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Knowing your resting metabolic rate can guide your diet

By Christie Melhorn, June 2, 2017 —

In a world catered to a 2,000-calorie diet, numbers on food labels can be misrepresentative of individual dietary needs. While many let grams and percentages rule their diets, knowing your optimal caloric intake can enhance your well-being.

After feeling sluggish and ravenous for a few weeks despite eating “healthy” and exercising, I knew something was up. To figure it out, I went to TCR Sports Lab in downtown Calgary to test my resting metabolic rate (RMR) and meet with a nutritionist.

RMR reflects the calories needed to maintain basic bodily functions, such as breathing and blood circulation, at complete rest. This number varies based on sex, height, weight, activity levels and other health factors — notably stress.

The “sugar is bad for you, eat your veggies” spiel is well-known. However, inadequate amounts of high quality carbs, fats and protein can trigger anxiety and depression — or just leave you feeling like total crap, like I did after months of overtraining and undereating.

As an anxious person with minimal formal athletic training, I was nervous about going to TCR — especially coming from a damaging relationship with diet and exercise. However, my desire to understand and heal my body trumped my insecurities.

Photo by Unsplash

Photo by Unsplash

My nerves lightened when I entered the building, tucked away on a quiet stretch of 10 Ave. SW. The space itself is welcoming. The industrial vibe is warmed by pops of yellow and cycling equipment lining the walls.

I was greeted by Thalia Edwards, the exercise physiologist and strength coach conducting my test. After filling out paperwork, Edwards took me to a private room where I was weighed and fitted with a silicon face mask connected to a computer monitor.

The RMR reading is the least demanding of TCR’s tests, which range from running gait analyses to functional movement screenings. I just had to sit in a cozy desk chair for 30 minutes while my metabolic activity was read.

This might sound cushy and pleasant. But for me, it was a difficult experience. My body was in a state of panic triggered by fasting. I fought against ripping off the mask and diving into my pre-packed breakfast. I forced myself to read a local fitness magazine but only processed a few sentences here and there.

When the test was finally done, Edwards showed me the results. My RMR came in at 1,526 calories — a normal and healthy amount for my height, weight and age. However, 58 per cent of the time, my body’s preferred fuel source is carbs and sugar. The other 42 per cent of the time it relies on fats.

These numbers aren’t particularly unusual. However, my “sugar-burner” status explained my cravings and constant hunger. Primarily burning carbs destabilizes blood sugar, causing headaches, hunger and moodiness.

This made me confront my fear of high-fat foods — and that I was consuming ridiculous amounts of sweet potato. Edwards could sense that I was nervous and affirmed that my metabolism is in good standing. She offered me workout ideas to rebalance the numbers, such as fasted cardio. Her support and compassion was reassuring.

TCR’s sense of urgency and efficiency is impressive. Immediately after going over my results, Edwards booked me an appointment for the following week with a nutritionist to form a meal plan based on the test metrics.

Though I have yet to receive my nutritional plan, my experience with TCR has offered relief. Admittedly, their services are costly and out of most student’s budget range. But depending on your health care coverage and medical needs, some of their services can be covered.

As romantic as it might sound, a more intimate mind-body connection can improve your well-being in ways you may have never considered. A higher-functioning mind can inspire greater creative thinking and stronger engagement with your surroundings. Improved physical functioning can help you act on creative impulses and turn them into something tangible.

There is a lot to learn about how diet and exercise shape our lives. Modern science can’t reflect exactly what our bodies experience, but quantifiable information at least offers insight about your individual needs.

For more information on TCR, click here.

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