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Looking for results? Let our experts tell you why the numbers on the scale don’t matter

By Dr. Rachelle Reed, PhD

Did you know that the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge is scientifically designed to produce results? It’s true. The challenge’s length, and the workout frequency needed to complete it, are meant to hit the recommended dose of 3-4 weekly workouts proven to produce results. Everything we do here at Orangetheory is created by, and supported by, experts. That is why the challenge is based on changes in body composition. Which, in comparison to the scale alone, is a better way to monitor changes in the body.

We’ve asked our Health Science and Research Team 5 key questions to fill you in on what the science shows about body composition. Here’s what they have to say:

1.  What Is Body Composition?

According to researchers and clinicians, maintaining an optimal body fat percentage and preventing obesity is one of the best predictors of More Life. Body composition analysis allows us to estimate what percentage of the body is made of fat mass and how much is lean mass (including muscle, organs and bone tissue). Research shows that body composition provides a more accurate picture of an individual’s health than assessing just weight or body mass index (BMI) alone. Our goal is to use evidence-based approaches to help members measure their progress by monitoring how their exercise and nutrition behaviors are improving their health.

2.  How Does OTF Measure Body Composition?

We use a device called InBody to estimate body composition for our members. The InBody uses technology that measures Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) to assess muscle mass, body fat and total body water (TBW). When a member stands on the InBody machine, it sends several (completely safe) high- and low-frequency electrical currents through the water in the body, estimating impedance. The impedance is used to determine TBW, which can then be used to derive your fat-free mass — the portion of your body that does not contain fat, including your muscle and bone — and finally, body fat.

There are several methods of estimating body composition, but we chose the InBody because:

·  It provides reliable estimates when the pre-scan protocols are followed

·  It is easy to use in our studio setting

·  It is non-invasive

There are some limitations to using the bioelectrical impedance method since it is not considered to be the “gold standard” for body composition estimation.

·  It is less reliable than more precise measurement techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans

·  There is a lot of variability in results based on the device option used (for example, the InBody is more reliable and valid than an at-home scale)

·  Results are easily influenced by following (or not following) the pre-scan protocol; specifically, hydration status heavily influences your TBW, which can interfere with reliable results

Despite these limitations, we have found that the InBody provides a quick, cost-effective way to provide our members with data and insights at a sufficient level of accuracy to enable them to take informed action to improve their health and body composition.

3.  What Factors Influence Body Composition?

Various factors influence body composition — some are within our control, and others are not! For example, genetics, age and sex are outside of our control. However, we can improve some factors — like energy intake, physical activity levels, recovery from exercise, stress and sleep — with behavior changes.

Body composition can be improved by reducing body fat and/or increasing lean muscle mass. Both require an understanding of total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which refers to all the processes in the body that convert or use energy.

TDEE includes three factors:

1) Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) requires ~60 to 70% of our total energy requirements for basic metabolic functions to support life, such as breathing, blood circulation and brain function (1).

2) Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) equates to ~10% of total daily energy expenditure, specific to the energy required to digest, absorb and store nutrients. Eating a nutrient-dense, well-rounded diet can alter TEF.

3) Thermic Effect of Physical Activity (TEPA) includes both structured exercise and non-exercise activity. TEPA can vary, ranging between 15 to 30% of total daily energy expenditure (1). Meeting or exceeding the Physical Activity Guidelines can maximize your TEPA.

The first factor, BMR, is difficult to change. However, the good news is — we have the power to influence TEF and TEPA.

4.  What Is the Transformation Challenge?

The Transformation Challenge is an 8-week challenge that begins each January. Orangetheory members register to participate and are encouraged to take at least 3 classes per week for 6 out of the 8 weeks. In addition, members complete an Inbody scan pre- and post-challenge to estimate changes in their body composition.

The challenge is designed to help members set new goals and improve their exercise behaviors for the year — the 8-week challenge is just the start. Evidence suggests that sustainability of nutrition and physical activity behaviors is the primary factor in successfully improving body composition.

5. What Body Composition Changes Should Members Expect at OTF?

The Orangetheory Fitness workout may result in members reducing fat mass and increasing muscle mass, but these positive changes are not always reflected by weight nor body mass index (BMI). In other words, if you’re only measuring weight loss, you will miss out on appreciating these other changes.

Research shows that optimal body composition is highly related to long-term health and athletic performance. Changes to body composition should take time, so let’s dive into what we should expect.

It is common to have unrealistic expectations for changes in body composition and weight loss. Don’t be discouraged. A reduction of 1 to 3% body fat is a realistic goal over an 8- to 12-week period. Similarly, a realistic expectation for gradual weight loss is 0.5 to 2 pounds per week, which translates to 4 to 16 pounds over an 8-week period like the Transformation Challenge.

The American College of Sports Medicine has specific guidelines for the amount of resistance training needed to elicit significant gains in lean mass (2-3 days of resistance training targeting all main muscle groups, weekly). Changes in lean mass will likely be very small in magnitude over time.

The results from our 2022 Transformation Challenge were consistent with the expected changes as described above. Here’s what our 48,000+ challenge completers accomplished, on average:

o  Women saw a 1.2% decrease in body fat percentage, with men seeing a 1.7% decrease

o  Both men and women maintained their lean mass

o  Both men and women saw a 2% reduction in total weight

Although these changes may seem small, any positive improvements to body composition, and therefore health, should be celebrated. Remember that fitness is a lifelong journey filled with small and great achievements. Get excited about your small wins. And if you’re interested in seeing what an InBody scan is all about, contact your local studio for more information.