Basal Metabolic Rate: What is it and how to measure it?

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What is Basal metabolic rate?

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) represents the minimum amount of calories needed by your body to perform basic functions.

Even when you’re not physically active, your body still uses energy to carry out essential tasks required to keep you alive such as:

  • Breathing
  • blood circulation
  • processing nutrients
  • creating new cells

How is basal metabolic rate different from resting metabolic rate?

The terms basal metabolic rate (BMR) and resting metabolic rate (RMR) are frequently used interchangeably. BMR refers to the minimum number of calories necessary for basic body functions while at rest, while RMR (also known as resting energy expenditure or REE) refers to the calories burned by your body while at rest.

Even though there is a slight difference between BMR and RMR, your RMR should provide an accurate estimation of your BMR.

How to estimate BMR?

A commonly used method for calculating basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the Harris-Benedict formula, which considers factors such as weight, height, age, and gender.

For Women:

BMR = 655 + (9.6 × weight in kg) + (1.8 × height in cm) – (4.7 × age in years)

For Men:

BMR = 66 + (13.7 × weight in kg) + (5 × height in cm) – (6.8 × age in years)

Why you might want to know your BMR

Understanding your BMR can assist you in achieving weight-related goals, such as gaining, losing, or maintaining weight. By determining the number of calories you burn, you can calculate how many calories you need to consume. In other words:

  • If your goal is to maintain your weight, consume the same amount of calories that you burn.
  • If your goal is to gain weight, consume more calories than you burn.
  • If your goal is to lose weight, consume fewer calories than you burn..

How many calories you need everyday

Once you have used the Harris-Benedict formula to estimate your BMR, the next stage is to account for the number of calories you burn during your daily routine, depending on your lifestyle:

  • Sedentary: If you have minimal or no physical activity, multiply your BMR by 1.2.
  • Lightly active: If you exercise lightly one to three times per week, multiply your BMR by 1.375.
  • Moderately active: If you exercise in moderate exercise three to five times per week, multiply your BMR by 1.55.
  • Very active: If you exercise in hard exercise six to seven times per week, multiply your BMR by 1.725.
  • Extra active: If you exercise in very intense exercise six to seven times per week or have a physically demanding job, multiply your BMR by 1.9.

The final number is an estimation of the number of calories you require daily to maintain your weight. However, it is important to note that this is just an estimate.

A 2007 study indicated that incorporating factors such as body composition, weight history, and other variables that influence BMR would make the formula more precise.

How you can change your BMR

Several factors contribute to determining your BMR, including:

  • Sex
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Weight history
  • Body composition
  • Genetic factors

You have the ability to modify your weight and body composition among these factors. Therefore, if you intend to alter your BMR, your initial approach should be to shed weight and build muscle.

According to a 2010 review, resistance training can help enhance lean body mass composition while preserving a reduction in fat mass, leading to an increase in BMR.


Knowing your BMR, regular physical activity level, and the number of calories required to sustain your weight is crucial to taking an active role in your physical well-being.

Regardless of whether you want to maintain your current weight, gain weight, or lose weight, determining your BMR is a beneficial starting point.

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