First: How Basal Metabolic Rate indicators LIE
Various online calculators will invariably spit out their basal metabolic rate based on their current weight, their height, and their age. For someone who is Age 56 and is 5’11”, that comes to:
167 lbs: 1,627 calories per day
267 lbs: 2,250 calories per day
Apparently, they want you be believe someone who is 100 lbs overweight will burn off an addition 623 calories per day just sitting there.
Are you buying that? I’m not buying it…
If a 267 lb, 5’11” 56 year old male were lugging around 100 extra pounds all day, that COULD burn off an extra 623 calories as compared to his much thinner self, but ONLY if his activity level included a fair amount of walking, going up and down the stairs, and moving stuff around. I would only be true if his activity level were roughly the same as his 100-lb lighter self.
Typically, however, people who are 100 lbs overweight are not likely to be doing anywhere near as much movement as their 100-lb lighter selves would do! Therefore, using the higher metabolic rate is simply wrong. Worse, it’s misleading, and in a way that can get them or keep them in serious medical trouble.
If a 100-lb overweight individual plugs their numbers into some online calculator that tells them their “Basal Metabolic Rate” is 2,250 calories per day, they’re likely to eat that much thinking they’ll be losing weight at the higher calorie intake.
In fact, they’re likely to be overeating by around 623 calories simply because they’re significantly more sedate than their 100-lb lighter selves.
Here’s WHY online basal metabolic calculators are wrong:
Basal metabolic rate calculators, aerobic fitness calculators, sub-maximal aerobic capacity tables, and similar products are almost always based on maximum aerobic capacity fitness tests conducted before 1960. These tests uses healthy subjects, largely members of the military.
Very few of these were conducted on either sedate or highly active people who were 30, 50, 70,100 lbs or more overweight. Rather, the vast majority of the data has been extrapolated from people who had less than 25% total body fat, and the average was around 9% body fat for males and 12% body fat for females.
When they extrapolated the data, they also extrapolated lean muscle mass, bone weight, and organ weight. Again, just because you’re 100 lbs overweight doesn’t mean your muscles are going to be larger or more active, your bones are going to be larger, and your internal organs aren’t likely to be any larger at all.
Here’s the RIGHT way to approach the issue of basal metabolic rate:
If you were at a healthy, non-anorexic weight when you were between 18 and 30 years of age, and you knew both your weight and % body fat at that time, and your % body fat was less than 20%, then use that weight as the input to find your basal metabolic weight. It will produce a significantly lower basal metabolic rate, one commensurate with your actual frame size, your muscle size when you’re slim and trim, and your organs.
This significantly lower metabolic rate is what you should use in your dietary requirements calculations.
If you use the one calculated based on your overweight condition, you are very likely to wind up eating too much and you may never lose weight!
The other thing I see at the gym are those who peddle for an hour on a resistance setting of 3 while reading a book and think they’re getting any exercise AT ALL.
They are NOT. Well, perhaps a little, but hardly any muscular exercise, nor hardly any aerobic exercise, either.
SECOND: Aerobics Done RIGHT
The ONLY way to ascertain your aerobic rate of exercise is to keep constant track of your heart rate. This is WHY every piece of aerobic gym equipment over the last 20 years comes standard with electrical contact handles through which the machine measures your heart rate.
Speaking of heart rate, here’s a handy little chart you can use to ensure you’re always exercising at your appropriate heart training range.
WARNING: ALWAYS consult your medical doctor before beginning any exercise program, particularly if you haven’t exercised in a while, if you’ve gained significant weight, or have experienced any medical issues.
WARNING: If you are obese, have a heart condition or any other medical condition, DO NOT USE. Instead, consult with your doctor.
Here’s THE CHART (click to enlarge):
How to Use the Chart (works for machines with between 10 and 25 total levels of resistance).
- Enter the chart with your age. If you’re unsure of your age, consult with your doctor, as you may be daft or way too young and shouldn’t be doing anything without proper adult supervision.
- Drop down until you hit the green 80% line. This is your ideal heart rate for steady aerobic conditioning. Do NOT exceed it until after you’ve exercised 30 min per day, 3x per week for a month! Seriously, consider this a maximum, for now. After you’ve worked your way up toning and conditioning your heart muscle GENTLY and consistantly for a month or two, then you can move on to Interval Training. If you fail to heed this warning, you could DAMAGE your heart. That’s NOT good, could cause permanent damage, and may prove FATAL.
- Start your machine on the lowest resistance setting, and pedal or walk at a comfortable pace.
- Increase the resistance setting by 1 for each minute of exercise. When your heart rate hits your 80% (green) level, make a note of your resistance setting and immediately reduce your resistance by 4 levels until your heart rate drops to the 75% (cyan) point. The setting you were one when your heart rate hit 80% (green) becomes your Upper Resistance Setting.
- It’s normal for your heart rate to climb 5 beats per minute for half a minute or so after you reduce the resistance setting. If it continues to climb further or you’re feeling out of breath, reduce the resistance all the way to the lowest setting (1 or 0) and allow your heart rate to subside. Do NOT attempt again until after you’ve consulted with a professional trainer or your medical doctor!
- If your heart rate subsides to around the 75% (cyan) point with the resistance set 4 levels below your Upper Resistance Setting, however, then wait at least one minute or until you catch your breath, whichever is longer, before continuing.
- Slowly increase the resistance, this time only 1 level every two minutes, until you’re once again at your 80% (green) heart rate level.
- Adjust the resistance in small increments to maintain your heart rate at the 80% (green) heart rate level.
- After several minutes, you’ll find the resistance level at which your hear rate will remain at the 80% (green) heart rate level. This is your Cardio Resistance Setting.
- Sufficient exercise to establish and maintain basic aerobic conditioning consists of 30 minutes per day, 3 days per week, resting 1 to 2 days between sessions. Your heart rate should be at your 80% (green) level for 20 minutes, with about a 5-10 minute warmup and a 5 minute cool-down at a steadily-decreasing level of effort.
- Over time, as your muscles — including your heart muscles — become more conditioned, you will find it takes longer to reach your 80% (green) heart rate level and/or it may require a higher resistance level.
- Remember, there’s no hurry to reach your 80% (green) heart rate level! In fact, you WANT it to take 10 minutes. That’s HOW people warm up, and warming up is very important for reducing injuries!
- Cool-downs are important, to. You really don’t want to just stop while at your 80% (green) heart rate level and head to the lockers. You could suffer all kinds of problems, including, but not limited to syncopy (fainting). Take five minutes to cool down by putting the resistance level at successively lower levels. For example, if you’re at your 80% (green) heart rate level when the resistance is set to 10, then a good cool-down would be 1 minute each at resistance setting 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1. You’ll actually feel better when you’re done, too, as the cool-down tells your body to put all those workout chemicals and hormones back in place and gives it enough time to do so.
- INTERVALS: Interval Training is ONLY FOR ADVANCED i.e. people who are ALREADY physically fit! The 75% (cyan) and 85% (yellow) lines are your minimum and maximum heart rates for Interval Training. The idea is to do a proper warm-up, stabilizing at your 80% (green) heart rate level for at least 5 minutes. 10 minutes would be better! Once you’re “in the groove” and have “caught your second wind,” you can begin.
- INTERVALS: Begin by cutting the resistance substantially. Don’t drop it to 0, but rather, it should feel like you’re still working, but certainly low enough to catch your breath, as that’s exactly the purpose of the lower setting — to catch your breath. It should take between 30 seconds and 2 minutes for your heart rate to drop to your 75% (cyan) level. If you reach 75% in less than 30 seconds, your resistance is too law. If you don’t reach 75% in 2 minutes, you haven’t reduced your resistance enough.
- INTERVALS: When your heart rate falls to your 75% point, increase resistance to your Upper Resistance Setting. Remember, this is the setting from Step 4 that’s difficult enough to cause your heart rate to rise up to and beyond your 80% (green) heart rate level. You should then reach your 85% (yellow) heart rate between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. If you don’t reach your 85% (yellow) heart rate in 2 minutes, re-set the resistance for the bottom of your Interval cycle and head back down to your 75% heart rate level. While you’re catching your breath, consider adding just one more increment of resistance on your next Interval and see if that helps you achieve that 85% mark. Similarly, if you’re achieving 85% in too short a time, consider using less resistance.
- As always, never allow your heart rate to climb above 85%, as that’s anaerobic territory. It’s ok for building the bulk of other muscles, but you NEVER want to build your heart muscle into “bulk,” as enlarged hearts encounter all sorts of problems. Keep things within the aerobic range, please!
- SAFETY FIRST: Always consult your doctor. If you have any questions about the equipment, ask a trainer. Never push yourself harder than what your heart rate or being out of breath is telling you – NOTHING is worth damaging your heart!
CONCLUSION: By taking a slow, measured approach to aerobic conditioning, you can gradually and safely get back into shape so that you can maintain proper, healthy levels of aerobic conditioning for years to come!