Today I thought I’d go over one of the most accurate ways athletes can monitor their progress through a regular body composition scan; The DXA, or DEXA scan.
The DEXA Scan is the use of ‘Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry’ and bringing bone mineral density together with total body composition measurements. Simply put, the scan can determine your body fat in different areas of your body (eg, trunk, arms, legs) and attain your total body fat % and fat mass. The DEXA is also a good way to have your Bone Density taken rather than going to a radiology lab in a hospital. The scan cost from $60-$70 and goes up if you want a consultation and down if you book several. I had mine done with Kate (K8BodyScan) at the Carlton Football Club in Victoria, there are many places that do this scan and a consultation.
The alternatives to the DEXA scan are having your: skin folds taken (can be a good way to monitor but must be done by the same person each time), Hydrostatic Weighing (I have heard good reports on this but have not had it done), BodPod (Not as accurate as the DEXA).
The procedure: No water or food that morning, however you do need to be as hydrated as you can be, so don’t skimp on the water the previous day (I was given a hydration test). All clothes worn had to be metal free, though I recommend wearing as little as possible. I was weighed on a scale first and then lay down on bed like machine, which takes you accurate weight anyway. The scan isn’t very long, certainly under half an hour and you lay still as it records every cm of your body from above as it moves from head to toe.
I had my first DXA scan early this year in January on a camp at the Australian Institute of sport (AIS), mid-season for rowing. Through a strong recommendation from my new dietician, I have had another scan recently (August, 6th) and will have my next scan mid-September.
While I am able to roughly judge my progress by weight and visual (how I look in the mirror), my scan early this month was drastically different to my January one. In January I was 72.5kg and approx. 20% body fat, the last scan indicated that I was 69.9kg and 28% body fat. While some factors like dehydration etc can be taken into account, to explain this difference; I have lost a vast amount of muscle in the past few months. This being predominantly due to Glandular Fever, pulling right back from training because of Illness and injury and also playing around with radical diets (fruitarian, raw vegan) and not getting the protein my body needed.
I believe getting the DXA scan is the optimal way to plot out your fitness moves forward; the scan can help you get an idea of where you can aim for. Because the scan takes your bone weight into account, you will know what goals are unattainable and which are realistic. For me, as an elite athlete, my scanner/Doctor (Kate) has indicated that the healthy body fat % for women is between 18%-32%. For an elite athlete the optimal performance BF% is around 15%-20% (this varies). My aim will be to get down to between 17.5%-18.6%, but at a lower weight and muscle mass then my January Scan showed.
My opinion on myself, I had too much muscle last season, too much weight…while I was an acceptable BF % I wasn’t the speed I needed to be at as opposed to the season of 2011 and then 2013 when my muscle mass was lower and my weight lower still. I wish to keep the muscle mass I have and maybe put a little back on, but fat loss, whilst achieving optimum fitness, is my main goal.
I’ll discuss how I go about doing this in my next post, as it is quite different then how a Body Builder contestant would do so.
Favourite food this week: Kumara (steamed, boiled) mashed with cinnamon or nutmeg.
Looking to build muscle? I stacked on a lot of muscle drinking this a few times a day:
2 scoops Quick Oats
Water (or milk if you can handle it)
Can add a banana but not required.
Wizz in a blender…
Favourite training song this week: Archangel – Two Steps from Hell
Session to try this week: Try some GHD sit-ups…and back extensions to balance them out…I had a sore core for days after these!