How can I measure resting metabolic rate and how many calories do I burn are common questions in our nutrition counseling practice.

As a new intern at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, one of the first things I noticed around the office was the amount of seemingly complicated equipment: blood-sugar kits, scanners, machines with dozens of buttons and wires. Not wanting to be left out of the 21st century, I am determined to master each one, and last week, I had the opportunity to try out the RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) test.

Our bodies are constantly working: to move our legs when we are walking the dog, to digest the food we ate for lunch, and to constantly pump blood and keep our lungs breathing, even while we sleep. So it is no wonder that we all need to consume a certain number of calories each and every day, but what is that “certain number?” And is it different for everyone?

Measure resting metabolic rate

The answer to the latter is yes, and while many make use of faulty online calculators to find their “magic number,” I am suggesting that you give RMR testing a try. One of the most important factors in losing weight is knowing one’s personal RMR, because this is the basis from which we can develop a range of calories that will ensure a steady weight loss. With so much misinformation out there (like the 1200-calorie myth), it is easy to get the wrong idea about how many calories one really needs. The RMR test, however, considers all factors such as age, height, and lifestyle factors to deliver the most accurate results. That number is then multiplied by another number depending on how active one is (see chart below). So how does the test work? Last Tuesday, I found out.

measure resting metabolic rate

Unlike a test for BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), I did not have to sleep in a testing facility for 8 hours prior, nor did I have to fast for 12 hours. This test only required that I didn’t exercise for 24 hours prior, and fasted for 4-5 hours, which, if planned around a mealtime, can be very reasonable. I was seated in a comfortable chair and instructed to place a nose clamp over my nose and breathe directly into a tube, the other end of which was plugged into the machine. Although the nose clamp at first felt a little funny, I soon relaxed and found it really enjoyable to simply rest for 10 minutes and focus on nothing else but my breathing. The results were quick (the whole test took under 20 minutes) and very detailed. I was provided with my RMR, my weight-loss range, even the number of times on average that I breathed per minute! My mentor Shelley went over the numbers and explained how I would then apply them if I were to begin a weight-loss plan. Easy as that.

Compare actual measure resting metabolic rate

Just for fun, I took my personal number that night and compared it to the number I got from an online RMR calculator. The online calculator was off by over 400 calories! In the often tricky battle of weight maintenance and weight loss, I know that that much difference can be detrimental to success. So for all of you out there who have been struggling to lose weight, consider finding your magic number by getting your RMR tested, the right way!  For more information on the equipment that we use to measure resting metabolic rate, take a look at this website.

Activity Factor Category Definition
1.2 Sedentary Little or no exercise and desk job
1.375 Lightly Active Light exercise or sports 1-3 days a week
1.55 Moderately Active Moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days a week
1.725 Very Active Hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week4
1.9 Extremely Active Hard daily exercise or sports & physical job

RMR measures calories burned at rest

We can help you measure resting metabolic rate.

For more information about how dietitians can measure your resting metabolic rate, take a look at this blog.  Our dietitians can measure your resting metabolic rate in any of our nutrition counseling offices in Greenbelt, Columbia, Rockville and Annapolis, MD.

Contact us to schedule your resting metabolic test.

Bog reviewed and updated September 2020.

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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.

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