A Publication of WTVP

Imagine trying to balance your checkbook without tracking your deposits and withdrawals. Impossible, right? This is just like starting a weight management program without keeping track of the amount of food/calories you consume (deposits) and the amount of calories your body expends (withdrawals).

Weight management is really a matter of simple arithmetic-balancing the number of calories in against the number of calories out. If you know how many calories you're burning, you'll know how many calories you can eat to obtain your weight management goals. This is where accurate measurement and monitoring of metabolism can help.

Metabolism is the body's process of converting food into energy to keep the body running and fuel daily activities. Your resting metabolic rate represents the number of calories your body burns to maintain vital body functions such as heart rate, brain function, and breathing. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) can represent up to 75 percent of a person's total metabolism. About 20 percent of RMR is accounted for by the brain and nervous system. The liver utilizes about 32 percent, while the heart and lungs each take about 10 percent of total calories. The kidneys make up about 7 percent of the RMR, and other tissues consume the remaining 21 percent.

The precise physiological measure of your RMR can be shaped by the following: gender, body mass, heredity, activity level, diet, current weight, and age. Metabolism slows as we age, probably because muscle atrophies about half a pound a year after age 25. If you don't use it, you lose it. Because of this, strength training is critical for people with a weight-control problem. "If you're only doing aerobics, you're missing the boat," said Wayne Westcott, co-author of Specialized Strength Training. Experts say every pound of lean muscle added to your frame from a strength training regimen burns an additional 30 to 50 calories each day.

Reducing calories or changing exercise patterns can affect your metabolism. Understanding these changes and modifying your daily calorie budget will help you stay on track. Thomas Wadden, director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania, presents studies that show people are notoriously bad at accurately tracking calories. In fact, lean people underestimate their daily calories by about 20 percent, while overweight people underestimate their calories by about 40 percent. The answer, of course, is figuring out how many calories are enough, which requires an accurate measurement of RMR.

Once you measure RMR, you'll know more precisely how your body uses energy. This will enable you to design a program of nutrition and exercise to meet your individual weight management goals. Balancing the number of calories in and the number of calories out through metabolic measurements is the key to success. IBI