Image courtesy of Self

A healthy weight goes hand-in-hand with a healthy metabolism. More than just the number on the scale, the way our cells process and regulate energy impacts communication between the body and the brain.

When our metabolism is running normally, that communication is clear on how many calories we need. When it’s out of whack, however, hormones like insulin and ghrelin follow suit, and that communication becomes cloudy, leading to a sluggish metabolism and an increase in appetite. Good times.

The most recent issue of Self magazine features an article about metabolism—how it works and how to keep it fired up. As someone who’s spent a good portion of her grad school career learning formulas to calculate calorie needs and resting metabolic rate (RMR), I got a little excited to see the Mifflin St Jeor equation in the glossy pages so readers could calculate their own RMR—aka the amount of calories you burn doing “nothing.” Yes, I know that’s pretty dorky of me, but for a dietetic student, it’s basically the equivalent of seeing, like, the Starbucks on your corner on tv.

Moving on…for anyone interested in playing along at home, here’s the formula:

First, convert your weight into kilograms (divide pounds by 2.2) and your height into centimeters (multiply inches by 2.54).

For women: (10 x weight) + (6.25 x height) – (5 x age) – 161 = calories burned at rest

For men: (10 x weight) + (6.25 x height) – (5 x age) + 5 = calories burned at rest

Next, multiply the number you get by an “activity factor”:

  • 1.2 for sedentary (barely any or no exercise)
  • 1.375 for lightly active (easy exercise one to three days a week)
  • 1.550 for moderately active (moderate exercise three to five days a week)
  • 1.725 for very active (hard exercise six or seven days a week)
  • 1.9 for extremely active (very hard exercise and possibly a physical job)

The result you end up with is the approximate number of calories you need to consume each day to maintain your weight.

Keep in mind, though, it’s not set in stone—there are lots of things you can do to raise that number. Looking at your workout routine is a great start. Strength training is one of the most effective ways to speed up your metabolism. Visit Self for more ideas.

What’s your favorite metabolism-boosting trick? 

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