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A client of mine has been struggling with fat loss without success. This past weekend he went away to a health spa, where they measured his basal metabolic rate. He was surprised that his metabolic rate was a lot lower than he thought.
Upon returning he emailed me and said that basically, if he wants to be lean, then he’d “have to live on a diet.” He then asks if there’s anything we can do to increase his basal metabolic rate.
My reply to him:
Everyone, whether lean or fat, has to live on “a diet.”
Don’t be surprised by the “low” metabolic rate.
First, metabolism assessed through any measurement of oxygen-exchange rate is only an estimation.
Basal metabolic rate is often a lot lower than most people believe, even when adding activity levels.
Your organs burn far more calories at rest than your muscle.
Each pound of muscle you add can burn only an additional 6 calories per day — not the mythical 50 calories. Not much in other words.
- 1 hour of weight training averages a burn of 450 calories.
- 1 hour of CrossFIT averages a burn of 560 calories.
- Difference = 110 calories.
- 110 calories is less than a tiny Yoplait yogurt. Or a less than a Skinny Cow.
The point is this:
Increased muscle mass does not burn significantly more calories.
Killing yourself for an entire hour of CrossFIT burns only a few calories more, but can be neutralized with a few extra bites of food.
Basal metabolic rate is a reflection of current total body weight; increasing 10 pounds of muscle burns only an additional 60 calories per day.
Therefore, basal metabolic rate (limited to mostly organs) is not changed easily.
The best way to lose fat is eating less.
Although many diets work (Zone, Atkins, Pritikin, Paleo, high protein, high carbs, etc.), they’re mostly hypothesis that scientists and promoters still argue about.
However, the single, irrefutable law of weight and fat loss is a long-term calorie deficit.
So whatever diet you chose, if you want to lose fat, you must eat less. It’s that simple. It’s not debatable.
As such, I have found long-term success in eating fewer times per day. I also make sure most of the food is nutrient-rich — mostly vegetables, fruits, and meats. This may help to preserve optimal health while in a calorie deficit. Beyond this I still enjoy some sinful food — or what’s the point?!
Our culture is conditioned to eat 4 to 6 meals a day, believing this stabilizes blood sugar, maintains muscle, speeds up metabolism, etc. But no scientific evidence can demonstrate these factors to be different in fewer meals a day.
From a metabolic standpoint, there are no advantages to spreading 1, 2, or 3 meals over more smaller meals throughout the day.
People who eat 5 or 6 meals per day are still overweight. Bodybuilders who eat 5 or 6 meals are still fat in the off-season, and are lean only when they “diet down” for a competition, typically by eating fewer calories.
My suggestion, *****, is that you view your exercise program as a way to become physically fit, strong, healthy, and build some muscle mass for “shape,” while you reconsider your diet as the primary factor for your fat loss.