Calories Decisions: Using your BMR Effectively

Table full of fruit and vegetables
January 12, 2017

Brad Seng


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For individuals looking to lose weight or lean out, and add healthy lean muscle mass, knowing and understanding one's BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate) is a critical value as a starting point.  In general terms, BMR is the energy expenditure associated to maintain normal/baseline bodily functions. It represents the calories we need to consume to simply exist.  It differs from each individual based upon one's overall health and wellness, size, general activity levels outside of structured training or exercising and it decreases with age.  For example, a 25 year-old open space and mountain parks worker who does manual labor rebuilding trails will typically have a higher BMR than a 40 year-old software engineer who works at a desk.  While there are several apps to help generate a ballpark BMR, the most effective way would be a visit with a certified sports nutritionist.

appleOnce the BMR is established many people believe eating below that value is the key to shedding pounds.  While this may lead to temporary weight loss it is typically unsustainable and may even lead to long-term health issues.  When eating below our BMR for an extended period of time we will unknowingly enter a "danger zone" prompting the shut down of vital bodily functions with the kidneys and liver.  Remember, BMR is the calories needed to sustain normal functions in our body.  If we continue to eat below our BMR our bodies actually go into "survival/starvation" mode in which fat begins to be stored as the body breaks down lean muscle mass.  Within this cycle our bodies do not have the necessary calories/energy to function normally prompting a slow down in metabolism and fat's primary role becomes protection.  It will be used for fuel as a last resort with carbohydrate stores (glycogen) being used first, then muscle tissue.  Some common symptoms in this state include feeling tired, lethargic and sloth-like.  This physiological process is the exact opposite of what we want to occur with weight loss and is kind of like swimming upstream!

appleA more effective and healthier approach would be to work from one's total energy expenditure which includes the BMR, training/exercising needs and the thermic effect of foods (energy expenditure your body has when digesting food).  Generally speaking eating below 1,200 calories per day can be dangerous.  Even when eating below one's total energy expenditure the focus should be on nutrient dense foods versus calorie dense foods.  A consistent intake of nutrient dense carbohydrates (whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, potatoes, fruits, veggies), lean protein and healthy fats with proper timing throughout the day will help regulate blood sugar levels and keep one's metabolism running efficiently as possible.  Take advantage of the D3 nutrition services to ensure you are effectively fueling your body for overall health and performance!


• Get assessed, don't guess

• Eat 200-500 calories above your BMR

• Eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day

• Avoid processed foods/refined sugars

• Stay hydrated

• Get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours/day for most adults)

Written by Coach Brad Seng. Coach Brad has coached variety of athletes for over 10 years, and he shares this: while there's no substitute for consistent training and proper nutrition, a strong fitness base is just one part of the equation!

Coach Brad Seng enjoys working with athletes of all abilities who set a variety of personal goals. He understands difficult training days. Challenging days and subpar workouts are inevitably part of the triathlon landscape, as are the times when you’re feeling great and everything clicks. He believes there are lessons to be learned from experiencing both. Sometimes having to fight for a workout is just what’s needed to achieve an important breakthrough in mental conditioning.  

Coach Brad is a USA Triathlon Certified Level II, USA Triathlon Certified Youth & Junior, Training Peaks Level 2 Certified Coach and NESTA Certified Sports Nutritionist (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association).

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