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We Tried It: Body Fat Percentage & Resting Metabolic Rate Testing

Posted on Jan 11, 2014 ( comments)
This is the time of year when many of us are resolving to make healthy changes in our lives, and we know that making those changes isn’t always easy. It takes a healthy dose of determination and a decent amount of discipline to build and maintain healthy lifestyle habits.

A few facts and figures don’t hurt, either. And that’s where body fat percentage and resting metabolic rate testing come in.

I connected with Lisa Lovejoy, MEd, RD, CD, a registered dietitian with MultiCare’s Center for Healthy Living, to see what getting these two tests involved.

First up was body fat percentage.

Knowing your body fat percentage helps you understand how much of your body is made up of fat, versus muscles, tissues and organs, and is widely considered the most accurate way to determine your fitness level.

“Body fat percentage is usually a better measure of fitness than weight,” says Lovejoy. The reason for this, she continues, is that muscle fiber is denser than fat, so if you are building muscle while losing fat, the number on your scale might not show much of a difference, even though you’re getting fitter and healthier.

Lovejoy is the current keeper of MultiCare’s Bod Pod™ body fat measurement system. It’s widely considered the most accurate way to measure body fat percentage and is used by notable organizations such as the NFL and the US Military.

It’s also pretty weird looking, more like a space ship escape pod from a sci-fi movie than a medical device.

One of the calculations the Bod Pod uses to determine your body composition is your body’s volume. So step one in the test is to remove all your jewelry and most of your clothing – for women, that means you’re wearing pretty much just a sports bra and compression shorts. You even have to put your hair in a form-fitting swim-style cap.

As long as you can overcome any potential feelings of self-consciousness because you’re the only person in the room wearing next to nothing and a dorky swim cap, the rest of the testing process is quite easy. First you step on a scale to get your body’s overall mass (weight). Then you step into the Bod Pod and have a seat. The pod’s door is sealed and you simply sit still for about a minute while the machine uses air displacement to measure your volume (holding your breath is not necessary). The door is opened to reset the device and then the test is run a second time to ensure accuracy.

It feels a bit goofy, sitting there in that giant white pod (especially since I had co-workers with me helping with photography), but other than that I was quite comfortable. There is an easily accessible “panic button” inside the pod, though, in case anyone finds the closed in space too overwhelming.
Bod Pod 2

It’s great to get this test done as you are starting a fitness or weight loss program to help set realistic, achievable goals. It can also help you measure your progress in meeting those goals. Lovejoy says many people come back in three to six months after initial testing to see how well they’re doing in meeting their goals. I definitely plan to do so, as well. Goofy swim cap and all.

Bod Pod body fat analysis is available from MultiCare Center for Healthy Living for $50. Resting metabolic rate testing is $50. If you have the tests performed together the total cost is $90.

MultiCare employees and YMCA members receive a 20 percent discount.

To view a full list of the services MultiCare Center for Healthy Living offers for weight loss, wellness and sports nutrition, visit multicare.org/sports-nutrition-tacoma.

To learn more about the science behind the Bod Pod, visit bodpod.com.

Be sure to read the rest of this We Tried It series. Read Part Two: Resting Metabolic Rate Testing now.

Posted in: Healthy Living

About The Author

maura hallam Maura Hallam
Maura is our senior content editor. She writes extensively about health and wellness topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical insurance. You can reach her at maura.hallam@multicare.org.

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