BMR: Why The Best Weight Loss Strategy Starts With Understanding Metabolism (3 of 3)

Greetings friends!

In articles one and two of this series we talked about Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and why “knowing BMR” is an essential element of any successful weight loss strategy.  Despite the boring definitions and road trip metaphors, we’re now ready to discuss how we can use this powerful information.

Specifically, we now know that if we master the “energy equation” that stares all of us in the face every day we will reach our weight loss goals (unlike this fine chap standing on the scale).  Said another way, if we consistently eat less than what our body uses we will surely lose weight.  Remember, BMR tells you how much food (how many calories) your body requires each day.  So, how do we easily find out what our BMR is and how do we use this information? 

The answer(s) depends on who/what you have access to and how comfortable you are managing this information on your own.  Trust me, you can do it on your own as I have for many years, but a good nutritionist or a smart personal trainer can help you by performing a body fat test.  This test will tell you how much lean mass you have, etc., which can also be used to determine your daily calorie requirement.  Again, if you’re like me and don’t have a nutritionist or a personal trainer I recommend that you simply estimate your BMR with one of the many online calculators that are available.  Treat these as trial tests or experiments that include some science (exactness) and some art (in tailoring food choices/amounts to your individual body and activity level).

My advice: use three calculators to find your “BMR range.”  Take the average of all three or pick two common numbers as your starting point.   Then, start adjusting your daily food intake from there until you consistently hit your weekly weight loss goal.  Here’s a few calculators you can begin using today:

1.  Mayo Clinic BMR Calculator
2.  BMR Calculator
3.  Discovery Health BMR Calculator

Be careful with these results and remember that the numbers are merely calculations based on a set of assumptions doctors and scientists have plugged in.  In reality, you will need to adjust your food intake here and there to find your bodies true balance.  For instance, when I use these calculators Mayo tells me that my BMR is 2,250 calories/day.  The general BMR calculator says I should get 1,850 calories per day and the Discovery Health people say I should get 1,847 calories per day.  Yikes!  What’s a regular guy to do with a 400 calorie difference?

Here’s what you do: don’t worry about it, don’t try to calculate your BMR over and over again, and don’t let the different calorie ranges stop you from moving forward with your strategy.  Take what you’ve learned and keep moving forward.  Simply take the average, the middle, or the lowest number and develop a food plan that gets you under your BMR number.  In my case, I would start with the 1,850 figure because I got two results very close together.

Remember, if BMR is what you need each day, or 100% of your required calories at rest, you need to plan on only getting 90%, 80%, or maybe even 70% of your total BMR.  Again, in my case if I wanted to be aggressive I might start at 70% of my daily calorie requirement, which means I would want to only eat 1,295 calories per day (1,850 x 0.7 = 1,295).  Make sense?

Keeping a food journal and counting calories is a sure fire way to dial in your new BMR knowledge.  If you’re like me and don’t like to count calories, you can also try these simple tricks:

1.  Divide your BMR by how many times you’re going to eat each day (i.e. 3, 4, or 5 times).  Count calories for one meal and simply strive to eat something that equals those calories at each setting.  In my case, 1,295 divided by 4 meals in a day allows me to eat roughly 323-324 calories at a time.  Small but frequent portions.  Make sense?

2.  Don’t write it down every day; set it out every day.  Meaning, take a few minutes once, twice, or however many times it takes you to develop portion control discipline and visualize your daily food intake.  I mean seriously look at it!  Set the food you’re planning to eat each day on the counter in the morning.  Take a look at it.  How much is there?  Get a picture of the days quantity.  Divide it into how you’re planning to eat it.  Get used to the idea of only choosing what you know your body needs, not what your tummy wants.  Select the right quantities 80% of the time and you’re off to a great start.

Here are some other rules of thumb to keep in mind:

1.  Your body requires fewer calories as you get older so your BMR gets lower – you need less food
2.  If you eat less than your BMR, you will lose weight.  If you eat less than your BMR and exercise, you will lose weight faster, maybe even rapidly the way I did
3. If you exercise regularly, you can consume 100% of your daily calorie requirement (BMR) and still lose weight (most likely)

How are we doing, friends?  Is this information okay?  Do you feel like you have some knowledge that can make a real difference in your journey?  I hope so because like I said before, if you’re serious about losing weight in a significant way you need to embrace the concept of BMR.  You need to understand that your body has an engine that requires only a certain amount of gas.  Just like filling up your car’s gas tank isn’t a guessing game, getting just the right amount of food every day shouldn’t be either.

The next big decision is how we get those calories in us – what types of foods we should be eating while staying sane, feeling normal, healthy, fun, and balanced.

Until next time,


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