by Lisa Breitenwischer, CHHC
Anyone who has tried to lose weight and keep it off knows how difficult the task can be. Why is this?
Weight loss often leads to declines in our resting metabolic rate, or how many calories we burn at rest, which makes it hard to keep the weight off. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) refers to all of the biochemical activity going on in your body when you are not physically active. It is this metabolic activity that keeps you alive and breathing, and very importantly, warm. For most people, 80% of the calories we expend each day are due to RMR.
So why does weight loss make resting metabolism rate go down?
According to research by the Clinical Science and Engineering Research Center at Binghamton University, when you lose weight, your RMR should fall a small amount, as you are losing some muscle tissue (more muscle increases RMR). If your weight loss is mostly fat, you would expect to see an even smaller drop in RMR, as fat is not metabolically very active. What is surprising is that relatively large drops in RMR are quite common among individuals who lose body fat through diet or exercise. Sometimes as much as a 30% drop. A simple calculation shows that making up for such a large drop in RMR would require almost two hours a day of brisk walking, seven days a week, on top of a person’s normal daily activities. Most people cannot fit this activity level into their lifestyle.
Is there a way to maintain a normal resting metabolic rate after weight loss?
Metabolic activity is dependent on oxygen delivery to the tissues of the body. This occurs through blood flow. The adult body contains about four to five liters of blood, and all of this blood should circulate throughout the body every minute or so. However, the amount of blood the heart can pump out with each beat is dependent on how much blood is returned to the heart between beats. The muscles responsible for pumping blood back to our heart are the Soleus muscles. They are found in the inner calf muscle and are commonly called “secondary hearts,”. These muscles pump blood back to our heart, allowing us to maintain our normal rate of metabolic activity during sedentary activities.
There’s no doubt eating a balanced diet and regular exercise are good for you, but from a weight management perspective, increasing your resting metabolic rate by activating the Soleus muscles may be the more effective strategy for losing weight and maintaining that lost weight. See diagram below.
Movement to Activate Soleus Muscle
Start your morning with a yoga pose called Viparita Karani” or translated- “legs up the wall”. You can actually do it in your bed, lying on your back and extending your legs towards the ceiling. If your hamstrings are tight, keep a soft bend in the knees. Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds or 1 minute. You can also do this against a wall for more support. The blood will start to move towards your heart, it’s an excellent pose to strengthen the walls of the blood vessels and arteries.
You could also try Downward Dog pose and peddle your feet, rolling up on the ball of one foot while pressing the opposite heel to the floor and working this movement back and forth.
If you sit quietly most of the day, you could “sit and lift”. Start with soles of the feet on the floor, press firmly down on to the balls of the feet and toes and lift your heels. Feel the calf muscle fire up and then release heels down to floor and lift the toes upward, and repeat throughout the day, whenever you think about it.