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Back in February, in what feels like an eternity ago already, I took part in a three week study. The testing was done with University of the Highlands & Islands and would include body composition and VO2Max testing. The primary focus of this testing was to gather data in relation to blood flow/usage in my legs during some controlled changes by the Doctor. Data gathered from this would aid documentation of their study into restricting blood flows and how this impacts on exercise. Down the line they hoped this would also aid further research into possible specific cases of heart attack prevention. It was something that hit home with me so I was more than happy to take part in the study.

Another big benefit of taking part was the chance to have my body composition analysis carried out and do some VO2 maximal testing. I don’t try to hide the fact that I am a data nerd. I was more than keen!

Three months on and I was sent the results. Complete with breakdown analysis of my body composition as well as VO2 maximal average. I was surprised by most of the results and will go over them below.

Body Composition:
This was the result from the Tanita machine. I was wearing bib shorts, jersey and socks. I had eaten breakfast as normal beforehand also.

My Fitbit Aria scales had always been reporting 5% bodyfat when I was weighing myself. It was only after months of it reporting 5% that I discovered 5% was the lowest reading these scales could give….

My first thoughts were that 4.4% is ridiculous and the machine must have got it wrong. However, I did have body comp measured at Hampden, by Sports Scotland when I was running. That gave a figure not much higher than 4.4% as well. So I do think based on this as well a the Fitbit Aria results, I genuinely WAS under 5% bodyfat. I know that is not good. Stay with me….

Very Muscular but Under Fat.
You can see from this that my right leg is my dominant and strongest leg. You can also see I have 100 grams of fat on each of my arms. Beefcake!

Just as a side note and for fun (although I don’t find it funny!). My girlfriend is a 5ft dainty thing. We measured our biceps and hers are 5cm/2inches bigger than mine. Don’t get me wrong, she is delighted by the fact, and I don’t blame her. But it’s because she rides horses and needs them biceps to control them. It’s not because I am a weed. Nope, not at all….


This bit of data is what surprised me the most really. My base metabolic rate (BMR) is 1632 calories. It means I need to consume 1632 calories per day in order to maintain my weight. 1632 calories is what my body needs in order to carry out all basic/required bodily functions. For pure reference, MyFitnessPal, the calorie counting app estimates this to be 1850 calories when I input my details.

The reason this surprised me the most is due to the very generic data given to us by the NHS as well as the information we read on food packaging. These days it states an average adult intake should be 2000 calories per day. That’s an even more generalised version of what we used to be told, which was, 2000 for women and 2500 for men. I suppose the general consensus reached when agreeing these standardised figures on packaging was derived from average calorie burn for activities beyond basic functions. Such as walking around all day, working, chasing kids, walking the dog and some leeway incorporated for exercising. For me this highlights how useless having an “adult average calorie intake” really is.

Not Healthy:

4.4% bodyfat is not healthy for a cyclist. 58/59KG for a bloke at 173cm might sound awesome for a climber but I have actually discovered in recent weeks that it is not optimal. I used the information from the body composition report to change things gradually. I’ve been doing so for four weeks now since getting the report back and before posting this.

Current Weight = 61.6KG
Current Bodyfat = 6.2%

One of my first ever blog posts covering weight & nutrition

The only downside I can honestly come to is that I have definitely lost some muscle. The muscle I have lost is in my abdominal area mostly. I do not feel as lean as I did previously which will of course seem obvious! But when you consider it that I have more fat to use as reserves as opposed to muscle wastage as a fuel source (which I was absolutely doing previously without even know it) then it really does render this point as null.

Positives. Loads! Peak Power all time bests for 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 20 minutes and 90 minutes. I am going up climbs quicker than when I was 2KG lighter…. By far the biggest positive I have taken is my ability to produce more power and more consistent power over my 2 hour+ rides. I don’t mean higher watts in zones 3-4. I mean a massive leap in terms of high zone 2 constant power over long rides and actually feeling good doing so. Without fading drastically as I did previously towards the end of longer training rides.

It’s constantly banded about that losing weight is one of the biggest gains a cyclist can make. It can be true in a lot of cases. It can also be completely false in some cases such as my own. There is a fine line and very different optimal weight for everyone individually. That optimal weight DOES NOT always have to be a figure lower than what you currently weigh.

VO2Max Results:
VO2Max for me occurs at 370 watts/181 BPM & my averaged figure from three tests was 60.5. A lab record so I was told but it won’t take much to top it!

60.5 is actually a bit lower than I thought I would have achieved if I am being honest. My best figure when I was running competitively was 64 and I honestly feel my cardiovascular system is improved now as a cyclist compared to back then.

For reference. This is a general guide to what a VO2 max figure relates to for varying age groups. My VO2 max would be “superior” even for a teenager but in the grand scheme of things, compared to professionals, 60.5 is pretty low.

The VO2Max test was done using a ramp protocol on a stationary bike. Testing starts after a warmup spin and adds watts constantly at around 1 watt per second during the ramp period. Unfortunately I could only use trainers so was not clipped in. The bike is also not comfortable at all and cannot be adjusted to mimic anywhere near a road bike position so I feel that really held me back in achieving my actual best. None the less, I got three attempts over the weeks, so this definitely helped as I knew what it was like. Rather than getting one go and it all being new/unknown completely.

The correlation to my training zones for both power and heart rate were actually pretty damn close! My threshold heart rate wise occurs at 180-182BPM. In the VO2Max test I failed the ramp test with an averaged maximal heart rate of 181BPM. Considerably lower than my highest heart rate ever achieved of 202BPM.

Power wise, Training Peaks defines my VO2Max range as 335w – 380w. This is based on my FTP of 315w. My FTP back in February was actually 305w when the testing was done though. So you can see, VO2 Maximal occurred for me at 370watts, which ties in rather well if not a little low. Each time I done the ramp test I was denied that 400w I desperately wanted to achieve. In the second test I was over 395w before failure but on the third test I was shy of 380w so that all averages out.

Valuable Data:

Taking part in the study was very beneficial to me. It’s both allowed me to address a problem I clearly had as well as confirm the zones/numbers I have been training to. For the University and Doctor carrying out the research, I hope my data is of good use to them in their outstanding work.

A lot has changed in terms of my weight, power & fitness since February. It would be awesome to get back in to the lab and do another bout of testing and I am very fortunate in that the Doctor has invited me back to do so. Comparing the data from the tail end of Winter base training to mid-race season will be very interesting!