Body Composition Profiling #1

I went to Birmingham University High Performance Centre to have a body composition profile done. This involves taking measurements from various parts of the body (easy I know what you are thinking :p ) to profile a number of factors about the make up of your body composition. In the half hour session I had my weight, height, 7 skin fold measurements and 4 muscle girth measurements taken. My session was with Eleanor Jones who is a senior sports scientist at the centre. You can see a short video on Youtube of Eleanor talking about the work they do at the Centre.

The Data

BODY FAT (Skin folds)

Sites  mm
Triceps  6.7
 Subscapular  10.8
 Bicep  4.2
 Supraspinale  9.8
 Abdominal  23.1
 Front Thigh  7
 Medial Calf  5.1
 Sum of 7  66.5


skinfold May 2013

MUSCLE (girths)

Sites mm
Upper arm 31.4
Forearm g. 28.8
Mid thigh g. 56.8
Max calf g. 39.5
Height (cm) 174.8
Weight (kg) 74.9
Muscle Mass (kg) 46.7
% 62.3

What does it actually mean?

It’s all very well having the data but interpreting it is where the real value comes. Lets start off with muscle mass as this is a fairly simple one.

My muscle mass is fine for now. I’m not skinny. I’m not heavy. Generally speaking I’m of a “suitable size” for my goals. I have to just be careful to maintain this while trying to lose fat.

More interesting however are the skin fold measurements. Often these are used to estimate body fat %. HPC  however doesn’t use body fat % as the resulting figure can have a huge range depending upon which method and formula you use. I was shown a spread sheet with my data in, that calculated my body fat to be from 7% to 22%. Clearly this is such a huge range that it cesase to become useful. Instead they use the Sum of 7 method which gave me a figure of 66.5mm. I was told that although this is in the top end of the normal range for an ultraendurance athlete they would much prefer to see me down in the 40’s. Obviously I have some work to do there. Weight loss of 6-8lbs over the next few months is what I should be aiming at.

The figures show one very clear result. My limbs (legs and arms) are fairly lean but I seem to be carrying a disproportional amount of body fat in my abdomen. You can see on the graph above how much the distribution is skewed by that measurement. I imagine this is why my possible body fat % range comes out so broad. I was advised that to reduce my abdominal fat, a change of diet should give me the biggest results along with eating the right macros at the right times. The right times being in relation to when I train.


I have booked in for another profile in 4 weeks time. Between then and now I have several goals.

1. Maintaining muscle mass at 46.7kg. I guess it won’t hurt if this increases but I certainly don’t want to lose any.

2. Decrease total skin folds by 5mm which equates to about 2lbs of fat.

3. Decrease abdominal skin fold by the most.


In order to obtain these goals I need to do some stuff, mostly involving making changes to my diet.

First a non nutritional one but one that is important as part of maintaining muscle mass is to keep doing resistance training. This sounds simple enough but as my wrist is still fairly tender from the light crash I had last week this is more difficult at the moment than it should be. I can keep doing leg weights and anything that doesn’t involve to much bent wrist or arm leverage is not to painful. I don’t want to increase the time I have the injury for though so I will have to see how it goes with the upper body training.

Secondly I need to eat more protein.. a lot more protein. I will be aiming at 150g a day which is a large step up for me. I’m going to need to get plenty of plenty of chicken, fish, milk and eggs (mostly whites) to name but a few. I think this is going to be hard for me to begin with but I think once I get into a routine and get some high protein snacks on the go I should be able to work it all out.

Thirdly I need to be more careful about when I eat carbs so that I only get a good dose of them on big ride days. My aim here is that on light cardio and rest days I stick to the macros below but on days when I do an early sprint session I pretty much eat back the calories used straight away as carbs. I foresee that this will end up mostly being whole meal bagels with my porridge. On days when I do a big ride I eat more carbs before hand trying to add something in the region of  an extra 200g carbs. The average long evening session is around the 1500-2000 cals mark so with a couple of snacks while riding I should get back to the net calories goal. I will remain flexible with this though and see how it goes.

I’m still going to be using My Fitness Pal as a food diary but have been advised that in terms of the goals and macros I should now do everything manually and don’t rely on the guided goals. It was suggested that the figure of 1640 cals (net) to lose 1lb a week was too low and that I should be aiming at 1740 cals (net) minimum. I have altered mine as follows (this is for light cardio and rest days):

Daily net calories – 1740

Protein – 152g (35%)

Carbs –  218g (50%)

Fat –  29g (15%)

So that’s about it really. I will be back at the centre in 4 weeks to see how it’s going. I think going back fairly regularly will be a sensible thing to do, not just in terms of monitoring but also to help make me accountable. If I’m going to be paying the money out for the profile then I’m really going to need to see some results.


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