First, let’s start with “metabolism”. Your “metabolic rate” is the speed at which your body burns through calories. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories your body burns just to stay alive, like when you are sleeping. It doesn’t count getting up to go to the bathroom…just the amount of calories your body burns “not to be dead”! We’re talking the energy your body needs to repair cells, to breathe, to keep your heart beating, brain functioning, etc. Basal metabolic rate is the largest component of a person’s daily caloric expenditure. Most women have a BMR of 1200 to 1400 calories per day, and men will be slightly higher than that. It mostly depends on the amount of muscle tissue a person is carrying. You see, muscle tissue is metabolically active tissue – it burns calories just to stay alive, twenty-four/seven!!! Between the ages of twenty and forty years of age most people lose between five and fifteen pounds of calorie burning muscle. Therefore BMR is slowly decreasing as we age.
Now, let’s get to “DIETS”. Notice the first three letters of the word diet: “die”. Hmm…Most commercial diet centers, or diet programs will put you a relatively low calorie diet and may even cut out an entire food group (like carbs). When intake is close to or lower than BMR, the body will slow down its functions in order to be able to survive on the limited amount of incoming fuel. Low calorie diets cause the body to lose a lot of water. (Refer to previous articles for more information on the dangers of dehydration.) The body can give up a large amount of water in a relatively short period of time, like 6-10 pounds in a week. So you go on a diet and all of a sudden you are duped into thinking it must be working! When the body goes into starvation mode, it starts storing every little calorie it can as fat, and tries not to burn any fat in order to prevent you from eventually dying of starvation. (Scientifically, the body cannot lose anymore than 2 pounds of fat in a week’s time.) The body will actually start burning muscle tissue. Now, wait a minute. Muscle burns calories. Muscle cells are where fat is burned. We don’t want to be burning muscle, we want to be maintaining it and even getting more. The number on the scale is going down though. Want to know why? (Of course you do, that’s why you are reading this.) The same amount of muscle weighs five times more than the same amount of fat. It makes for quick temporary weight loss that slows your metabolism down. Within a matter of a short while you will actually start to gain the weight back. Does that sound familiar and isn’t it convenient for the diet industry? You don’t know that your body is rapidly retaining water in response to all the water it just lost, (which can be around 60% of the weight loss you will experience on a low-cal diet). And you don’t know that because you have lost muscle tissue you have just turned your body into a very efficient fat storing machine. You think it was the cookie, or the slice of bread you ate the other day!! You initially lost “weight” with their diet, so you are led to believe that it “worked”. So, what do most people do? Go back on the diet!!! Can you hear that…”Cha-ching…Cha-ching”, the ring of the cash registers at the diet center, the book store, and behind the scenes of the infomercials. Returning to the diet causes your body to adjust your BMR even lower now and you continue to lose more muscle. Then, you again will regain water and pack on fat, think it was your fault, feel like a failure and either return to the diet or give up all together. This is the only industry that I know of where people fail to get what they’ve paid for and blame themselves!
Arm yourself with the simple truth. The real way to decrease body fat permanently, to increase your metabolism and turn your body into a fat burning machine is to eat supportive meals frequently, engage in moderate aerobic exercise and remember muscle. We will break down each of these components in upcoming articles.