When it comes to losing, gaining, or maintaining your weight, it basically boils down to calories in versus calories burned. But how do you know, REALLY know, how many calories you are expending, or how many you should be consuming in order to meet your goals? If you are relying on your Fitbit, Apple Watch or other tracking device, you might have a general idea, but you might have also noticed discrepancies. After a treadmill run, for example, the machine often claims I have burned twice the number of calories indicated by my Apple Watch. It can be confusing.
In order to clear things up, I decided to try something called metabolic testing to get a more accurate, individualized picture of how many calories my body burns throughout the day. After breathing into a tube for 10 minutes (seriously that’s all there is to it) I learned that my metabolism is 11 points higher than the average person of my age, height, and weight. What that means is that I am burning through some fuel and need to be consuming around 1800 calories per day to sustain my level of activity if I want to maintain my weight, and my energy level----who knew?!
But before I could go out and blow 1800 calories on a burger and fries, I also learned what percentage of macros (carbs, proteins and fats) should make up those calories, when I should eat them, and how they could be combined for maximum efficiency. Sadly, a burger and fries wasn’t part of the equation.
Mikala Guillaume, a Registered Dietitian with H-E-B, administered my test and explained the results in a way that made it easy for me to understand, so we asked her a few questions about the benefits of metabolic testing and the difference it can make in your health and fitness goals. It’s a fast, easy, and affordable way to take control of your diet, and it’s available at many local H-E-B stores.
BA: What is metabolic testing?
MG: It’s a process where a patient comes in after resting and fasting, and breathes into a device called an indirect calorimeter. The machine measures oxygen intake and CO2 production to determine how many calories the individual burns while at rest--- the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). We also input the patient’s height, weight, gender, and age so that the test can provide the caloric burn for not only the activities of daily living, but also for 30 minutes of moderate exercise. It is individualized nutrition at its finest.
BA: Why does understating your RMR matter?
MG: Because it gives you the confidence of knowing what your calorie range should be on a daily basis. That’s empowering when you are trying to navigate your nutrition and fitness goals.
BA: How accurate are the results?
MG: Indirect calorimetry is the gold standard for measuring your RMR. Predictive formulas such as online calorie calculators are helpful, but this device is much more precise.
BA: How do you use the results in your daily life?
MG: Understanding your caloric needs is the first step in the process. You now know how many you should be eating per day based on whether you want to lose, maintain, or gain weight. We then recommend meeting with one of our registered dietitians to map out where those calories should be coming from. Macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) change from person to person depending on activity level, disease status, and other important factors. Mapping out the plan and structure is a huge part of assisting people in fueling correctly and meeting their goals.
BA: How often should you have it done?
MG: With my patients, I work in the mindset of, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” If we are seeing progress after the initial test, then I recommend waiting until the inevitable plateau before doing it again.
BA: How long does it take, what’s the cost, and where do I sign up?
MG: The test takes roughly 10 minutes and we interpret the results on the spot. The entire appointment takes only 20-30 minutes. The cost is $35 and you can schedule an appointment HERE!