A recent study conducted by three American institutions, the National Institutes of Health, Maryland, the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Towson University, Maryland, which followed 14 participants of a weight-loss competition found that after six years, every contestant except one had regained the weight they had lost. The researchers, who measured the long-term changes in the participants’ “resting metabolic rate (RMR)”, concluded that long-term weight loss requires “vigilant combat against persistent metabolic adaptations that act to proportionally counter ongoing efforts to reduce body weight”.
In simpler words, your body’s RMR slows down after weight loss due to exercise. This is due to some quirk of evolution that has hardwired our bodies to oppose our efforts to lose weight.
What is resting metabolic rate?
“RMR is the amount of calories you burn while your body is at rest. Our body burns calories even when it is not in motion, and these are the calories burnt while the body is performing various functions and staying alive,” says Dr Nagarjun Mishra, wellness expert, Purplehealth.com.
A high RMR helps your body maintain its weight and shed the extra kilos. “The other benefits of maintaining optimal RMR include preventing the onset of metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, lipid disorders and PCOD. A person’s memory, intellect, judgement and mood are all impacted by metabolism and enhanced with optimal RMR,” says Dr Sudhindra Kulkarni, consultant endocrinologist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan and Mulund.
How to boost RMR?
The trick to get a higher RMR is to maintain lean muscle mass. Luke Coutinho, nutritionist and founder of Pure Nutrition, suggests a few ways by which this can be achieved:
* Regular breakfast: Breakfast stimulates your metabolism and maintains it at a healthy level throughout the day. The body’s metabolism slows down post dinner. Breakfast is necessary to get it back on track.
* Multiple small meals: When the body doesn’t get the food it needs, its metabolism slows down to conserve calories for survival. This is because our bodies are naturally programmed to protect against starvation, and our body holds onto fat to convert it to energy. Eating four or five small meals a day will help raise metabolism levels and not let the rate fall between meals.
* Limited calorie intake: While restricting calorie intake might seem like a good way to lose weight quickly, it can affect metabolism negatively. Our metabolism falls automatically when we reduce our calorie intake. Limiting our caloric intake to around 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,800 calories a day for men should help increase the RMR.
* More proteins: Protein-rich food is usually low in fat and calories. Protein also takes more calories to digest than fats and carbohydrates, which lets the RMR remain in the higher ranges.
* More water: Dehydration causes cravings and tricks our mind into thinking that we are hungry when we are actually thirsty. Drinking water can actually increase our metabolic rate and plays a pivotal role in helping develop a lean and healthy physique.
* Aerobics: A brisk walk, jogging, running, swimming, Zumba, dancing or any other form of aerobic activity will not only burn calories while working out, but will also help raise the rate of metabolism for several hours later.
* Increase physical activity: Increase the amount of physical activity within daily routines. For example, choose a parking spot farther away from the entrance of your office, This helps raise the daily calorie expenditure, thus resulting in raising RMR.
* Lower stress: Stress due to work, travelling, multi-tasking or managing relationships decreases the metabolic rate as one’s body may go into survival mode. Yoga, meditation or just breathing deeply may help relieve stress. Sufficient sleep is also important to maintain a healthy metabolic rate.
— With inputs from Shiraz Siddiqui, fitness trainer and co-founder of The Gene Box, Mulund (W), and Swapneel Hazare, fitness expert, Prosport Fitness Centre, Lower Parel and Andheri (W).
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