Your Unique Metabolism Rate Is Key To Fat-burning

By Sandy McCollum

December 7, 2007 4 min read


Your unique metabolism rate is key to fat-burning

By Sandy McCollum

Copley News Service

If counting fat grams or calories or even increasing exercise seems irrelevant when you try to lose weight, then there may be something else at play that's keeping you from shedding a few unwanted pounds.

If you've ever uttered the comment "maybe it's my metabolism" - and Rebecca Short, a registered dietitian, has heard it plenty - you might be on to something.

Sometimes, you need to eat more to weigh less, she says. Other surprising facts: overweight people can burn more calories than thin people and physically fit people may burn fewer calories than sick people.

Sound confusing? Let's start at the beginning. Metabolism is the process of converting food - carbohydrates, proteins and fats - into energy. It requires oxygen. Your total metabolic needs are composed of three parts: resting metabolic rate, or RMR, normal daily activities and exercise.

RMR is the most important because it reflects 75 percent of all your daily calories. It reflects the energy, or calories, your body would burn if you spent an entire day at rest. The next most important number is your daily activities, and exercise is last.

Donald Werner, a lean man of 57, could estimate his metabolic rate by plugging his height, weight and age into an equation. Instead, he took an easy 10-minute test that can help you unravel the mystery of metabolism.

Short hooked up Werner to a MedGem device, a machine that measures RMR using a clip that goes over the nose and focuses all the breathing in a tube. Let's say Werner registered 2,150. That would be the number of calories his body needs to keep his heart, lungs and body running when he's not doing anything else.

That number is then multiplied by his physical activity level: 1.3 to 1.4 if you're sedentary, 1.5 to 1.6 if you're moderately active, 1.7 to 1.8 if you're very active.

So, 2,150 times 1.6 equals 3,440. That's the number of calories Werner can consume to maintain his weight.

Other myths about metabolism, according to Short:

Myth: Running will kick my metabolism up and keep it up for hours.

Fact: Your metabolism will stay elevated after a workout but not by very much at all. Don't plan on after burn as part of your weight loss plan.

Myth: Thin people burn more calories than fat people.

Fact: Metabolism rate is based on muscle mass. Obese people often have larger muscle mass than thinner people.

You just don't see it.

Myth: Eating at night will make you gain weight.

Fact: Total calories are what count. Right now, the medical community is debating this issue with no hard evidence either way.

Short says it makes sense to eat three meals a day and to remember that your metabolism rate is unique.

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