Archive for the 'Body Composition' Category

One month later and finally at a new low

Mike on Apr 15th 2011

This morning, one month after my last post, I finally hit a new low: 247.2 lbs. I had gained several pounds since our trip to China and I’m glad to finally get that off and in the past. That puts me down about 75 lbs on the scale, and more like 90-100 lbs of fat loss when you take into account the amount of muscle I’ve gained over the past 14 months of training.

My goal is to lose another 30+ pounds by the end of June when we take our big vacation to Myrtle Beach. I hope to be somewhere between 210-215 by then. When I get to that point it will put me very close to the end of my total weightloss goal…probably within 5-15 pounds. My final goal, as far as weightloss, is to hit a single-digit body fat percentage. When I think I’m at that point I’ll be visiting the Cooper Clinic again for another round of body composition analysis. Then my goals will switch entirely to building muscle.

The day I can more than double the calories of my diet will be a day of great relief. I’m tired of the severity of it and the lower energy that comes with the restrictions. Right now my daily intake is generally in the 1100-1300 calorie range. To stop losing weight I’ll need to increase it to around 3000 per day, and possibly a little more to help muscle gain.

Strict weightloss is getting VERY old, but I can actually see the end in sight.

Filed in Body Composition,Goals,Weight | 3 responses so far

Gains and Losses

Mike on Nov 12th 2010

After my last post a few weeks ago I modified my diet, but I quickly found that my stress-level immediately increased again and my energy-level dropped. Clearly I still wasn’t ready for a reduced calorie diet again. Therefore I reversed my decision, still modifying my diet to be healthier (well…except for several days of Halloween candy) but without any significant calorie reduction. Simultaneously, I made some amazing strength gains, which indicates that I have definitely increased my muscle mass.

I’m now working with my trainer four days per week instead of three, and since I switched to a strength-building regimen a couple of months ago, my bench press has gone up from 205 lbs to 235 lbs, my deadlift from 235 to 265, and my squats have increased an amazing 70 lbs from 205 to 275. The deadlift and squat maximums were at 4 and 3 repetitions respectively, which means my one-rep max would be significantly more than that. This has continued to be fun and I have no intention of switching my exercise routine. I did, however, finally switch back to a reduced calorie diet on Monday, without any significant energy-loss or stress.

Hopefully now I can see some significant weight-loss again, since I have lost very little in the last four months—only about 5-7 lbs. At the beginning of the week my weight was at 270 and as of this morning it is 266.4 lbs. It is very hard to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, but I’m making every effort to do so. I will continue with my strength routine and have tailored my diet to maximize my chances. I’m eating about 1800-2000 calories per day, with low carbs, low fat, and high protein. I’ve been eating three omlettes per day made with six egg whites (that’s right, 18 eggs), a large chicken breast with brown rice, a protein shake, and a few snacks like some string cheese and popcorn.

My hopeful goal is that I can see the 240s by the time we travel to China a couple of months from now.  We’ll see what happens.

Filed in Body Composition,Diet,Exercise,Weight loss | 2 responses so far

Bod Pod: Worthless in the Hands of a Boob

Mike on Oct 1st 2010

What I learned yesterday: the Bod Pod is a $40,000 piece of junk if the operator doesn’t know what he is doing. Recently I blogged about my experience in the Bod Pod, getting my body fat percentage measured. It is highly accurate, state-of-the-art, and has a margin of error similar to Hydrostatic Weighing (the gold standard of body composition testing). The only problem is, all of that is utterly wrong if the person operating it is a boob. What I didn’t mention in my earlier article about the Bod Pod was that while I was sitting there in my underwear waiting to be tested, the technician kept putting a cylinder into the pod, taking it out, putting it in, taking it out, and on and on at least half-a-dozen times, trying to calibrate the pod. He mumbled to himself constantly and then at one point said, “I’m afraid we might have to reschedule you because I can’t get it to work right…no one set it up this morning and it won’t let me continue.” Then he picked up the phone, made a quick call, and after about 15 seconds on the phone said, “What? It’s okay? Uh, okay.” Then he hung up the phone, cancelled out of the computer screen he was on, and started my test.

The results showed that I was at 44.9% body fat, which was 122 lbs of fat and 150 lbs of lean body mass (LBM). I was encouraged by the amount of body fat it meant I had already lost, but it was also disappointing because it meant that I still had something like 100 lbs more to lose. It really didn’t sound right to me, because that meant I should weigh in the 160s, which didn’t seem possible, but hey what do I know…I can’t argue with the Bod Pod, right? I assumed underneath all that fat I just wasn’t as muscular as I thought. So, I went on my way thinking I had a very long way to go. Fast-forward six weeks to my testing myself with a cheap, $35 bio-impedance analysis (BIA) monitor and a cheap set of skinfold calipers. The BIA monitor said I was 33.1% body fat and the skinfold calipers had me at 33-35%. Well, those HAD to be wrong! I mean, I was tested in a freaking BOD POD, man! The only problem was, when I started plugging hypothetical numbers into the skinfold caliper measurements (assuming I had measured wrong), it was impossible to get myself up to even 40% body fat, much less up to 45% to match the results of the Bod Pod analysis. Then I thought back to the operator’s “uh, okay” phone call and got very suspicious that he had screwed up my test.

My solution was to call the renowned Cooper Center in Dallas and schedule an appointment for hydrostatic weighing. Then I’d know once and for all, because it is the gold standard test that all the others are judged by, and because the Cooper Center most definitely knows what they are doing. They also do skinfold caliper measurements at the same time for comparison. It was an odd experience to say the least, but I’m glad I did it, because the underwater weighing put me at 33.3% and the skinfold calipers put me at 33.6%. That’s fully 12% below where the Bod Pod had me, and it means I need to lose between 46 and 70 more lbs rather than 87-107 lbs, depending on how low I want my body fat percentage to go (i.e. 9-19%). Rather than having a LBM 0f 150 lbs, I’m at 177 lbs. That’s 27 more lbs of muscle than the Bod Pod said. Quite a difference!

One final point. To be fair, I can’t call the operator a boob, because he was just doing what he was told. The boob is the person on the phone who, after a 15 second conversation, told him everything was fine and to do the test on me anyway. In the end Louanne called the facility and talked to the manager about it, and they’ve agreed to repeat the test for her next week for free. Go Louanne! They said they’ll test me too, but I don’t really care since I was just tested at the Cooper Clinic yesterday. What’s the point of another test, other than giving them the chance to prove to me that they might be able to get it right this time.

Below are some photos from yesterday. Click any image to see a larger version, or you can view the whole album on the Photos page.


First they took measurements at seven different points using skinfold calipers. If you ever have this done, get ready because they have to pinch you pretty hard to do it right.



When you do the test you have to exhale ALL the air out of your lungs while you are holding yourself completely under the water, then pause for a few seconds trying to be as still as you can. You have to do this several times. Some people can’t handle it because they feel like they are trying to “voluntarily drown themselves.” I had no problems with it, but I can completely understand why it might freak some people out. Louanne said after watching me she will NOT be doing it. I’ll probably repeat the test every six months or so.

Filed in Bod Pod,Body Composition,Hydrostatic Weighing | 8 responses so far

The Bod Pod

Mike on Aug 20th 2010

UPDATE: Since posting this article several weeks ago I discovered that my Bod Pod analysis was incorrect…it was so far outside the margin of error that you could easily call it ridiculous. For an update on the Bod Pod and my experience with hydrostatic weighing, see my post: Bod Pod: Worthless in the Hands of a Boob.

The Bod Pod is a large egg-like pod that is used to measure body composition. After being analysed about a month ago in one of them, I now know what it would feel like to be some kind of giant bionic chicken, or maybe one of the astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey before HAL 9000 kills them…or better yet, fat Jonathan Winters in Mork and Mindy.

When my Tanita scale at home isn’t telling me “Error Error Error,” it’s giving me readings that fluctuate wildly from 40-46% body fat. That’s a huge difference, and it gives me similarly conflicting readings for lean body mass. Consequently I’ve gotten tired of not really knowing for sure where I stand in my fitness program, so I decided to get a professional, non-bio-impedance test to give me a reasonably accurate estimate of my body fat percentage and lean body mass. That would give me a good benchmark from which to set reasonable goals and track my results.

I did a lot of research and found that the most accurate tests are hydrostatic weighing (underwater weighing), DEXA (a test using x-ray technology), and the Bod Pod (air displacement plethysmography). The Bod Pod is similar to underwater weighing except that it measures the volume of air you displace rather than water, making it MUCH more convenient and just as accurate. I could only find one place in Fort Worth that has one, the City Club of Fort Worth. Fortunately you don’t have to be a member to use it, but you do have to pay $50. There is a cheaper place about 45 miles away in north Dallas, but the City Club is about 10 minutes from us, so the choice was a no-brainer.

The process is very quick and simple. You have to wear something tight like compression shorts and a swim cap, because your hair and loose clothes can trap air and throw off the readings. They weigh you, you sit in the pressurized pod for about a minute (you don’t feel any pressure changes), and you’re done. Couldn’t be easier. I plan on doing it once every few months or so to track my results. My research says that the Bod Pod has only a 1-2% margin of error, similar to the other “gold standard” tests. Here are the numbers from my test:

Body Mass: 272.189 lb
Fat Mass: 122.249 lb
Fat Free Mass: 149.939 lb
% Fat: 44.9%
% Fat Free Mass: 55.1%

So after about five months of training with three months of dieting I’m down about 50 lbs, with a body fat percentage of 44.9%. I wish I knew exactly where I was when I started, because I KNOW I’ve gained muscle/lean body mass, which means I’ve actually lost more than 50 lbs. But, just so that I’d have a reasonable idea, I ran the numbers to calculate what my minimum body fat percentage was when I started by assuming I haven’t gained any muscle at all. I know I’ve gained some (probably quite a bit), but at least this gives me a minimum starting point. At 321.6 lbs, with 149.9 lbs of lean body mass, that puts me at a minimum of 53.4% fat when I started. If I’ve gained say 10 lbs of muscle (which is probably still a conservative guess), then that would put me at 56.5% fat at the beginning.

All of that means that I’ve lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-12% body fat since I started. Pretty cool. Yes, I’m still at 44.9% fat, which is hugely obese, but I’ve come a long way and am very encouraged. My hope for the next time I’m tested is to have gained several pounds of muscle while losing 20-30 more pounds of fat. I’ll probably go again sometime shortly after breaking the 250 barrier.

Below is a scan of the test results with several more stats listed, such as my Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Click the image to see a larger version.

Filed in Bod Pod,Body Composition,Encouragement | 11 responses so far

Error Error Error

Mike on Jul 13th 2010

I have an expensive scale that we got a few years ago: the Tanita InnerScan – Body Composition Monitor. It tells me things like my Body Fat Percentage, my percentage of Water Weight, my Visceral Fat, Lean Body Mass (muscle and bone), DCI (daily calorie intake to maintain current weight), and more. Well, at least that’s what it’s supposed to tell me. Most days all it really tells me is how much I weigh, followed by “ERROR ERROR ERROR.” Now if I was an overly sensitive person I’d probably view that as something like the scale telling me, “272 lbs!!! Man, you are much too fat for me to figure out all those stats for you…what’s the point? Go have a rest, because you MUST be tired from carrying all that around.” But in reality I’m just a little annoyed that it doesn’t work for me.

Now don’t misunderstand me here. The scale works great…just not for me. Just..not..for..me. Everyone else? No problem. Me? “Error Error Error.” When we got the thing it was really irritating. I kept wondering, “why doesn’t it work for me??? Why just me?” So, we called Tanita and I spent a long time on the phone with them weighing myself…over and over and over and over. Sigh. No luck. They were stumped. They actually had to discuss it with Japan and then call me back. Finally they had me send them the scale so they could look it over…then Japan wanted it sent to them to look it over. They were all very nice about it and sent me another scale right away, but the whole thing was a bit silly. Their conclusion? I must drink a LOT of water. I mean WAY more than a regular person, so I’m probably carrying around a lot of water weight and the scale gives me errors on the readings because I fall too far outside the norms for it to work. Weird! But the funny thing is that they were right. I do drink a lot of water, and soda. I’m almost always drinking something. I have done that for decades.

I’ve experimented with it some, and occasionally I can get it to work. It never works in the morning, but if I make a conscious effort to cut down on how much I drink for a day or two then I can usually get it to work sometime in the afternoon or evening. Strangely I feel like I’ve won some sort of victory when I step on the thing, expecting to see “error error error,” and instead some numbers pop up. I almost shout every time it happens. “Hey, come quick…the scale’s telling me how fat I am! Woo hoo!” 🙂

So what’s the point to all this craziness? Losing “weight” in and of itself shouldn’t be my main goal. Losing FAT is what I need to be doing. That and gaining (or at worst just maintaining) muscle. Most people simply diet to lose weight and never realize how much muscle they are losing along with it. I refuse to have any part of that. My goals are fitness goals, not just some number of pounds I’m trying to get to on a scale. If I ended up losing 150 lbs on the scale, but didn’t know that say 20 lbs of that was muscle, I’d still be overweight without really understanding it. My net fat loss would actually be 130 lbs. If I started out needing to lose 150 lbs of fat I’d be patting my self on the back without realizing that I was actually still 20 lbs overweight. It’s actually a growing problem for many people, called “hidden obesity.” On the other hand, if the scale shows I’ve lost 130 lbs, but concurrently I’ve gained 20 lbs of muscle, I would have truly lost 150 lbs of fat. That’s much better weight loss even though it looks like I lost 20 less, and it’s a safe bet I’d be in tremendously better shape.

A few weeks ago, the last time I made the effort to get my scale to show me something other than errors, here’s where my numbers were:

Weight: 280
Body Fat: 41.9%
Lean Body Mass (LBM): 162.6 lbs.

My tentative goal right now is to get down to around 10% body fat, but I’ll adjust that goal the closer I get to it. I’ll regularly be watching my numbers to make sure my LBM continues to rise , or at the very least doesn’t fall. Those numbers mean that at my current amount of muscle, getting down to around 180 would get me to my goal.

So, if you’re on a weight loss regimen like me, don’t just cling to some arbitrary weight goal that you got off some BMI chart and assume it is where you should be. Figure out your body fat percentage and LBM by caliper testing, weighing in water, or using a scale that doesn’t say “error error error” all the time. Go to the doctor to find out, get a trainer to test you, or fnd some other way, but don’t be afraid to find out. Mainly, get that arbitrary end-weight out of your mind. Body composition is what really matters in the end.

And finally, one little note about scales like mine…they are a relatively inexpensive way to measure these things, but consequently that means they aren’t terribly accurate, since various factors can affect the numbers (such as the water consumption in my case). The best thing about them is that they can be used as a tool to measure YOUR relative progress, not to measure your “According to Hoyle” actual numbers. As I get closer to my goals I will almost certainly have myself tested somewhere so that I can get a highly accurate reading of my body composition. If I went by the scale alone I might be struggling to get down to 10% body fat without realizing that I passed it long ago, or the reverse. I might be congratulating myself for reaching my goal easily when in fact I’m not even close to it. As a tool for measuring relative progress they are great…just don’t plan on using their numbers as your source for bragging rights.

Filed in Body Composition,Weight loss | 4 responses so far