Understanding BMR


It’s easier to put on weight as you grow older. This is connected to something called basal metabolic rate (BMR).

RECENTLY, I went to the gym and they had a weighing machine there that could calculate the fat content in my body. It also showed me my basal metabolic rate. What is this?

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns at rest to maintain normal body functions. It is the amount of calories your body burns per day, regardless of exercise.

It can also be described as your resting metabolic rate, or the amount of calories used by your body at rest.

This is the energy required for the functioning of your vital organs – your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, nervous system, intestines, muscles and skin.

Your BMR usually decreases as you age, which means you have to eat less to maintain your weight as you grow older.

How do I calculate my basal metabolic rate?

This is how you calculate your BMR. It is measured in kCal/24 hours.

BMR for men = 66.47 + (13.7 X (your weight in kg) + (5 X your height in cm) – 6.8 X (your age in years).

BMR for women = 655.1 + (9.6 X (your weight in kg) + (1.8 X your height in cm) – 4.7 X (your age in years).

The easier way to do it is to google BMR calculator and find one that calculates your BMR immediately.

Once you have calculated your BMR, you can use something called the Harris Benedict Formula to calculate your total calorie intake, which is what’s required to maintain your current weight. This is to enable you to be very careful about how much you eat a day.

If you have little or no exercise: total calories needed = BMR X 1.2 .

If you only do light exercise: total calories needed = BMR X 1.375 If you do moderate exercise, such as for three to five days a week: total calories needed = BMR X 1.55.

If you do heavy exercise, such as for six to seven days a week: total calories needed = BMR X 1.725

If you are extremely active, such as if you do heavy exercise and you also have a very physical job: total calories needed = BMR X 1.9

What is my average BMR?

Most men have a BMR of about 1,600 to 1,800 kCals a day. Most women have a BMR of 1,550 kCals a day. But this is variable.

It is best you use the calculator above. If you are above 40, your average BMR is probably only 1,200 kCals a day. Hence, if you maintain your normal diet as you did in your 20s, you will probably get fat!

I would like to eat more! Can I increase my BMR?

If you want to eat more, the only way you can do to burn it off is to exercise more! Unfortunately, there is no easy method to lose weight. You either have to decrease your calorie intake or increase your exercise level per day.

Bear in mind that protein produces the highest impact on digestion, so you burn more calories digesting protein than carbs or fats.

A gym session can actually represent 15-30% of your total daily energy expenditure. The more muscles you add, the more calories you burn at rest. The higher and more intense your exercise, the more calories you burn afterwards at rest, thereby increasing your BMR.

These are some exercises you can do to increase your BMR:

1. Increase your workout with weights: Studies have shown that you can increase your BMR by as much as 7% after several weeks of weight workouts.

But you have to lift heavy weights. If you lift weights and have to struggle in the last two reps, you activate more fast-twitch muscle fibres, which are the ones that have the highest strength capabilities. These create a higher metabolic load.

It is best to get a personal trainer to show you how to do these weighted workouts at first, then you can do them on your own.

2. Mix cardio exercises and weights: If you mix these up in the same exercise session, you will burn more calories because your oxygen uptake is increased.

3. Do interval training: If you do sprint interval training (for two minutes), studies have shown that this is equivalent to a 30- minute endurance training.

So you can choose your favourite aerobic exercise (running, cycling, elliptical trainer) and do intervals of 30 seconds each at high intensity, followed by a minute of low intensity for recovery. That is why workouts like Zumba or Body Combat help burn calories.

4. Stretching: You may not realise it, but stretching your muscles before and after your workout increases your caloric expenditure significantly.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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