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Why is my RMR more than I`m currently eating?

06/07/2011

Question:

I am a 28 year old woman and I am confused about the results of an RMR (resting metabolic rate) test I had done several months ago.

I have been eating around 200 to 300 (not a typo) calories a day for the past 6 years in an effort to maintain what would be described as a normal, or healthy weight. I am not overweight, but nor am I thin (I weigh 10 stone/63.5kg and am 5 foot 5 inches/1.5 meters). Whenever I eat even slightly more, I put on weight. (I have not included calories from alcohol in this amount as I don`t see any change in my weight when I vary the amount of alcohol I drink, but if I were to include them, my average daily calorie intake would be a maximum of 500 - 600 calories a day).

I have never seen this as normal and have been to various doctors on many occasions. I have always been told, however, that "Everyone is different. Some people just need fewer calories than others to function". I finally managed to get my RMR tested, something I thought would show scientifically how little I`m eating.

As I was under the impression that this test would basically show the number of calories that I am eating on a daily basis, I was incredibly strict with myself for the month before I had it done. I did not cheat or eat a little bit extra here or there as I thought this would show up in the results. So when it came back that my RMR is 1233 calories/24 hours I was baffled.

I have read posts on some online forums which suggest that RMR does not actually tell you how much you ARE eating, but how much you SHOULD be eating. Is this the case? And if not, why is my RMR so high? I know the calorific content of everything I eat inside out and there is no way I eat anywhere near that amount! Please help!

 

 

 

Answer:

The test of the RMR generally measures oxygen consumption; it is not a measure of eating at all. Based on the oxygen consumed, one can calculate the amount of calories burned. These can be calories from food or from fat, glycogen stores and muscle in your body. If you were doing anything but slow shallow breathing during the test, it might give a false reading. Someone more familiar with the test and the equipment used might have another explanation. 

 
With such a low calorie intake, your body has become very efficient at using the calories it is getting and has probably lowered your RMR to levels usually seen in starvation. The equipment used to test your RMR may be designed for measuring oxygen consumption in an individual not in starvation mode. 
 
How physically active are you? Your calorie intake suggests to me that you are a very sedentary person; and you may have some health issues including tiredness and various nutrient deficiencies. To improve your nutrition you need to ingest more calories from foods that are nutrient dense. You may need a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement too. 
 
To prevent weight gain you should increase your physical activity when you increase your calorie intake, and don't go any more than 4-5 hours (except when you are sleeping) without eating something. This will jump start your metabolism and increase your RMR. 
 
Sit down with a nutrition professional in a face-to-race session and discuss your eating. Keep a record of your food and beverage intake (including time of day) AND your physical activity. The nutritionist/dietitian will then be in a better position to help you make positive eating changes, which in turn could clear up the discrepancy between your reported calorie intake and the RMR test results. 

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Response by:

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University