Your metabolism is the engine of your body, and this engine is constantly running. How hot and fast it runs is somewhat driven by the choices you make each day. Go on a very low calorie diet and your “engine” will slow down. Why? Because you haven’t given it any fuel to burn. Add muscle and your metabolism will burn hotter and your will begin to lose weight. These are simple ways that your can stoke your engine and create an efficient calorie-burning metabolism.
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is how many calories your body needs at rest. Or think of it as your engine while idling. Knowing this information will help set yourself up for success. A simple way to learn your RMR is to multiply your current body weight times 10 (ie: 120 pounds x 10 = 1,200 calories per day). This will result in an estimate of your RMR.
Next you need to determine how many calories you need in addition to your RMR. If you are currently sedentary, add 20 to 40 percent; moderately active, add 40 to 60 percent; and very active, add 60 to 80 percent. If you want to lose weight be conservative when deciding how active your current lifestyle is. This will give you a range of how many calories your body needs per day, including your activity. Remember, this is what you need to maintain your current weight, not lose or gain.
Subtract 20 percent or 400 from the total number you got in the above paragraph. This will create a calorie deficit that will help you lose weight while still keeping your engine running strong. Theoretically, if you create a 500-calories-per-day deficit you will lose the recommended pound per week, as a pound is equal to 3,500 calories. For most people it is more satisfying to create this deficit by decreasing 250 calories in food and burning 250 calories during exercise. Of course, you can always focus on burning more calories by adjusting your workouts.
Rev your engine by increasing the intensity of your workouts. Just like the engine in your car, if you rev it up it will burn more fuel (calories) and will stay hot longer. You can increase intensity by going faster, exercising longer or changing your usual type of exercise. By increasing the intensity of your workout you will burn more calories while working out and your RMR will stay elevated longer once you have stopped exercising.
Lift weight 2 days per week. Muscle requires more calories to maintain than fat. So, by adding more muscle you will be increasing your RMR and making your engine more expensive to maintain. If you are unfamiliar with lifting weights, consider hiring a certified personal trainer. Reputable certifications include American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Once you know how many calories you need and how to effectively burn off excess, the weight will melt away.
“Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Nance Clark, MD, RD 1997
ACMS’s Health & Fitness Journal, “10 Ways to Put More ‘Work’ in Your Workout,” James A. Peterson, PhD, FACSM, Vol 13/No 5