Last time I posted a blog I was trying to recover from months of injury and the resultant slothfulness that had taken over. It proved to be a slow process but by late spring I was able to exercise again without inordinate fear of disablement. With that new freedom I felt able to focus more on my diet and slowly, slowly I started to notice some improvements in both the weight on the scale and on the plates on the bar.
It seemed like perfect timing for DEXAscan to offer me a trial body analysis DEXA scan. It would enable me to set some incontrovertible baseline stats and form the perfect springboard for me to monitor my gains/losses.
I have to say I was a little sceptical. After all I am well aware that I’m fat. I look in the mirror and see it, I feel it when I climb the stairs and my scales kindly point out that I’m about 47% lard on a daily basis. So the DEXA scan might more accurately tag me as (spoiler alert) 48.0% fat but would that really make any difference? At least would it make £148 worth of difference?
Still, as it wasn’t my £148 I was very happy to risk it and booked a session for an initial scan at one of the few London clinics that offer the DEXA scan service: Bodyscan.
I’ve had a bodpod scan before so was expecting to be squeezed into a claustrophobic egg for the experience but it was completely different. For a DEXA scan all I had to do was to lie on a table while a mechanical arm passed over my body a few times, exposing me to some low level x-ray emissions. It took about 3 mins in total and was perfectly relaxing.
DEXA scan Results
My technicolour exposed image was ready within minutes and my excesses were exposed in their full glory. Despite starting this thinking I couldn’t be shocked, I’m afraid I was a bit stunned. It’s quite in your face….
Thankfully the picture isn’t the whole story. We get to run through the stats, including things like the weight and comparative composition across different parts of my body. I was surprised to note that I have a whole kilo more of fat in my right leg vs my left leg.
More importantly I was informed that my visceral fat levels (VAT) were too high. That’s the fat situated around your organs and for me that was a area of 142 cm2 when it ought to be less than 100 cm2 if I don’t want it to adversely affect my health. Luckily, as the Bodyscan team inform me, this measure is particularly responsive to weightloss interventions, with fat leaving the visceral areas preferentially over the subcutaneous visible layers.
Bodyscan provide two key indices, the Fat Mass Index (FMI) and the Lean Mass Index (LMI), which focus on fat (or muscle for LMI) as a function of your height. These together mean we can disregard the much derided BMI measure which pays no heed to distribution of a bodyweight across fat and muscle.
So my FMI is 21.4 and LMI is 22.1 both of those put me in the top few percentage points of the population, not great for fat but pretty spiffing for muscle.
It means that while I am off the charts fat, I was extremely pleased to discover that I was also off the charts muscular.
As I’ve been weightlifting for a while, you might wonder why this surprised me. While I’ve been injured for quite a few months now and I’ve been imagining all my muscle melting away during all this time. So the fact that it is still there and that it exists in a comparatively large volume has provided me with quite a spur to action.
I feel as though I should be able to diet with a significant calorie deficit without being unduly concerned about muscle wastage.
It’s also interesting to me that I can be in the top few percentile points for muscle mass and yet have noticed a significant drop off in my strength as determined by lifting maxes. Of course strength is not just dictated by muscle mass or volume. Neuromuscular efficiency is thought to be responsible for much of the strength gain noted when strength training just begins. This is the bodies ability to recruit the correct muscle fibres and to get them to perform in the most effective manner.
This all says to me that I have too much fat but more than enough muscle. I ought to be able to lose fat without causing myself problems with excess muscle loss and I should also be able to a achieve lifting gains by increasing my neuromuscular efficiency, which I think I can target by plugging away, consistently drilling my weightlifting moves under incremental loads. This is pretty good news.
The whole session managed to expand a touch over the full hour slot as the pre-scan discussion covering my motivations and struggles and then the fascinating post scan analysis and advice were so in depth.
Kevin, the analyst is also a nutritionist and I really liked his approach. He wanted to understand my relationship with food so he could recommend strategies that would work for me rather than handing me a cookie cutter plan.
We discussed meal planning tips that might work for me and help me to achieve satiety as well as hitting a 150g per day protein target within a calorie deficit. These included things like delaying breakfast and modifying macro targets across the week to cope with social events etc. The idea being to monitor targets and results as averages across the whole week.
DEXA scan Summary
I came away from my DEXA scan session at Bodyscan with a multicolour scan of my body, a pack stuffed with statistics about my current composition, a load of actionable nutritional advice and a high motivation to knuckle down and reduce the amount of fat tissue covering all that muscle. I was so inspired I ended up putting my money where mouth is and paid up front for a follow up scan to be taken within the next year.