When a doctor told Dan McAuliffe it was time to drop some of his 208 pounds, he knew he’d need more than a gym routine — and the number on his scale.
“I wanted to have a coordinated program that made sense to me, as opposed to just going into a gym and start lifting weight and exercising,” the 65-year-old Round Hill, Va., resident says. “I wanted a starting point.”
He found one at the George Washington University Weight Management and Human Performance Laboratory (44983 Knoll Square, Ashburn, Va.; go.gwu.edu/vstclab), where he underwent a battery of tests to determine his lean mass percentage, body fat percentage and metabolic rate.
Using that information, lab director Todd Miller and dietician Stephanie Mull developed an exercise and diet plan tailored specifically to McAuliffe. His fitness sessions emphasized building muscle in several target areas, and his meals added up to 1,900 calories per day. In six weeks, he lost 14 pounds.
“Knowing what your caloric need is, knowing what your activity level is, knowing how much you need to lose, coming up with measurable goals and having an accurate way of measuring them are really the only effective way to really attack weight loss and maintain it,” Miller says.
Access to those numbers can be hard to come by. GWU has a similar facility at its Foggy Bottom campus, but it’s mainly a teaching lab, Miller says. Body composition tests are also available at hospitals such as Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington and MedStar Medical Group at New Mexico Avenue, but they require prescriptions or doctors’ referrals.
The Ashburn lab, which has been open since September, is primarily for clients looking to lose weight, Miller says. Its tests are available individually or as packages (from $150 for “The Baseline” to up to $475 for “The Professional”). There are discounts for multiple assessments for people looking to track their progress.
Here are the top three tests Miller recommends (along with the price for that individual test):
GE Lunar iDXA
$200 | A client lies face up on a glass bed and is scanned with a low-dose X-ray. In seven minutes, he can see in color-coded bluntness how much of his body is fat (red) vs. lean mass (green).
The $120,000 machine, which also checks bone density, is the only one that can measure fat around the organs, Miller says.
“That’s the fat that’s most predictive of metabolic disorder, cardiovascular disease,” he says. “The higher that is, the worse off you are.”
InBody 720 BIA
$100 | For half the price, clients can opt for a test using this $15,000 piece of equipment. It also measures body composition, but with slightly less accuracy, Miller says — it’s about 98 percent as accurate as iDXA.
For two minutes, clients stand on it barefooted and grip handlebars to provide eight points of contact through which unfelt electric charges flow into the body.
“It knows the resistance that muscle gives and fat gives and then calculates your composition,” Miller says. The pulses travel faster through muscle than fat.
Resting metabolic rate
$100 | Miller has clients sit still in a chair and breathe through their mouths into a tube for 10 minutes to test how much oxygen they consume while resting.
“By knowing the amount of oxygen the body consumes, you can extrapolate out to the amount of calories the body burns,” he says. “For every liter of oxygen that your body consumes, you burn about five calories.”
Although weight-loss clients make up the bulk of its business, the lab also offers tests geared toward athletic performance. The VO2 Max ($75) measures aerobic capacity, the lactate threshold ($100) determines maximum intensity and the 30-second Wingate Cycle Test ($75) measures maximal anaerobic power.