momentum as you start to see results over time.  This is because you are not losing muscle with calorie restriction and you are elevating your RMR at the same time…not slowing it down.

How do you determine your RMR?  There are many different ways.  The most popular and inexpensive method I have seen is using a device such as the BodyGem™ which is a breathing device measuring the amount of oxygen you breath in at rest, a process known as indirect calorimetry.  There are also RMR calculators online you can try to estimate your RMR but I have found them to be inaccurate in many cases.  My personal RMR was off by over 500 calories on one site as compared to the Bodygem™.  I also recommend retests after 3-4 months to show people the progress they are making and that all the exercise they are doing is paying off.

Eat Better, Exercise Less.


As a health professional, I must admit how surprising it is to see how many people exercise hours on end, day after day, and still fail to see their bodies ever change. I’m sure you know the person that fits this description. They arrive at the gym every day at 9AM, run for forty minutes and then jump on the elliptical machine for another twenty minutes. God forbid if they don’t get their full sixty minutes of cardio. If they’re really committed they’ll even add another half hour of weight training on a specific body part. Legs on Monday, arms on Tuesday, back muscles on Wednesday, shoulders on Thursday and whatever is left on Friday. Of course abdominal exercises must be done every day. Saturdays they take it easy. Maybe only a three mile run that day. They tell themselves they’re not addicted to exercise because they take Sundays off. Sundays are when they spend some time with the family. Playing sports with the kids, skiing at Ski Sundown, or doing work in the yard doesn’t count as exercise in their mind.

Despite these lengthy episodes of exercise it amazes me that most people don’t realize that if they spent more time on an ideal eating plan they could cut their workout time in half. Let’s be honest. Most people exercise to change their bodies. Obviously, there are the health benefits of exercise which are important to many of us but in my experience 95% or more of regular exercisers site they want some type of change to their body when they enroll in an exercise routine. Fitness goals can range from adding muscle, losing weight, or even just “tightening up” those problem areas. When you consider the limited time that many of us complain about having in our lives, less exercise time would seem quite desirable if your goals were simply to change your body.

When I initially ask people about their thoughts on nutrition they simply say they eat fine and don’t need to make any changes. They watch television and read health articles on nutrition so they feel they “already know what they need to do”. With 12+ years experience in sports nutrition and personal training I admit I don’t even know everything I’m supposed to do for my own personal workouts. I’ve signed up for 2 webinars in the next month alone to learn more about nutrition and exercise. Developing an optimal eating plan is not a simple task and there are guidelines to follow.

Many of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years have consistently told me they never fully received the value of their gym memberships and home exercise equipment until they learned how to eat correctly to assure their results with their workout plan. When you consider most nutrition plans cost a fraction of a gym membership or a treadmill, it seems like the most valuable added “warranty” you could ever purchase.
When looking for a good nutrition plan, be sure to ask the following questions:

1. Have the general expectations of the program been presented to you and do you believe you can meet these expectations needed for you to succeed.
2. What is the success rate of the plan? If someone fails, why do they fail?
3. What is the experience of the Nutrition Coach or Registered Dietician(RD)?
4. Does the Nutrition Coach or RD follow the plan themselves?
5. Ask details about the science behind the plan. Are there any health risks to you?
6. Is the plan individualized to you?
7. Is this an eating plan you can continue with for the rest of your life?

I can tell you many of the latest trends on diets are not healthy and don’t believe everything you see on TV. Humble yourself. Take a step back and educate yourself on how to eat effectively to maximize your results with your exercise plan. Your workout routine will be much more gratifying. You’ll get the results you desire and have more time to spend doing other things in your life that are important to you.