He Blinded Me With Science

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July 20, 2013 by mybattlebuddyfitness

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I am a person who likes a lot of information, the more data the better.  I like to understand the details of why things work a certain way.  I need it for my job, I need it for making personal decisions, and I need it for working out.  I love to read about how the body works, how different forms of training impact your body differently, how eating at certain foods at certain times makes your metabolism behave in different ways.   During the last two weeks, I have taken this need for data a step further and have gone scientific with my fitness.  I did two tests to learn more about myself: body fat percentage test and VO2 Max test.

Let’s start with the scary one: body fat percentage test.  I went to a place in Scottsdale, AZ that has a Bod Pod.  What is a Bod Pod?  Well, I am glad you asked.  Here is the textbook answer: The BOD POD is an Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) that uses whole body densitometry to determine body composition (fat vs. lean). Similar in principle to underwater weighing, the BOD POD measures body mass (weight) using a very precise scale, and volume by sitting inside the BOD POD.  In layman’s terms, it basically uses air pressure (before you go in, and after you go in) to determine how much of you is fat.

So here is how it works.  You don’t eat or drink at all for 8 hours before the test.  Best thing is to go in the morning, that way, you are not waiting too long into the day without food.  You cannot have lotion on (I guess it throws off the results), and you have to wear only a sports bra and running shorts, or a swimming suit.  And then when you get there, they put your hair in a swim cap.  Then, you get into what looks like a futuristic air pod that would be shot off of an airship … like a lifeboat for space travel.  Only enough space for you to sit down.  Anyway, you get in, and you sit still for 2 minutes while they take your measurements.  And then you do it again.  All over in about 5 minutes.

Awesome, right?  Well, I wanted to know, to baseline, so I could then know where I needed to get to (my personal goal is to get to 20% body fat).  When my result came back at 29%, I was a bit taken aback.  I mean, all this time, working out, getting in better shape, losing weight, and I was still at 29%?  How is that possible?  Enter … the girls.  Y’all know what I am talking about … anyway, suffice to say, mine tend to fall on the larger side of things, and the girls are ALL FAT, which totally throws off my body fat % measurement.  Turns out, when the girls are as big as mine, it can add 4%-8% body fat.  YIKES!  Do you know how many white papers you have to read to know that’s how it works?  Well, I am now an expert in how boobs contribute to body fat.  If you have questions, please, let me know.

Anyway, at 25%, it puts me within striking range of my goal.  I have to lose 5% body fat.  Which leads me to why I got my next test: VO2 Max testing.  OK, here is the textbook on what VO2 Max testing is: VO2MAX is an abbreviation for the maximum amount of oxygen your body is capable of using to make energy. These levels are lowest at rest (where heart rates are lowest), and increase in a linear fashion as exercise intensity, and heart rate, increases. VO2MAX is used in a variety of disciplines because it is an excellent indicator of how well the cardiopulmonary system is functioning.  At the same time you are doing the VO2 Max testing, you are also doing all of your heart zone testing, so in one test you know all sorts of great things about how your body is working.

This one has similar rules: no food at all before the test for 3 hours, no drinks before the test except for water (if you eat or drink you will add carbs to your system which come out in your breath when you do the test).  No exercise the day before and no exercise the day of, so you are fully ready for the test.  When you get there, they hook you up to a mask (which you can see in the photo) that measures your oxygen intake and CO2 output.  Then, you run.  You start off slowly and it is increased in 4/10 of a mile an hour increments until you max out.  I started at 4.4 on the treadmill (barely jogging), and I worked my way up to 6.8 where I tapped out.

I found this test far more interesting on many levels.  For one, I found out that my aerobic heart zone is considerably higher than what I thought it was.  Doing the normal calculations based upon age, my aerobic zone should have maxed out at 145bpm, but the test (which is more scientific and based upon my physiology) showed that my range went all the way up to 158bpm.  This is HUGE for me, since I had been limiting my running to 12 minute miles because that was where I thought I could run aerobically.  I also found out that I hit anaerobic (where you no longer burn fat you just burn carbs) at 167bpm, which is also WAY higher than I thought.

I learned a lot more than what I have written so far about how my body works, but let’s face it, only so much science you want to read about in one sitting.  Here’s the deal: these tests are great if they are available and you want to fine tune your workouts.  I’d say that if you are just starting out with exercise, you probably don’t need to START here immediately.  Use the standard calculations for heart rates and do body fat measurements on the cheap.  The investment is not worth it as you ease into working out.  But once you get going, it is an awesome way to fine tune your workouts, to pinpoint where you need to make changes to take your body to the next level.

It is long run day for me today, and I am excited to take these learnings and put them to work.

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