Adventures in Body Composition: Hopping Into the Bod Pod

Adventures in Body Composition: Hopping Into the Bod Pod

Body fat measurement calipers

A little over four years ago, I had a fitness assessment at a GloboGym as part of a 30-day trial to find out if it was the right gym for me (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). I was four months postpartum, and I was mostly interested in losing body fat and building muscle. It turned out that was a good goal; the electrode body fat measurement device, which isn’t always very accurate, informed me that I was at 26% body fat. It’s a generally acceptable level for health, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

Body fat measurement device
This thingie isn’t always accurate.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been caliper-ing myself with the Accu-Measure calipers shown above and getting readings all over the place (17.4%, 18.3%, whatever, so I err on the high side). My box had the mobile bod pod come out, but it was the same day as the Toughest 10K Kemah, so I had to pass. Still, I was curious: after four years of living a healthier, fitter lifestyle, what’s my body composition?

Enter the IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial Hermann. I scheduled a test in their bod pod to find out where I stand and how I should adjust my training and nutrition strategies. (Spoiler alert: I do need to adjust.)
I think I had the same expression.

First up, before you go, you can’t eat or drink anything for two hours beforehand. You also can’t exercise. The latter part was fine, but by the time I got to my appointment, I was pretty hungry. I had packed a pair of compression shorts (my Asics PR run briefs) and a lightweight sports bra (finally found a use for the Fabletics Sevan sports bra other than sleeping!) since you can’t wear regular clothes and they recommend spandex and form-fitting items. They provide a swim cap.

I met with Brett, the nutritionist there, and I was really, really anxious. First of all, because I realized I was going to be in a room with this guy in my sports bra and spandex (not that he hadn’t seen this a gazillion times), and second because I realized I’d have to step on a scale. But Brett was very professional, and he explained how I’d have to take off my jewelry (I could leave in my earrings, which is good, because they are a pain to keep taking out) and what would happen in the bod pod. Basically, I might feel some ear discomfort as the air displacement happened, but it would be painless, and I was supposed to relax and breathe normally.
Brett left me alone to change, and I wish I had snapped a selfie of myself in that silly swim cap that was keeping my hair out of the way. The room was nice and warm, so I didn’t have to worry about headlights, either. (This is why I wear well-lined or padded sports bras. Well, that and because wall balls smacking me in the chest hurt more unpadded.) I cracked the door open so Brett would know I was ready. He had me sit in the bod pod, and he ran the test three times. It took 45 seconds each time, and the first two times, I kept my eyes closed and focused on breathing normally. The third time, I opened my eyes. It was totally fine – there was nothing scary about it. In between each test, Brett checked to make sure I was okay. Once he was done, he left me to change back into my street clothes, and once again, when I was dressed, I cracked the door open. He came in to go over my results with me:
I am not comfortable posting my full results. However, I am comfortable posting that my body fat percentage is 17.4%, which puts me in the Ultra Lean category, most often found in elite athletes.
I’m not an elite athlete.
Brett and I talked about my general calorie intake, and he suggested I up it a little more and put on a little (not a lot) of body fat. I’m going to discuss some healthy weight gain strategies with my coach; I do need to put on a couple pounds since I weighed in at the low end of my comfort zone as well. This is where I’m revising my nutrition strategy. I swear, sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who wants to gain weight. But it’s possible, and I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to do it without completely losing my mind. I will say that my eyes widened when I saw how much I weighed according to the scale in the room; it’s not a lot. It explains a lot, though, including why I feel exhausted entirely too often.
And just for fun, I’m going to post this picture of me power cleaning a 55-lb. barbell:
That’s what a woman with 17.4% body fat looks like when she’s power cleaning 🙂 Yeah, you can’t see my abs, but I do have visible abs, and you can tell I’m lean from the pic. The good news is, if I gain a little weight, I’ll be able to put that weight behind my lifts!