Friday, March 04, 2011

Adventures in Body Fat Measurement

Tim Ferriss has spurred me into action yet again with his new book, "The Four Hour Body". It's a quite interesting read, with chapters on a "slow carb" diet, how to sleep better, how to gain muscle mass, etc.

His first advice was to get an accurate measurement of your body fat, so you will know what's working (and what's not) in the future. Scales and body weight are pretty meaningless, as most of us have figured out by now. But body fat does not lie - specifically your body fat percentage, as in "how much of my body is wiggly and jiggly" versus "how much is rock hard muscle goodness". The trick is accurately measuring this.

One device that can give you an accurate measure of your jiggly-ness is the BodPod.

Despite the unfortunate name, the BodPod is a rather cool device. The device knows how much mass its chamber consists of. Then it measures the air displacement that occurs when your body is put into the chamber of the device. The difference is how much mass you take up. Calculations are made from this to determine your body composition. This photo shows you the idea (and goodness no, this is not me in the photo! I wouldn't be caught dead in a yellow swimsuit!)

And yes, after seeing how much fun this lady was having in the photo, I had to try this! Notice her sporty swimcap?

It was easy to find a place to do this, and for $35, not financially taxing either.

I was told not to eat nor exercise for 2 hours before my Pod appointment. "Coffee?" I asked. "Um, no, better not" was the response. Ugh.

So this morning, with empty belly and swimsuit in hand, I ventured to the BodPod.

Not surprisingly, when I mentioned "The Four Hour Body", the technician laughed. She said that their traffic had increased at least 10 extra people per month because of the book.

The first step was to change into swimsuit, swimcap, and get my weight. Yes, weight is important here because it's the denominator in the body fat percentage equation. FAT / TOTAL-WEIGHT = body fat percentage (for those of you science geeks reading).

I jumped into the $26,000 Pod. The door closed. There were to be three 40-second measurements. If for whatever reason I was uncomforable, there was a large "Cancel Test" button right in front that would eject me into space open the Pod bay door, Hal.

It was a fast, comfortable experience (aside from the initially cold plastic seat - Brrr).

There were whirring and clicking noises. I'm somewhat claustrophic, but the giant window made that a non-issue.

In no time, we were done, and the results were in. I had a report of my wiggly, jiggly and my rock hard muscley-ness. I had a legend to compare myself with "normal".

For those of you curious, I ended up "Moderately Lean" - just missing "Lean" by a pan of brownies.