How to Increase BMR
With Strength Training
and Nutrition
July 20 2016

Here at the Dogpound we carry heavy things. We hit the giant tire with hammers. We smash. We sweat. We press. We deadlift. Strength training is a huge part of what we do.

Sure, we lift because we love to see our muscles ripple in the mirror. And we love the feeling of being so strong there isn’t a jar on earth we struggle to open.

But there is another benefit to strength training: raising BMR.

What is BMR?

BMR stands for “Basal Metabolic Rate” and is the amount of energy you expend when you aren’t doing anything at all. Basically, the amount of energy you use when you spend the entire day simply lying in bed, not eating, not moving, and not using your body in any conscious way.

This energy, in the form of calories, is what your body uses to breathe, pump blood, blink, control body temperature, make new cells, and support the brain, nerves, and muscles. In fact, BMR constitutes the majority of your daily caloric burn, making up about 70% of your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE. The higher the BMR, the more energy your body burns.  

While your BMR does depend on your genetics, sex and age, and there isn’t a whole lot you can do to change those things, there are a few things that can increase your number.

Why Knowing Your BMR is Important:

Whether your goals are to lose weight (decrease body fat), gain weight (gain lean muscle mass), or simply stay the same (maintain weight), knowing your BMR can help you achieve them. If you find that despite exercising, eating well, and having a healthy lifestyle you have plateaued in your weight goals, BMR might provide you (and your trainers) a clue toward figuring out what you can do differently.

There are plenty of websites that offer information on how to calculate your BMR such as this one from our friends at Daily Burn. Once you know your number, work on making it bigger!

Ways to Increase BMR:

  1. Strength Training: Build More Muscle Mass

Strength training is a great way to increase BMR. Muscle cells burn energy more efficiently than fat cells, even when at rest, so having higher percentage of muscle to fat will make your body burn calories more efficiently. Even when resting muscles don’t seem like they are doing anything, they are helping to burn calories.

Strength training becomes especially important as you age. A study published in 1998 by the American Society for Nutritional Services found that the ability to produce new muscle protein starts to diminish at as early as 50 years. Combat this by creating a regular fitness routine that includes weights and strength training. You may not be able to set the clock back, but you can definitely slow it down.

  1. Calorie Consumption: Sometimes Less is More

If you are one of those people that seem to have a very slow metabolism, where when you look at a muffin sideways you gain 15 pounds, you’re in luck! Your metabolism is extremely efficient. Your body uses less energy to function.

If your body uses less energy, it needs less energy making materials. Namely, food.

Way back in the day, when humans were a predominately hunter/gatherer species, food was scarce. For the folks who had slower metabolisms, food took much longer to digest. Their bodies spent less energy to perform required functions (like chasing mammoths or running from lions, probably). This was a great advantage since they needed less food and there wasn’t a whole lot of food to go around. Humans with faster metabolisms digested quickly. They needed more energy to maintain their regular bodily functions. They were hungry all the time.

Now, though, we have more resources here in the US than we know what to do with. Those slow metabolisms that were so beneficial to our ancient ancestors are a giant pain in the you-know-what to us in the modern age. We have so much food in front of us on a daily basis, that when we eat everything, our bodies can’t keep up the burn.

Our bodies naturally hoard energy.

The extra calories we eat but don’t burn are converted into stored energy. In other words, they become fat cells. You know, for just in case all the food disappears.

When you are trying to lose weight, take into account your activity levels. Calculate your active metabolic rate, the TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), by adding the calories you burn during exercise to your BMR. Then, subtract approximately 500 calories. This will give you a pretty good estimate for how many calories you should be eating in order to lose weight.

  1. Increase Calorie Burn: Jumpstart Your Metabolism with Nutrition

While it may seem like restricting your diet and eating very little would be beneficial to weight loss, it actually is the opposite.

What this means is that when human beings are presented with too few calories, our bodies go into starvation mode. (Remember our hunter gatherer ancestors.) Our metabolism slows down to make sure we have enough energy to function–sometimes slowing it up to 30%. When even that isn’t enough, our bodies start to burn the second best energy source after food: muscles.

Burning your muscles lowers your BMR, which in turn lowers your TDEE, which means you don’t use as much energy throughout the day. Your metabolism slows down. You see how this works?

Eating certain foods can help increase your metabolism. Protein, for example, takes more energy to digest than fats or carbohydrates, and also helps your muscles grow and recover after a workout. Complex carbohydrates high in fiber, such as vegetables, beans or brown rice, also take longer to digest, increasing your TDEE or overall calorie burn throughout the day.

The goal is to get your body to burn its own energy stores.

Eating enough calories–not too few and not too many–and choosing foods that take longer to digest will give your metabolism a little boost, helping with your weight management routine and make sure your BMR doesn’t slow to a snail’s pace.

 

Resources:

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Metabolic Adaptation to Weightloss

How to Calculate Your BMR from Daily Burn

University of Maryland: Effect of Strength Training on Resting Metabolic Rate

University of Illinois: Breaking Down Your Metabolism

Essays in Biochemisty: Improving Muscle Mass

University of New Mexico: Resistance Training

University of New Mexico: Controversies in Metabolism

University of New Mexico: Exercise Afterburn

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