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The Importance of Resting Metabolism


Most of us have heard the term “resting metabolism,” but may not know what it is and why it’s important. “Cutting calories alone to lose weight just won’t cut it by Angie Ferguson (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/8/21, 6E) explains the term in easy-to-understand language. Am I blogging on this subject to encourage you to lose weight or even focus on weight? I am not. But if you’re to understand how your body works in terms of nourishment in and energy out, resting metabolism is part of the picture. 

“Metabolism is the daily energy expenditure of three components: resting metabolic rate, the thermal effect of food, and energy we expend during physical activity.” Your basic metabolic rate is called resting because it’s the number of calories you need to survive. It’s the energy consumption rate of your body simply breathing and doing all the internal machinations it does.

Says Ferguson, “…when we consume too few calories to support basic functions the body simply slows everything down because it doesn’t have enough energy to function properly.” This is how our bodies have evolved to survive and they are very good at this kind of energy conservation. She goes on to say that “Extremely low-calorie diets don’t necessarily burn more body fat.” Rather, they burn muscle and losing muscle will cause your metabolism to decline rapidly.

This means that if you’re looking for an exercise program, you’ll want one that increases muscle because it will change your body composition in a healthy way. The activities you want include strength or resistance training which builds lean muscle or at least keeps it status quo. This is especially true if you’re eating less due to better connecting to appetite or choosing less caloric foods in order to eat more nutritiously.

There are all sorts of ways to exercise without getting a fancy gym membership. You can buy weights and resistance bands for home use. Around here (Sarasota, Florida) Play It Again Sports has used and fairly low-cost equipment. So does Goodwill. Google strength or resistance training and you’ll find oodles of easy exercises you can do at home. These are especially useful in order to build bone for women (like me) who have or are prone to osteopenia or osteoporosis. You can get a pedaling machine to use while you’re binge-watching TV. You can even do chair exercises. 

The important point is to recognize the need to build lean muscle and the part it plays in your overall health. It’s not about losing weight but increasing strength. Who wouldn’t want to do that?