Metabolism, Weight Loss, and Muscle Growth
I recently received an email from a prospective client who is interested in making some big changes to his physique. To paraphrase, this fellow is wanting to lose a large amount of weight (50+ pounds) while building muscle at the same time. He also recently had his resting metabolic rate (RMR) measured (a service we offer at Gold’s Gym using indirect calorimetry) and would like to boost his RMR by 600 calories. His question to me was whether I could help him reach those goals through a carefully crafted meal plan. Here is my reply for your viewing pleasure! (Some details have been changed to protect the innocent…)
It sounds like you are serious about your goals! I would be happy to help you on your path, though I do want to clarify what may and may not be realistic, or at least what sort of results you can reasonably expect.
First of all, losing 50 pounds is definitely doable, though it will take time and commitment. Losing weight is all about controlling your calorie intake, eating a healthy diet, and moving your body. I can help you with all three of those action steps.
Regarding your metabolism, however, that is a harder factor to control. Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) can be attributed to a number of things–such as your height, weight, age, build, and gender. Studies have also shown that such lifestyle factors as sleep, meal pattern, and exercise can have an impact, however, the actual impact is not easily quantifiable. In addition, weight change can also impact RMR, though not always in an upward direction. Oftentimes a person who has lost a significant amount of weight requires fewer calories to maintain that smaller body and therefore may see a dip in their RMR. Certainly building muscle can help to offset this dip, but it may not completely prevent it from happening. In fact, a person who has lost 20 pounds of body fat would need to put on about 7 pounds of muscle just to keep their RMR unchanged.
While I cannot promise a specific change in your RMR, that is not the only aspect of metabolism. Your total calorie expenditure in a day is comprised of your RMR, any and all physical activity, and the thermic effect of food (the calories required for digestion). The latter two we can increase with a solid exercise plan and regular meals. Though your RMR may not be boosted to 2000 calories per day, we can certainly increase your daily calorie expenditure.
Finally, with regard to building muscle while losing weight, this is another feat that can be difficult. Theoretically, the body likes to be in a building mode or tearing down mode. To see the biggest gains in muscle growth, a surplus of calories is needed to provide the energy needed the build that tissue. But, to lose weight, a person must be in a deficit–eating fewer calories than they need for weight maintenance. In addition, when someone loses weight, they are not simply losing fat. Quite often, dieters lose a combination of muscle and fat as they shed pounds. Though this makes it seem that losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time would be impossible, all of us at Gold’s Gym see it happen. It happens easier for some than others. Of course, what you eat and how you work out will determine your success. A solid eating plan with the right nutrients and an exercise plan geared to your goals are essential. This is where working with a dietitian and a trainer can make all the difference.
Thanks so much for the email and please let me know what other questions you may have about this or about nutrition services at Gold’s Gym!