How do I measure my metabolic rate when exercising?

The best way to measure your metabolism is to exercise on machines that measure what’s known as Metabolic EquivalanTs or MET’s. At rest you are working at 1 MET or resting metabolism. Many forms of cardio equipment can tell you the level of MET’s you’re working out at during the workout. A less accurate but easy to use method is the sing-talk test. If you can sing while exercising you’re working out at a moderate metabolic rate approximately 5—8 MET’s or 5-8 times resting metabolic rate. If you can only talk and answer short questions you’re probably working out at 10-13 MET’s or 10-13 times resting metabolic rate. To get a truly accurate measure of MET’s you will need to visit a sports performance lab.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
At rest, your body burns 1,400 to 1,900 kcal (kilocalories) a day. This is your "resting metabolic rate." This is the energy your body spends just keeping you alive, the energy it uses to keep your heart beating, to keep your blood flowing, to digest your food, and to breathe. Your resting metabolic rate is approximately one kilocalorie per kilogram of body weight per hour. One metabolic equivalent unit (MET) is your metabolic rate at rest, sitting quietly or lying down. When doing a vigorous workout, your goal should be to increase your metabolic rate to 10 or 11 METs. That is, you're trying to boost your metabolic rate to ten times its rate at rest.

Unfortunately, you really can't measure your metabolic equivalent units (METs), or at least not easily, unless the machines you use are calibrated for them. METs can only be measured accurately at a sports medicine clinic or some other place equipped to monitor METs. However, there are three other pretty good ways to estimate your metabolic rate: estimating the kilocalories (kcal) burned per hour, estimating "sweat time," and determining your heart rate.

One way to estimate METs is by "sweat time": Try to sweat for twenty-one minutes or more three times a week. This amount of sweat time is a relatively reliable indication you have reached 70 % of your maximum heart rate and metabolic rate. Another way to estimate METs is by measuring your heart rate, the number of times your heart beats per minute. During bouts of vigorous exercise, your heart rate should reach 65 to 90 percent of the maximum.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.