What is BMR? What does the basal metabolic rate mean and how to calculate it?

Understanding the inner workings of your body can be overwhelming. I get it. But whether you’re trying to boost your metabolism, track your fitness progress, or focus on a weight management plan, it’s important to understand one number: your basal metabolism.

Simply put, basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories your body burns while performing basic life-sustaining functions like breathing, growing hair, digesting food, and getting your heart pumping, says Alyssa Lombardi, exercise physiologist, running coach, and founder of Alyssa RunFit. coaching. “BMR is the minimum amount of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight.”

Meet the experts: Alyssa Lombardi is an ACSM-certified clinical exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer, certified running coach, and founder of Alyssa RunFit Coaching. Cara Carmichael, CPT, is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, OrangeTheory Coach, and Certified PN Nutrition Coach.

It is also important to know what it is not. BMR is not based on your activity level or how much you move. It is the rate at which your body burns calories to perform only essential bodily functions.

And don’t confuse your basal metabolic rate with your resting metabolic rate (RMR). “RMR is your BMR plus a very small level of daily activity, such as walking to the bathroom, getting out of bed and eating, but essentially being at rest,” Lombardi notes.

There is no one-size-fits-all BMR. The number is based on height, weight, gender, age, muscle mass and body fat. Knowing your BMR can help you stay on top of weight management and how your body responds to life’s activities. “As your activity level, exercise, and age change, your BMR will change,” Lombardi says. “It can be helpful to check it every now and then so you can make lifestyle changes to maintain a healthy weight.”

That’s just a taste of everything BMR can do. Read on for the full details of calculating your basal metabolic rate, why it’s important to know your BMR, and more from the experts.

How to calculate your BMR?

There are a few different ways to calculate BMR. An exact and completely accurate MMR requires a DEXA scan, Lombardi says. “This is essentially a picture of your body that will tell you the makeup of your body’s fat, muscle, and bone density,” she says. However, DEXA scans use low-dose X-rays, are performed in a hospital, and require a face-to-face visit with your doctor.

Since DEXA scans aren’t really accessible, Lombardi recommends an online calculator like Omni Calculator for an easier (and free!) measurement at home. Though less accurate, studies show that online calculators using the Harris-Benedict equation take your height, weight, age and gender into account to give you a rough estimate of your BMR.

Since the Harris-Benedict equation does not take into account muscle mass or body fat, there are limitations to its accuracy. You can estimate it yourself with the comparison for women below.

Calculate your BMR: 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)

It’s also important to note that men tend to have a higher BMR than women. Men are generally taller and have more muscle mass than women, resulting in a higher BMR, Lombardi explains. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR will be.

You may be wondering… does my smartwatch give an accurate BMR? The short answer is no. Smartwatch trackers use exercise, heart rate, and your height and weight to provide some calorie information, but don’t take into account muscle mass or body fat, both of which contribute to your BMR, says Cara Carmichael, CPT. “The number the watch makes is not necessarily based on the individual,” she says. “It’s a more basic formula and there’s a lot of room for error.”

While smartwatches aren’t 100% accurate, they can give you a good starting point, Lombardi adds. But remember not to dwell on the numbers. Instead, use this information to understand your body and necessary calorie intake.

Why BMR is a useful piece of health data?

In addition to increasing your knowledge (and appreciation!) of how your body works, knowing your BMR can help you reach your health and fitness goals. Here are a few benefits of your BMR:

  • Understanding caloric needs. Knowing your BMR can help you determine a nutrition plan and recognize your daily calorie needs, explains Carmichael. “Many of us don’t really know how much food we need to consume to get through the day without crashing, but your BMR can serve as a baseline,” she says. By knowing how many calories your body naturally burns, you can measure how much you need to eat to gain weight (eat more calories than you burn), lose (eat fewer calories than you burn), or maintain weight (the same number of food). calories you burn).
  • weight management. Whether you want to lose or gain weight, understanding your BMR can help speed up the process by giving you the information you need to create a diet that aligns with your goals, Lombardi says. Once you know your BMR – aka how many calories your body burns for basic functioning – you can use it to determine the number of calories needed for the day. The higher your BMR, the more calories you can consume without gaining weight, she explains.
  • Track fitness progress. If your BMR goes up, that generally means you’re gaining muscle and getting stronger, Lombardi says. Since muscle gain is the most effective way to change your BMR, consistent strength training and tracking your BMR over time can be a great way to measure your progress and gains.
  • Improve metabolism. A high BMR is often associated with a fast metabolism and greater muscle mass, while a low BMR can indicate a slower metabolism, lower muscle mass, and a higher percentage of body fat, Carmichael says. “A lot of people want to increase their metabolism, but you have to understand that to do that, you need to build more muscle and increase your BMR,” she says.

    How can you improve your BMR?

    Take a look at the stats in the BMR comparison above and you’ll get a rough idea of ​​how to move the MMR needle. Incorporating strength training into your workout and gaining muscle mass is the most effective way to change and increase your BMR, says Carmichael. “Muscle uses a lot more energy than fat at rest, so at a certain weight, the more muscle on your body, the higher your BMR.”

    Carmichael suggests incorporating strength training at least twice a week to build muscle and increase your BMR. But remember, consistency is key and change doesn’t happen overnight. “So many people look for quick solutions, but in reality it’s about sustainability and sustainable habits.”

    Changing your BMR can boost your metabolism, lose weight, get stronger, or create an optimal meal plan, but there’s no magic number. “Each individual has a different BMR and cannot be compared,” says Carmichael. What is considered “healthy” depends on the person and their goals. The average BMR for women is around 1400 kcal and around 1700 kcal for men, she says.

    Briefly: BMR is a personalized metric that can’t be compared to anyone else, but measuring yours and learning how your body functions can help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

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