Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Frequently Asked Questions


What is BMR?

BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate, the minimum calorific requirement needed to sustain life in your body when you are resting. It is also called Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Even if you are in bed asleep all day, your body still needs energy to pump blood around the body, maintain body temperature, etc. Please note that BMR is not your recommended calorie intake.

The indirect calorimetry is the best method to measure your energy expenditure (BMR). Unfortunately, most of the time it is not possible to measure your BMR, which is why prediction equations to estimate BMR are used. Most BMR equations are originated from samples of North American and European populations and may provide high BMR estimations for those who live in different environments (for example in tropics).

It is considered that the equation of Harris and Benedict, which is used in BMR Calculator, estimates the resting energy expenditure with accuracy of about 10% in about 80-90% of healthy people.

According to the study “Are basal metabolic rate prediction equations appropriate for overweight and obese adolescents?”, “The Harris and Benedict equation was the only one [of four] showing no differences between measured and predicted BMR” (Rev Bras Med Esporte vol.11 no.3 Niteroi May/June 2005).

Does BMR formula include my activity level?

No, it does not. Basal Metabolic Rate is estimated using your weight, height and age (see BMR formulas below). BMR is gender specific. BMR Calculator prompts you to enter your activity level in order to calculate the number of calories you need daily to maintain your current weight.

What is BMR formula?

English BMR Formula:
Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )

Metric BMR Formula:
Women: BMR = 655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kilos ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )

Is it possible to raise your Basal Matabolic Rate?

Yes, it is. For details, please see “How to increase metabolism?”.


17 thoughts on “Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Frequently Asked Questions”

  • After having children over a decade ago, I somehow became morbidly obese. As I have always been extremely active, though the weight has slowed me down, I have attempted to lose weight with exercise and eating less with no luck.
    Recently, when I actually realized I was classified as morbidly obese, I was thinking about gastric bypass. I learned that if you do that the first thing they do is put you on a strict diet. So I figured if they were going to do that, I might as well start now. So I began eating 1200 calories…never under.
    I am losing weight!!! I am so happy but now everyone is telling me not to eat below my BMR. Well my BMR is a little over 1600 calories. I do not want to stop my progress. I am losing about 2 lbs per week on average (sometimes more…sometimes less)
    If I work out a lot then I do eat more, but I don’t think I am eating near my BMR. So questions:

    Is this really that bad for me?
    If this slows my metabolism will it be permanent?

    I have lost 19 lbs so far using the loseit site to track my foods. I have 102 more pounds to go and I expect that to take at least one more year. I will be seeing my PCP in a couple of weeks. She is not a bariatric expert though, but a great doctor. Am I doing the wrong thing?

    I am tired but I have ALWAYS been tired. I take iron for borderline anemia and I am feeling better than I did at my highest.

    Please let me know what you think.

    Val Degnan

  • I am still confused — at 160 pounds – 5 feet 4 inches my BMR plus activity (walking 1 mile three times per week and household chores) comes out to 1950 calories — -500 per day calorie cut to lose weight I would be consuming 1400 calories which is my BMR. Does that sound right? I am 54.

  • You may have underestimated the amount of calories consumed. It is easy to eat the whole package of food which is, for example, 3 servings, but write down only one serving when calculating calories. Make sure you always read food labels thoroughly.

    You should not eat fewer than 1200 calories a day unless you are under medical supervision. To lose weight, you can try to burn more calories by being more active and doing exercises.

  • But what if your BMR is about 1480? Deduct 400 calories and you only have 1080 calories, which is lower than 1200, the lowest number before your body is put in starvation mode. Can you explain this to me? I don’t understand how to lose weight while NOT putting my body in starvation mode.

  • I got a bmr of 1130 if i multiplied by 1.2 i got 1356 kcals but i tried eating that much and gained what do i do and i dont want to gain weight! So shall i eat bmr or lower i maintained on 1050 kcals which i calculted on another site…

  • Your estimations are correct. However, this is just a coincidence that the amount of calories you should eat to lose a pound a week is equal to your BMR. If you increase your activity level, your estimated calorie intake to lose weight at the same rate will be higher than your BMR. Hope this helps.

  • I am 15 and I also weigh 136. This might not sound bad but i am only 4’10” and I’m sick of having extra unwanted flab!

    For the past six weeks Ive been doing zumba as much as I possibly can. In the first two weeks, I wasn’t tracking calories burned and i lost 2 pounds per week. This was great but since then I have only lost a further one pound! Which is slightly disappointing.

    Ive worked out that my BMR is 1457. something, so if I eat 1200 per day, mixed fruits, vegetables, whole grains balanced diet, will I burn 200 calories a day? in addition to this I plan to do five days a week of zumba, for one hour per day which burns 500 calories per day. This would mean that 5 * 500 = 2500 and then if I burned 200 extra per day by eating a little less, I’d burn 1400 more so 2500+1400 = 3900 (a little more than a pound?)

  • BMR is the minimum number of calories your body needs to be able to perform its internal functions such as heart beating. All the activities, even the easiest ones like sitting and watching TV, require energy. The more active you are, the more energy you need. Which is why the actual number of calories your body needs/spends is calculated by multiplying BMR by the activity level.

  • Thank you, Samm and Administrator for trying to clarify the meaning of BMR in your postings above. That someone might misconstrue BMR as the recommended daily caloric intake is frightening!

    The fact that Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is NOT the total number of calories needed based on weight, height, age and one’s level of physical activity is so critical, it should appear as a heading on the BMR calculator box to avoid misunderstandings!

    BMR represents the caloric intake required by one’s body to perform mostly involuntary functions like respiration, circulation and digestion. Think of it this way: if you were in a coma, it’s the intake level required to sustain life!

    Once you’ve factored in the intake needed to cover an individual’s level of physical activity, those calories are ADDED to BMR to determine the total daily caloric intake needed to MAINTAIN one’s current weight.

    Since one pound equals 3,500 calories, a decrease/increase of 500 calories/day, should result in a loss/gain of 1 lb./week. A decrease/increase of 1,000 calories/day, should result in a loss/gain of 1 lb./week. That you maintain a varied, balanced diet with adequate nutrients essential to your body is very important to maintain good health, an efficient metabolism, and a sustainable weight loss.

    In general, to maintain good health, women should not have a daily caloric intake of LESS than 1,200 calories/day and men should not have an intake of LESS than 1,500 calories/day, and should consult with a physician before embarking on a diet that low in calories.

    I love using the BMR calculator (what I really love is that it does the math for me in a split second), but misunderstandings and misinformation such as that posted above are of great concern.

  • “To lose weight, you will need to consume less than your BMR”

    This is incorrect and potentially dangerous information. Never consume fewer calories than your BMR, to lose weight, UNLESS you are totally bed ridden. In which case I suspect you have some sort of illness/injury so should not be trying to lose weight while your body is healing/repairing/recovering anyway.

    BMR does not account for ANY physical activity that is done on a daily basis, organised or not such as walking to the shops, car, up stairs etc.

    Eating less calories than your BMR while doing any extra activity (even walking to the shops etc) and especially while exercising IS dangerous and WILL result in your body slowing down its metabolism (amongst other negative responses) to preserve as much energy as possible (defend mechanism against starvation), this will make it difficult to lose the weight you desire (FAT) and will probably result in muscle being used, further lowering your metabolism.

    You should aim to eat 400-650 calories less than your TOTAL (BMR + Calories for all the days activities) calorie intake per day. This will allow a healthy, achievable and sustainable weight loss goal of approx. 1kg/fortnight.

    Remember to recalculate your BMR as you lose weight to ensure its accurate.

    The advice to eat 1200 calories in response to the question is ridiculous and dangerous.

  • BMR is not the number of calories you should consume in order to lose weight. It is the number of calories required to maintain the basic functions of your body (merely living and breathing). BMR is required to calculate the number of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight (for you, it is about 2250) Deduct 500 calories from this number and you get the number of calories you need to eat a day in order to lose a pound per week (in our case, we get 1750).

  • to lose weight, you will need to consume less than your BMR, eating 1200 calories/day will get you to the 120lb weight you desire. My advise is to do it eating an adequate diet. (all types of foods in proper proportions). I am a 23 y/o female, i used to weigh 136 but now weigh 115 doing exactly this. eat your fruit and veggies too!

  • I am 23 weigh about 140/145 in that range and am working out 4-5 days a week for 45 minutes or so with weights and cardio. I used to weigh much less but over the past 2 years put on the weight so I am trying to lose it in a healthy normal way w/o going on a fad diet. Using the BMR calculations I came up with 1478.45 calories. So, is that what I should consume in order to lose weight? (Because I exercise)? My ideal weight for 5’4′ is around 120lbs…

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