The body's generation of heat is known as thermogenesis and it can be measured to determine the amount of energy expended. BMR generally decreases with age and with the decrease in lean body mass (as may happen with aging). Increasing muscle mass has the effect of increasing BMR. Aerobic fitness level, a product of cardiovascular exercise, while previously thought to have effect on BMR, has been shown in the 1990s not to correlate with BMR when adjusted for fat-free body mass. New research has, however, come to light that suggests anaerobic exercise does increase resting energy consumption (see "Aerobic vs. anaerobic exercise"). Illness, previously consumed food and beverages, environmental temperature, and stress levels can affect one's overall energy expenditure as well as one's BMR.
BMR is measured under very restrictive circumstances when a person is awake. An accurate BMR measurement requires that the person's sympathetic nervous system not be stimulated, a condition which requires complete rest. A more common measurement, which uses less strict criteria, is resting metabolic rate (RMR)
BMR may be measured by gas analysis through either direct or Indirect Calorimetry, though a rough estimation can be acquired through an equation using age, sex, height, and weight. Studies of energy metabolism using both methods provide convincing evidence for the validity of the respiratory quotient (R.Q.), which measures the inherent composition and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins as they are converted to energy substrate units that can be used by the body as energy.
Basal metabolism is usually by far the largest component of total caloric expenditure. However, the Harris–Benedict equations are only approximate and variation in BMR (reflecting varying body composition), in physical activity levels, and in energy expended in thermogenesis make it difficult to estimate the dietary consumption any particular individual needs in order to maintain body weight.
The early work of the scientists J. Arthur Harris and Francis G. Benedict showed that approximate values for BMR could be derived using body surface area (computed from height and weight), age, and sex, along with the oxygen and carbon dioxide measures taken from calorimetry. Studies also showed that by eliminating the sex differences that occur with the accumulation of adipose tissue by expressing metabolic rate per unit of "fat-free" or lean body mass, the values between sexes for basal metabolism are essentially the same. Exercise physiology textbooks have tables to show the conversion of height and body surface area as they relate to weight and basal metabolic values.
The primary organ responsible for regulating metabolism is the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is located on the diencephalon and forms the floor and part of the lateral walls of the third ventricle of the cerebrum. The chief functions of the hypothalamus are:
control and integration of activities of the autonomic nervous system (ANS)
The ANS regulates contraction of smooth muscle and cardiac muscle, along with secretions of many endocrine organs such as the thyroid gland (associated with many metabolic disorders).
Through the ANS, the hypothalamus is the main regulator of visceral activities, such as heart rate, movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract, and contraction of the urinary bladder.
production and regulation of feelings of rage and aggression
regulation of body temperature
regulation of food intake, through two centers:
The feeding center or hunger center is responsible for the sensations that cause us to seek food. When sufficient food or substrates have been received and leptin is high, then the satiety center is stimulated and sends impulses that inhibit the feeding center. When insufficient food is present in the stomach and ghrelin levels are high, receptors in the hypothalamus initiate the sense of hunger.
The thirst center operates similarly when certain cells in the hypothalamus are stimulated by the rising osmotic pressure of the extracellular fluid. If thirst is satisfied, osmotic pressure decreases.
All of these functions taken together form a survival mechanism that causes us to sustain the body processes that BMR measures.
A person's metabolism varies with their physical condition and activity. Weight training can have a longer impact on metabolism than aerobic training, but there are no known mathematical formulas that can exactly predict the length and duration of a raised metabolism from trophic changes with anabolic neuromuscular training.
A decrease in food intake can lower the metabolic rate as the body tries to conserve energy. Researcher Gary Foster, Ph.D., estimates that a very low calorie diet of fewer than 800 calories a day would reduce the metabolic rate by more than 10 percent.
The metabolic rate can be affected by some drugs, such as antidepressants, which may produce weight gain. Antithyroid agents, drugs used to treat hyperthyroidism, such as propylthiouracil and methimazole, bring the metabolic rate down to normal and restore euthyroidism. Some research has focused on developing antiobesity drugs to raise the metabolic rate, such as drugs to stimulate thermogenesis in skeletal muscle.
The metabolic rate may be elevated in stress, illness, and diabetes. Menopause may also affect metabolism.