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Stop Midlife Weight Gain—Metabolism 101

Author: Charmaine Gordon 8 October 2010 No Comment

Every one knows the science of weight loss: eat fewer calories than you burn.

While it’s fairly easy to figure out how many calories you take in, it’s not so easy to figure out how many calories you burn. This is where knowing your resting metabolic rate (RMR) becomes important.

What is Metabolism?

Simply put, metabolism is the conversion of food to energy and your body’s use of that energy. When your body digests food, it breaks down the carbohydrates, fats and proteins that you eat into smaller compounds that are absorbed by your blood– carbohydrates, protein and fat contain calories.

Both the conversion of food to energy and your body’s use of that energy (your metabolism) play an important role in weight control. If you take in more energy (calories) than you need, you gain weight.

What is RMR?

Resting metabolic rate (RMR) represents the calories your body burns to maintain vital functions (heart rate, brain function, breathing). Basically, it is the number of calories you would burn if you were awake, but at rest all day. RMR can represent up to 75% of your total metabolism if you are inactive or sedentary.

Why is it important to measure RMR?

Since RMR accounts for up to 75% of all the calories you need each day, it’s a critical piece of information to establish daily caloric needs, whether you’re trying to lose or maintain weight.

Because RMR varies from person to person, estimating can lead to errors and inaccurate calorie budgets. As a result of these estimates, you could be over-eating and not successful in meeting your weight loss goal.

Why is RMR Unique to Each Individual?

RMR is influenced by a number of factors—body mass, body composition (the amount of muscle and fat), age, gender and hormones. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Therefore, a person with a higher percentage of muscle will have a higher RMR.


What does Metabolism Have to do with Midlife Weight Gain?

Somewhere in her thirties, a woman’s RMR starts to slow down about 2% each decade. That means that if she ate the same amount of calories at 45 as she did at 35, she will probably gain weight.

For most women, midlife spread creeps up on them—they don’t even notice until the pants they once wore no longer fit. Gaining one to two pounds a year doesn’t seem like much in the beginning, but it does ten years later when they’re ten to twenty pounds heavier.

Why does Muscle Matter?

Did you ever notice how men can lose weight a lot faster than women? Men have a metabolic advantage over women—they burn more calories because they have more muscle mass.

The 2% decrease in RMR per decade for women is primarily a result of muscle loss. When women gain fat and lose muscle, two things happen. Fat isn’t as dense as muscle. So even if you haven’t gained weight, you will appear to be larger and your clothing size may increase. Second, because muscle burns more calories than fat, your metabolism slows and you burn fewer calories which could lead to weight gain if you don’t watch what you eat.

Maintaining muscle mass is critical as a woman gets older. The 2% decrease in muscle mass per decade is not a natural by-product of aging, but rather due to reduced activity and a sedentary lifestyle.

Because muscle is directly linked to metabolic rate, women can raise their rate through strength training and other forms of exercise that build muscle.

Why is Yo-Yo a No-No?

Restrictive dieting without exercise results in the loss of muscle mass as well as body fat. If weight is regained as a result of eating normally, it will be in the form of fat. This is known as the “yo-yo effect”. If you try to lose weight again, it will become more difficult because the loss of muscle has made it more difficult to burn calories.

How Can I Avoid Midlife Weight Gain?

Find out your RMR so you can know your magic number of calories burned. Metabolic testing for men and women is done at Synergy. With a simple breath test of 10 minutes or less, you can have your unique metabolism measured, for determination of a customized and personal calorie budget.

Stay active and avoid the lowering of your metabolic rate through weight training and other strength building exercises. Check out our early morning class called Metabolic Magic that is designed to burn fat and build muscle—this class is where I earned the “right to bare arms!”.

Avoid overly restrictive diets. Reduce calories with a sound nutritional plan that you can incorporate into your lifestyle. We have had great success with our Game On! Weight loss and lifestyle program. In our last Game, 43 participants lost over 345 pounds is an 8 week period.

Additional posts by Charmaine Gordon