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Basal Metabolic Rate: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Medical Content Writer
Arzu Cetinkaya Medical Content Writer
Basal Metabolic Rate: What It Is and Why It’s Important

What is the basal metabolic rate?

Our body consumes energy around the clock. It gets this energy in the form of calories. The basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy the body needs to maintain all basic vital functions at rest:

  • respiration,
  • heartbeat,
  • brain activity,
  • regulation of body temperature and
  • function of the organs.

The resting state is measured as follows: Lying still, in the morning, fasting, at normal body temperature and at a comfortable ambient temperature.

The basal metabolic rate depends on various factors. This includes age, gender, weight, height and muscle mass. Men generally have a higher basal metabolic rate than women because they have more muscle mass and less fat. The basal metabolic rate can change depending on your life situation, health and diet. The basal metabolic rate decreases with increasing age because the body requires less energy to maintain its functions. Certain illnesses or taking medications can also influence the basal metabolic rate.

How much energy does a person need per day?

Your body needs additional energy for physical activities, work or digesting food. This is the so-called performance turnover. This depends on the extent of your professional and leisure activities. It is represented by the PAL value (physical activity level, a measure of physical activity). Energy consumption can vary by up to 1,900 kcal per day in people of similar body weight due to different leisure activities, occupations and unconscious movements (e.g. fidgeting).

The total metabolic rate is the total amount of energy your body uses per day. It includes both the basal metabolic rate and the energy your body needs for physical activity and the digestion of food.

Can I lose weight with a higher basal metabolic rate?

A higher basal metabolic rate means that your body needs more calories to maintain all basic functions. In principle, you can maintain or reduce your weight with a higher basal metabolic rate. A low basal metabolic rate, on the other hand, can make it harder for you to lose weight and may even cause you to gain weight. It is a little more complicated for people who are severely overweight. They have a higher basal metabolic rate than people with a lower body weight. This is because their fatty tissue needs more energy.

Paradoxically, a higher basal metabolic rate can mean that exercise contributes less to weight loss in people who are overweight than in slim people. The reason for this is that their resting metabolic rate drops more sharply with increased exercise in order to compensate for the additional energy consumption. In extreme cases, this means that you gain weight instead of losing it, because your total metabolic rate remains the same or even decreases. But don’t worry, it won’t stay that way.

How can I increase my basal metabolic rate?

The following measures will increase your basal metabolic rate:

Build muscle: The more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate and the more calories you burn even at rest. Regular strength training can help to increase muscle mass and thus increase the basal metabolic rate.

More exercise and sport: Regular exercise and sport can increase your basal metabolic rate, as you build muscle during exercise (see above) and your body uses more energy to maintain its functions.

Balanced diet: A balanced diet that is rich in protein can help to increase your basal metabolic rate.

Sufficient sleep: Getting plenty of sleep is important for your health and can help to increase your basal metabolic rate, as the body uses energy during sleep to regenerate itself.

Reduce stress: Stress can influence the basal metabolic rate. Constant stress can cause your body to go into “fight or flight” mode and thus reduce your basal metabolic rate. You can increase your basal metabolic rate with relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or sport.

What happens if I reduce my basal metabolic rate?

You can lower your basal metabolic rate by consuming fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its basic functions. This may initially cause you to lose some weight. However, this quick and drastic way of losing weight is not permanent and is detrimental to your health: If you eat too little, your metabolism slows down and your muscle mass decreases. Too little energy can also impair the function of the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs.

The yo-yo effect occurs when, after a radical diet in which you consume very few calories, you return to your old eating habits and thereby gain weight again. The reason: During a diet, your body reduces its basal metabolic rate in order to get by on fewer calories. If you then eat normally again, your body burns fewer calories at rest and you gain weight more easily.

Lose weight healthily – this is how it works

To avoid the yo-yo effect, it is important that you eat a balanced diet when losing weight so that your basal metabolic rate and daily activities are adequately covered. It is also important to lose weight slowly and in a controlled manner and to ensure that you always consume enough calories to keep your body going.

A slow and controlled weight loss under the guidance of a doctor or nutritionist is usually the best way to lose weight healthily and sustainably.