The simple science of weight loss
Published 12/03/2013 | 05:00
A 15-minute test can tell you all you need to know about how your body burns calories, as well as how you can speed the process up in order to shed those extra kilos, writes Celina Murphy
'You have to put the effort in. Unless you are willing to change, nothing is going to change'
For the 61pc of Irish adults who are overweight, a change in diet is the only sure-fire way to shed the extra pounds. Until now, however, calorie counting has been nothing more than a guessing game, based on outdated formulas and misleading averages.
To prove it, I scoured the internet for information on how many calories I should be consuming in a day.
Some sources said 1,600, others said 2,800, but all of them warned that their figures were only rough estimates. My GP couldn't tell me, a bunch of online calculators couldn't tell me, and my friend, the nutritionist, couldn't tell me.
I discovered that there are actually only a few people in the country who can give me that information, and only one who can offer it at 98pc accuracy – Sean Kinane of Health Matters.
"A lot of people say that the standard calorie intake for a man should be 2,000 a day and a standard for a woman should be 1,500, but it's a joke," he explains,
"I've seen clients that, if they get 1,500, they put on weight. It's unique to an individual and what type of lifestyle they lead."
Kinane's company specialises in metabolic testing, which, in the past, has only been available in universities and hospitals.
Using state-of-the-art equipment, metabolism analysis gives you the exact measurement of your individual resting metabolic rate, or RMR. Pinpointing your RMR helps you to balance what you eat with what you burn.
"It's a really in-depth look at your body and how it works," Sean tells me, when I arrive at Raw Condition Gym in Portobello for my very own metabolic reading.
"We probe a lot into people's lifestyles to see where they're going wrong."
The science behind the test is incredibly complex, but thankfully Sean is able to explain the key concepts without having to give me a refresher course in biology.
"Metabolism comes from the Latin word for rate of change. You put food into your body, it needs to be broken down and turned into energy. A calorie is a measurement of energy. We're measuring your resting metabolic rate today, so if you sit down all day doing nothing, you're still going to burn calories because your body's still processing everything."
The test itself bears a striking resemblance to that figurative day of doing nothing. I take a seat, and Sean instructs me to plug my nose and breathe naturally into a tube, which takes a little bit of getting used to. Then, I wait. Fifteen minutes later, my results are in and there's good news. My RMR is 17pc above average for a woman of my age, height and weight, which basically means that my body is functioning quite well.
Finally, I get the numbers I've been looking for. On a day when I do absolutely nothing, I'll burn 1,800 calories, Sean explains, and on a day at work, I'll burn closer to 2,300. To slim down, he tells me, I should consume 500 to 600 calories less than I'm burning, that is, 1,700 a day, or 2,000 on days I exercise.
How does this affect my chances of losing weight? Well, if I decide that my goal is to lose 5kg (just over 11lbs), Sean calculates that it will take just 10 weeks to reach that goal, with the right diet and moderate exercise . . . and that's leaving room for slip-ups.
"It's all about safe loss and safe zones," he says. "You don't want to consume too little and you certainly don't want to consume too much. You consume more than you burn, you're going to gain weight, you consume less than you burn, you're going to lose weight."
It's remarkable to think that all the information pumped out by the billion-euro diet industry can be condensed into a tweet-sized statement, and even more remarkable that it's taken this long for technology to provide us with accurate analysis of how our body burns calories. Upon receiving the results of my metabolic test, I realised that the initial numbers I stumbled upon in my research were akin to my doctor taking one look at me and telling me that my cholesterol level is "probably four or five mM".
Of course, the test is just the start. Once you know the particulars of how your body works, it's up to you to make the necessary changes, with a little help from Health Matters.
"We have every industry covered from strength conditioning, nutrition, physios, running coaches, cycling coaches, anything you want," Sean says.
"I send your data on to them so they can build a programme specifically around your data. Everything you do through us is unique, nothing is done through a group. It's about you, it's unique to you and that's what I think makes these tests so good."
And for those with slow metabolic rates, all is not lost.
'Everybody can change their metabolism," he explains. "Obviously its hereditary, but you can change it by changing your lifestyle and habits."
I was happy with my result, but Sean advised that there are plenty of things I can do to boost my metabolism even further, some of which I knew, and some which came as a complete surprise. The objective is to make your metabolism work harder, and if you follow Sean's guidelines, it could even be working 24 hours a day in your favour.
"Too many people think that you don't have to put effort in," he warns. "You do have to put effort in. Unless you're willing to make a change, nothing's going to change. You have to be honest with yourself."
The metabolic test is free for GloHealth Insurance members who choose Sports Cover as one of their free personalised packages. The metabolic test for GloHealth members is carried out by Health Matters, which is run by Sean Kinane. For more, see glohealth.ie, myhealthmatters.ie, or phone Sean on 086 1006088.