Metabolic Testing and Body Composition Analysis

Using these two tests, our nutritionists see who isn’t eating right (i.e., malnourished) and to what extent. Therefore, we can offer highly effective and customized treatment plans as well as track their progress. Metabolic Testing and Body Composition Analysis take much of the guesswork out of nutritional guidance, since it is based on empirical data. They help people understand their bodies while motivating them to reach healthy goals; they also help to determine how best to fuel their bodies to prevent accelerated aging, how to optimize fat-burning capacity, and how to build muscle.

What is Metabolic Testing?

Metabolic Testing measures how many calories someone is burning, and enables us to see if they are burning more or less than they should. When a person is underfed, it also measures how much lean mass (muscles, brain, organ tissue, etc.) is being used to fuel the body. In slightly more technical terms, metabolic testing measures an individual's metabolic rate by determining the Actual Resting Energy Expenditure (AREE), namely,  the amount of calories burned while in resting state. It does this by measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, a process called indirect calorimetry. During the testing procedure, an individual reclines and breathes under a lightweight canopy hood for 20-30 minutes. Immediately after the procedure, the nutritionists analyzes the AREE alongside the PREE (predicted resting energy expenditure) to assess if the body is burning the amount of calories it should (a normal metabolism), fewer calories than it should ( hypometabolic), or more calories than it should (hypermetabolic).

Unlike almost all other metabolic machines, the one we use at The Kahm Clinic also measures the three kinds of fuel that your body uses, namely, fat (stored body fat), carbohydrates (in your blood-sugar), and protein (from your muscles and organs). The metabolic test is done after you have fasted and burned through all of your regular food and it sees what you burn when you have nothing left in the tank. A healthy person, when fasting, should burn roughly 15% protein, 80% fat, and 5% carbohydrates. If you are burning more or less of any of these, it means that you are not metabolizing or burning these fuels right, even with a full tank. If less than 80% of your energy in this state is coming from fat, it means that your body is storing fat because it’s underfed or because you are not eating the right amount of food at the right times. If more than 80% of what you are burning is fat, your body is nourished enough to use your fat for fuel/energy. As the metabolic test is done (ideally) after an overnight fast, and your body burns through its carbs pretty quickly, we should see that between 0 – 5 % of what you are burning in this state is carbohydrates. If this percentage is higher, it indicates that you are not metabolizing your carbohydrates efficiently and there is an increased risk for insulin resistance, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc. Concerning protein, we use 2 – 15% of our body protein on a daily basis, but if you are above 15%, that means you are using your body’s protein (muscles and organs) to fuel yourself because you are not eating correctly – this is something that should be avoided at all costs.

While some other nutritionists have a metabolic test, there are only a handful of places in our country that have invested in this machine that measures how you are burning these different sources of fuel. This machine is complicated and it takes experience and substantial training to learn how to interpret the data in a useful manner. Furthermore, measuring your metabolism and tracking it and measuring your fat and lean tissue and carefully tracking that is not an optional add-on to our nutritional counseling, as it is with most nutritionists. For us, it is utterly central and crucial to what we do – we have seen so much progress with our clients over the years that we could never go back to working without them.

What is Body Composition Analysis?

Body Composition Analysis measures the amount and proportion of fat and lean mass in a person's body. It also measures the body's cellular integrity. In slightly more technical terms, Body Composition Analysis measures lean mass, body fat, lean dry mass (muscle), total body water, intracellular water, extracellular water, and phase angle. Body Composition Analysis is a quick and non-invasive procedure. Electrodes are attached to a wrist and a foot and a small electrical current is sent through the body. By measuring the resistance and reactance to the current as it passes through the body, it can measure the proportion and amount of lean tissue and fat. The rate at which this current passes through the cells of the body is how BCA determines the integrity of a person's cells. The measurement of the body's total resistance and reactance (which is independent of a person's height, weight and body fat) is called the phase angle. A low phase angle indicates a breakdown of cell membrane. As the body is nutritionally restored, the cell membrane becomes more intact and the phase angle improves. This is quick, painless, harmless and extremely informative data!

Practically everyone benefits from the information provided by these tests. If you are curious, please take a look at the sample test results of our weight management clients. On the Anorexia page and Binge Eating Disorder page you can also access sample test cases of those kinds.