Fun with Numbers: DEXA edition

Training can be a funny thing. You’re chugging along, doing that work, but you don’t necessarily see the results in the mirror. Or maybe the results are there but your a-hole brain won’t let you process them. Body dysmorphia can be a son-of-a-bitch.

Either way, it’s sometimes a good idea to go underneath the hood so to speak. Especially if you like looking at objective data. Sure the scale can give you a data point, but even the more advanced scales can only do so much.

Unfortunately, while the digital scales can give you readings for body fat percentage, muscle mass, and the like, they get woefully inaccurate at lower weight levels. So if you want to get a more accurate assessment of where you’re at, you’re best bet is a DEXA scan.

After restarting my fitness journey in April 2020, I decided to get my first DEXA scan in June of that year. I was under no illusions that I was a fitness legend after three months of consistent exercise, but I still wanted a baseline for where I was at.

The scans themselves are completely non-intrusive and non-invasive. Basically, you lay still on a reasonably comfortably padded table, while they scan you literally from head to toe. The most uncomfortably thing about it is trying to maintain stillness throughout the approximate 10-minute scan.

The results are near-instantaneous, so unlike the SATs, you’re not left to wonder how you did for weeks on end (sorry, PTSD). The results themselves cover pretty much everything you’d ever want to know about your body short of spending thousands of dollars for a MRI or other expensive scan.

I typically try to scan after I’ve completed a program, though it had been quite some time since my last one. Life, you know? But for completing my 21-week hypertrophy program, I promised myself I’d get one to see how I had progressed. Because I’d been lean bulking, I had prepared myself for some fat gain, since I’d added some weight since my last scan in July 2021.

I, uh was wrong.

9.9% body fat.

Suffice it to say, I was stunned. While my training has been on point the last 21 weeks, I’ve been eating at an intentional surplus to facilitate muscle growth and increase strength. And it worked: I put on seven pounds since my last scan and increased muscle too.

What I wasn’t prepared for was losing some fat. That doesn’t really happen, or at least I wasn’t expecting it. I thought I was past the ability to recomp (build muscle and lose fat at the same time), but perhaps not.

In any case, I’m very pleased with the results. I’ll go over my training in another post to explain what I did to achieve what I did. I’m current in a rest/deload phase as I prepare for a new challenge in a couple of weeks. I was going to hit it had after one week of rest, but I’m listening to my body and it’s telling me to rest, so lighter workouts are the prescription for the next two weeks.

Progress photo

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