“I hate to break it to you, but I just received written proof that I am an elite fitness athlete” I declared to my boyfriend over the phone, as soon as I left Body Insight Toronto.
He and I both work in the fitness industry, are notoriously competitive humans and I was still gleefully torturing him with my team’s victory over his in a CrossFit competition at his gym a few weeks prior. Needless to say, any data-backed confirmation of my physical prowess definitely had the potential to create a monster (at least, for his sake). Sorry but — you know, not sorry.
But all jokes aside, my health and fitness journey has taken various shapes over my young adult life. From fit to unfit, to kind of fit and extremely fit, I’ve been all over the spectrum depending on the time in my life (and variables such as work, diet, lifestyle, stress etc.). Regardless of which level of perceivably healthy/fit I occupied at any given time, I’ve always been relentlessly fascinated with health and gaining a more complete understanding of anything and everything happening in my body.
So when Body Insight popped up on my radar a few months ago, I was eager to find out what “advanced fitness testing” really entailed. According to the website, the clinic used ‘advanced medical technologies to provide actionable data about your body’s health and fitness’. These tests include Body Composition, Shape Analysis, Metabolic Testing and VO2 Max Testing — Colour me intrigued.
As soon as I arrived at the clinic, I was met by the owner Martin Walker. A friendly CrossFit enthusiast with an obvious penchant for physical health and performance, Martin opened up Body Insight as his passion project. His clinic attracts a spectrum of clientele, ranging from individuals hoping to determine a comprehensive starting point for their health/fitness goals, to trainers or athletes who work or compete in the fitness industry. From my own fitness-obsessed perspective, having access to this level of in-depth information can be extremely valuable when writing programming and making training adjustments.
First, we tackled the Body Composition test. Anyone looking to get an accurate read of their body fat % has likely heard of a ‘Dexa Scan’ — well, this is similar to that, but entirely radiation-free (which means frequent re-testing is no problem). From this (minute long) test, I learned my:
• Body Fat %
• Fat-Free Mass
• Skeletal Muscle Mass
• Body Composition
• Total Body Water
• Phase Angle
Some key takeaways? Weighing in at 143 lbs, my body fat sat at 21.1% which put me in the upper end of the female fitness category. My total body water was especially high, sitting at 38.31 (58%). This wasn’t overly surprising, as I have a notoriously sensitive gut and water retention is generally a sign of inflammation. My skeletal muscle mass was also in the high range at 54.14 lbs (thank you, deadlifts).
I also learned that my ‘Phase Angle’ was in the 98th percentile at 6.1. Let me translate this one for you… Phase angle is considered to be an indicator of cellular health and integrity — in layman’s terms, a high phase angle indicates large quantities of intact, healthy cells. When you’re healthy, your phase angle is expected to go up and when you’re ill, it’s expected to go down (and also goes down as you age). I’ve been practising intermittent fasting for over two years, and one of the key benefits of that practice is improved cellular health, which was put to the test (literally) in this case — and your girl got an A+.
3D Body Scan
The ‘3D Body Scan’ captures key body dimensions (hips, waist, biceps etc.) to within +/- 1cm. Breaking down your shape, posture and asymmetries, this test is valuable to anyone looking to better understand their body shape and structural imbalances. Also, for anyone who has notoriously bad luck with online shopping for apparel, at least now you’ll have your exact measurements…
Once again, this test is quick and painless, simply requiring you to step onto a platform turntable and grip the support handles. Once in position, the platform slowly rotates you around in a circle to curate your 3D shape analysis for 45 seconds. The results provided me with a variety of “Wellness Metrics” that included my body shape rating, body composition and my perceived fitness level (basal metabolic rate) and showed me that my right bicep and forearm are decidedly more jacked than my left.
Metabolic Rate Analysis
While weight loss can’t be totally simplified (I’m currently reading the Obesity Code which speaks to this precise problem) most people operate with the mindset that weight loss requires a caloric deficit, while weight gain requires a caloric surplus. This seems rather black and white, but there are a few things to consider:
1. The basic calories in/calories out model don’t account for certain factors such as food sensitivities/IBS/leaky gut, insulin resistance etc.
2. The body quickly responds to caloric reduction by reducing the metabolism (total energy expenditure), but over time the body generally does not increase its energy expenditure back up to its previous level.
3. It is very easy to underestimate (or even overestimate) the number of calories you consume.
You know when your friend asks how long until you’re ready and you say 5 minutes? But that 5 minutes easily becomes 10 minutes or 15 minutes? Guessing calories can trend in a similar direction. Simply put, it is far too easy to incorrectly gauge the number of calories we consume, and overestimate (or underestimate) the number of calories we expend (metabolic rate). Which brings us to this test — the Metabolic Rate Analysis. Having an accurate read of your metabolic rate allows you to better determine how much you should consume each day based on your goals (weight loss or weight gain).
The test itself is relatively simple, you just sit and breathe into a mouthpiece/tube for about 15 minutes and voilà, you have your results. Going into this, I assumed that my metabolism would be relatively high (due to high muscle mass and a generally hyper-active lifestyle). With that said, I had recently started wearing a FitBit which was estimating my caloric expenditure each day to be between 2,500-4,000 calories and I was A) Skeptical if this was even remotely accurate and B) Concerned that if it was accurate, I was grossly under-eating.
According to the test, I burn 1,901 calories at rest (AKA by just breathing/existing), which ramps up to 2,750-3,000 calories with lifestyle and exercise. By this measure, I could theoretically eat 3,000 calories each day and stay at maintenance (no weight fluctuation). Lesson learned here: I can (correction: I should ) eat a lot, and not feel the least bit bad about it.
VO2 Max Test
Not going to lie, I was pretty nervous for this one. While I love the gym, running on a treadmill is an activity which I consciously avoid. I’d rather hit the pavement, or you know — do literally any other cardio activity. Needless to say, the idea of running for 12-20 minutes straight while hooked up to a machine with a Bane-like oxygen mask strapped across my face sounded like my own version of Hell. But as aforementioned, I’m painfully competitive, and getting my hands on these results seemed worth the temporary discomfort/pre-test anxiety.
In short, this test helps you understand how well your body delivers oxygen to working muscles, determine target heart rate zones to elicit desired training response (ie. fat burning etc.) and establish calorie burn at different heart rates/zones.
Full disclosure, breathing (calmly) into the mask while I ran was rather stress-inducing. Martin talked me through it and closely monitored my status, and while he estimated that I hadn’t quite hit my anaerobic threshold yet, I tapped out around 15 minutes in. Despite my pre-mature panic, I still did pretty well with my peak heart rate coming in at 186 (where I burn 699-786 calories per hour) and my fitness level ranking at 41 (which is apparently considered superior, cough cough).
Body Insight is located at 702 – 586 Eglinton Ave East. Interested in learning more or booking yourself in for some testing? Click here.