Excess body weight is often difficult to lose, yet easy to gain back. Those who successfully drop a significant amount of body weight often end up at the same weight or higher than they started. It has been suggested that a metabolic set point is to blame. Fortunately, this set point isn’t as fixed as once was thought.
The concept that each individual has her own metabolic set point has been around for decades. Studies have shown that when an individual is overfed or underfed in a controlled environment, weight change results but when the stimulus is removed, body weight returns to the starting level, according to the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Recent findings show that a genetically predetermined set point is overly simplified. Many other factors come into play, including food intake, energy expenditure and nutrient balance. By manipulating these factors, you can effectively raise or lower your metabolic set point.
Resting Metabolic Rate
Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories that burn daily without exercise. To determine what your predicted RMR is a standard mathematical equation is used: the Harris Benedict Formula. For males, take your body weight in kilograms and multiply by 13.8, now multiply your height in centimeters by 5, age in years by 6.8, add these three numbers together, and finally add 66.5 to determine your resting metabolic rate. For women, multiply body weight in kilograms by 9.6, height in centimeters by 1.8, age in years by 4.7, add these three numbers together, then add 655.1 to obtain the resting metabolic rate.
Total Daily Caloric Expenditure
To find out the calories burned daily with exercise, another step is taken. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle with little activity, multiply your RMR by 1.5. If you have a moderately active lifestyle, with a nonweight bearing job and light aerobic exercise, multiply RMR by 1.8. If you lead a vigorous lifestyle and are on your feet for most of the day, multiply RMR by 2.3.
A study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving overweight women found that calorie restriction did alter resting metabolic rate during times of reduced food intake. However, once energy balance was resumed, RMR returned to normal even for those who experienced significant weight loss. You can determine how many calories to cut back by using the RMR equation. Just remember, weight loss will change your RMR. Readjust your daily caloric intake accordingly.
University of Alabama researchers followed a group of women over the course of one year. The researchers determined that the women who gained significant weight during this period had a lower activity level than those who maintained or lost weight. One way to increase your daily activity level is to begin an exercise program. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine to raise your total daily caloric expenditure. Your metabolic set point should increase as a result.
- The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology: Role of Set Point Theory in Regulation of Body Weight
- Cornell University: Basal Energy Expenditure: Harris Benedict Equation
- "Food and Nutrition Technical Report Series"; Human Energy Requirements; Organization of the United Nations; 2001
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Do Adaptive Changes in Metabolic Rate Favor Weight Regain in Weight-Reduced Individuals? An Examination of the Set-Point Theory
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Free-Living Activity Energy Expenditure in Women Successful and Unsuccessful at Maintaining a Normal Body Weight