Losing weight is hard, but keeping weight off can be even harder.
For anyone who is familiar with the show “The Biggest Loser,” one season showed 30 contestants who lost an average of 125 pounds each over a 30 week period. Six years later, however, and only one person was able to keep the weight off despite everyone’s continued efforts to diet and exercise. Now, you may be thinking that these people just couldn’t maintain their same lifestyle once the show was over (which could have some truth); however, there may be science behind weight loss and our RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) that could be contributing to this difficulty with weight maintenance.
When we loose weight, our RMR (or how many calories we burn at rest) decreases. Most often, this is because we loose some muscle mass, which requires energy to maintain. However, what happens when most of our weight loss comes from fat? Since fat is not very metabolically active, you would think that RMR would then remain the same. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
To make up for this drop in RMR, individuals would have to add in hours of moderate intensity exercise every single day. Since most people do not have the time or energy to do this, it would make more sense to try and control this phenomenon by increasing our RMR.
A significant indicator of our metabolic rate is our cardiac output (how much blood is delivered from our heart to the rest of our bodies). Further, our cardiac output is determined by how much blood and/or fluid is delivered back to our heart from our body (like a pump system). When we sit, blood pools in our lower legs, causing less blood to be returned back to the heart…which decreases our cardiac output…which then decreases our RMR. See the cycle? This is especially prominent for individuals who have just lost a significant amount of weight and therefore have looser skin. When our skin is looser, this allows more blood to pool in the lower legs, which exacerbates this effect.
So, how can we fight this? The obvious answer would be to, of course, sit less. Furthermore, keeping our soleus muscles (also referred to as our “secondary hearts”) strong can make more of a difference than you’d think.
Our soles muscles, located deep in the lower legs, have responsibilities to pump blood back up the the heart and can lead to a stronger cardiac output. Unfortunately, our sedentary lifestyle causes these muscles to weaken, lessening to fluid that is pumped back the heart on a consistent basis. This is a vicious cycle, because the more the blood pools, the lower our body temperature drops, which causes our RMR to decrease even further.
Fortunately, we have the capability to train our secondary hearts and reverse this effect. These muscles require low intensity, long duration training, which can be achieved through continuous squatting (how our ancestors used to sit before chairs), yoga, balance exercises, calf raises, and more.
When in doubt, squat more!
Stephanie Spoto, CSCS