The GOLD Standard in Body Composition Measurement

New Year's Resolution

Will you make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight? If you do, how will you know if you are losing muscle or fat?

Millions will make an annual New Year’s resolution to reduce weight and become more fit. But, virtually no one thinks about the quality or nature of their weight loss. They don’t focus on body composition. Most simply don’t understand that when we drop weight based solely on calorie restriction, we don’t just lose fat. Muscle mass declines as well.

At a recent holiday party, I spoke with a man who proudly proclaimed that he’d lost 10 pounds by severely restricting the number of calories he ate each day. He bragged that he didn’t do any cardio or strength training. Because we all lose fat and muscle at different rates, while unusual, it’s possible that he lost 4 pounds of fat and 6 pounds of muscle. In that were so, his BMI—body fat percentage– would actually become worse!

The importance of body composition as a true measure of fitness and health has exploded in recent years. The amount of muscle and body fat that we each carry has become increasingly important in identifying peak health and fitness. In fact, the NFL now sets up 6 BOD PODs at the NFL Combine every year. They test the athletes to determine muscle mass and body fat.

BOD PODs are manufactured by Cosmed USA. BOD POD is considered the gold standard in body composition measurement. It provides a highly accurate measurement of body composition using a proprietary technology called Air Displacement Plethysmography. It was invented with a grant from the National Institute of Health. It is used by the NFL, NBA, MLB, 21 Division 1 college athletic training facilities, U.S. Military Rangers and Seals and Olympic programs worldwide.

A company in Kansas City called Muscle Metrics now has a BOD POD in a state-of-the-art mobile body composition testing unit. They take their BOD POD to gyms; CrossFit and Title Boxing Clubs; high school and college athletic programs; corporate health and wellness programs; health fairs; races and fitness competitions; and club sports teams.

Why body composition matters more than weight alone

1). Without a body composition test, you can’t know the true nature of body composition/weight change. There are countless cases of men and women who looked fairly average prior to a commitment to diet change and increased exercise. Once they reached their fitness transition goal, they actually weighed more than before they started their program. This happens when we reduce fat and add substantial amounts of muscle. We look and feel fantastic. And, many often actually wear a smaller dress or pants size (especially waste circumference). Plus, we are infinitely healthier because we carry far less body fat.

2). Coaches have come to understand that there is a substantial difference between a 250 pound athlete with 20% body fat and one with 10%. The 10% athlete carries 25 pounds more muscle! Weight alone is misleading.

3). Besides using BOD POD to measure muscle mass, some NFL teams take the importance of body composition data even further. They include body composition as part of a formula that is used to predict the likelihood of player injury. The early data indicates that athletes who are more fit and carry less body fat are less likely to be injured.

4). For high school and college athletes who participate in summer weightlifting, base-line body composition testing and follow-up testing at the end of state mandated lifting programs can be invaluable when used to measure muscle mass change. Teen athletes go through huge growth spurts at unpredictable times. Big gains in weight can often be misleading. A simple pair of BOD POD tests will verify the quality of weight gain. Plus, body composition data can be even more valuable for athletes attempting to attract scholarship offers.

5). Muscle does weigh more than fat. A person who makes dramatic changes in diet and adds weight lifting or other strength training regimens to lose weight will likely increase muscle mass while decreasing body fat. They may become frustrated if they focus on weight only. Ironically, most are far healthier than they suspect because body fat percentage declines dramatically.

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