Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Burn baby, burn

There are few things that would be meaner than:

a) telling me that I can't have a cup of coffee in the morning;

b) telling me that I cannot have a pet dolphin in my above ground pool;

c) telling me that not only can I not run, I can't walk either;

d) telling me that I can't eat within half-hour of getting up.

In preparation of this morning, I was told three of those. The other was a mandate from my parents. Actually ... one of them falls in both categories.

Bitches. All of them.

This morning, I went to Lutheran Hospital Weight Management Center to have my resting metabolic rate tested.

I had first heard that mere mortals could take part in such testing after reading a post from Racing With Babes. TMB had been trying to lose some stubborn pounds and despite a good diet and incredible training, the weight stayed around. She had her metabolism tested and found that she was not eating enough. She was, for all intents and purposes, starving her body.

The post really struck home. Despite efforts to lose the remainder of the Miles lbs., I have remained the same weight for months. I recognize that my diet could be better, cleaner, but I also know that I am eating well enough and sticking to a calorie range that should allow me to lose a half-pound a week In these efforts to regain my post-baby body, I had broken up with Weight Watchers, cheated on MyFitnessPal and lived as a single gal for brief periods.

I told the weight loss tools, "Yes, it is you" but maybe I should have said, "It's not you. It's me. Really." At least that's what I hoped when I discovered that the local hospital offers MedGem testing for a reasonable cost ($54).

About the test (source):
MedGem® is a small hand-held device that measures an individual’s resting metabolic rate through oxygen consumption. A person’s RMR is the amount of calories the body burns throughout the day in order to function properly. In essence, it is the minimum amount of calories a person needs to consume per day. Daily activities will lead to the body burning additional calories which are not included in the RMR results.
resting metabolic rate test

The test is relatively painless. A clip is placed on your nose and you breathe through a mouthpiece (new, out of a sealed bag if you are concerned about that sort of thing). You breathe into the machine normally for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the machine beeps. The data from the test is transmitted to the computer system and based on your height, weight, activity level and goals, an exercise physiologist will make suggestions for calorie intake and diet. The whole appointment takes about a half-hour.

So what were my results? A bit surprising but not; a bit disappointing except not.

My resting metabolic rate is 1,330 - meaning that if I sat all day long and did no exercise that I would need to eat 1,330 calories to maintain my weight. The number seems ridiculously low to me but the exercise physiologist assured me that it was not. In fact, by test standards, I have a high metabolism. I never thought anyone would ever say this about me. Ever. She said, though, that my high metabolism is more than likely a result of lean muscle tissue and my small build (again with a phrase I didn't think would describe me).

To lose those pesky 5 pounds that I want gone for the sake of vanity only, I would need to eat 1,300 to 1,500 calories a day. I've been eating between 1,600 and 2,000 calories a day and thought it was reasonable to lose weight on the lower end of that spectrum. However, I've merely been maintaining my weight. The exercise physiologist recommended that I stay on the high end of the budget given, given my activity level, and that I should strive to lose no more than a half-pound per week as to not affect my training. She also emphasized that my BMI and estimated body fat percentage were well with the healthy range.

I have to say that I was a bit surprised by the recommendations. Though the exercise physiologist recognized that I'm training for 5+ hours a week and maybe more intensely than the computer program could factor in, I don't think it's feasible nor safe for me to eat 1,300 calories a day. I eat about five to six times a day, and a budget of 1,300 calories would give me less than 225 calories per mini meal. That's a Clif bar - a pre-BODYPUMP snack on Saturdays. I think the 1,500 calories is feasible with careful planning and only on days when I'm running less.

My reaction to the results begs the question: Do I really want to do what's required to lose the weight? And, I'm a bit surprised to say, my answer is no. While I know I need to be mindful of sugar and there's room for improvement, my focus is on staying healthy and strong for the marathon. Not only that but I want to do that with joy. Food might not be the key to happiness but hunger sure doesn't make you feel good.

Part of me really thought that I would be told that I wasn't eating enough. It wouldn't be unfounded that  increasing my caloric budget would spike a sagging metabolism and melt off the weight. So much for that thought.

If there was a larger picture to be seen from the test, it's that you cannot take your activity level for granted. The exercise physiologist said that my metabolism is unlikely to change unless I start to eat without abandon or I stop moving entirely. And while I will see a change in a few years - the dreaded 35-40 range - I can combat it with exercising. However, exercise and, by proxy,  marathon training does not equal a free for all. Even with 5+ hours of vigorous exercise a week, low body fat and a high metabolism, I can't eat 3,000 calories a day.

And while I'm not going to be changing my diet of as drastically as I thought I might after the test, it really brought a renewed emphasis to the importance of eating well and exercise.


  1. This is really interesting, I'd love to get my resting metabolic rate tested too.

  2. That is really strange. I would think that with running AND BodyPump you'd need more than 1300 calories, especially if you have a high metabolism, and even if you're trying to lose weight.

    I thought your reaction was SO good though - that it's not worth it to be hungry and cranky all the time and that it's more about being healthy, strong, and keeping joyful.

  3. This is super interesting! and kinda confusing. I wish there was a place around here I could take that test.

  4. Wow, that is really interesting. 1300 calories is nothing. That's what I used to eat when I was insane and unhealthy trying to lose the 21 I put on at 21 after college. Even 1500 seems like nothing, especially with running and BodyPump. Good for you for focusing more on being happy than reaching a superficial number on the scale. You look amazing!

    I wonder where I can have the testing done around here....hmmm.

  5. This is all so very interesting! Thanks for posting about this at length and to quote the other commenter's, I wonder where I can get that done around here?!?!

  6. I have definitely wanted to do this too and I agree when I complain about vanity lbs then I wonder if I am willing to do what's required

  7. I would be in the same boat. Hoping that mine would come back that I wasn't eating enough. I notice when my mileage picks up so does my hunger for sure. It is REALLY hard to "diet" when you're running longer. Such a double edged sword and really it shouldn't be. I am really tempted to look into similar testing. Really loved hearing about your experience and especially your take aways.

  8. Interesting. I am so pregnant now and at 25 weeks, I seemed to be kinda big. You aerie as motivation for losing the baby weight. While I enjoy being pregnant, I cannot wait to get back to exercising with some kind of intensity.

  9. That's not too exciting to hear. I have my suspicions that I would hear something similar. It would be so interesting to have that tested!