Calories in versus calories out. You’ll hear online fitness gurus pontificate about the simplicity of weight loss in this way. “It’s calories in versus calories out and if you’re gaining weight it’s because you’re eating too many calories!” They’re not wrong. My snide description of their talking points stems from their delivery. Yes, while calories in versus calories out is true, it’s not as simple as Fitness Guru #3,000 will have you believe. That’s why I had my resting metabolic rate tested.
It sounds and looks intense. It’s not. You sit in a chair, breathe into a tube, and 15 minutes later you have a variety of practical information and takeaways you can begin to implement immediately. I’d describe it like getting your teeth x-rayed while having a sinus infection (because of the nose clamp).
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, first I must explain what your Resting Metabolic Rate (RTR) is. It’s the amount of calories you burn per day at rest. So let’s say you don’t feel like doing anything today, and I mean literally nothing. You wake up, scroll through social media and don’t leave your bed for 24 hours. Your RTR is how many calories you’ll burn per day in that scenario.
As a 5 foot, seven inch 31 year-old male just to stay alive, my body burns 2,088 calories at rest. For the sake of whole numbers I’ll round that up to 2,100. Now remember, this is strictly my calorie burn at rest in a prone position (in bed for example) all day. How many more calories I burn depends on my activities and exercise.
The exercise estimate based on the test was 260 calories. This is an estimate of calories burned during 30 minutes of moderate exercise. If I ran three miles at a 10:00/mile pace I’d say that’s a fairly accurate estimate. My lifestyle and activity estimate showed 835 calories burned during the day. This takes into account my walking, sitting at a desk, typing on a computer, and picking up my daughter, for example.
To get my total energy output, I simply add those numbers up. Total = RMR + Lifestyle + Exercise. I’m burning 3,184 calories per day. Again, for the sake of whole numbers, let’s call it 3,200.
How does my metabolism compare?
Compared to a typical person of similar sex, age, height, and weight my metabolic rate is 19% faster. That simply means I burn more calories than the average person. Obviously, the opposite is true too. Slow metabolisms burn fewer calories. Most people need to eat below their total metabolic rate to lose weight. There’s that calories in versus calories out research again!
What is my body burning?
Here’s the cool part! 81% percent of what I’m burning is fat, the other 19% is carbohydrate. You may be asking yourself what the hell that means. It’s an excellent question. It means that my body is burning fat for fuel rather than going for carbohydrate, which is the lowest hanging fruit. To lose fat you have to burn fat. Now, I wasn’t genetically gifted a fast, fat burning metabolism. I’ve been working on this, unknowingly, for several years.
Many factors go into what and how your body burns energy. In my opinion, my fat burning metabolism stems from two things: endurance training and my nutrition. Triathlon, as I’ve explained before, is an oxidative sport. It requires the body to pull from its fat stores (once it’s burned through all the carbohydrate. Remember, carbs are the low hanging fruit) to keep me moving several hours into a race or training session.
My nutrition also plays a role in what my body is burning. Making healthy fats a part of my diet, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, nut butters, and avocado, allows my body to use those calories more easily for fuel. If your diet is mostly carbohydrate-based, say upwards of 70-80% of your calories, you can expect your body to burn more carbs than fat.
If you’re burning more fat than carbohydrate you’ll have any easier time gaining to you goal weight assuming weight loss is the goal. Protein must be eaten in adequate amounts, as well. Digesting and breaking down protein requires the metabolism to work a bit harder than its does when digesting fats or carbohydrates. If you’re unsure of how much protein to eat during the day as an athlete, read this.
Much like exercise, you can train your body to burn more fat. The simple way to start that process is to start including more healthy fats in your diet and reduce the amount of carbohydrates. Now this isn’t to say eliminate carbs entirely, jack up the fat, and go full keto. Carbs are still beneficial for endurance athletes and should make up a decent percentage of daily calories. But a few small changes can yield big results in terms of flipping your body into using more fat for fuel.
Where can you learn more?
If you want more information on resting metabolic rate testing, check out our recent podcast where we discuss my results in more detail with Kristen Hislop of Hislop Coaching. You can contact her directly at www.hislopcoaching.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While you’re at it, grab yourself a FREE copy of our SENS Fitness Recipe Book. It includes 145+ recipes complete with calorie counts and macronutrient breakdowns so you can start the process of boosting your metabolism, burning more fat, and losing weight! Use promo code PODCASTFREE and it’s yours.