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New machine tests true calorie needs

By Tony Perez | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office | Nov. 26, 2007

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS — The Health and Wellness Center on Lackland AFB recently purchased a new machine to measure a person's caloric use.

The indirect calorimeter will provide one more tool to enhance the Lackland Fitness and Sports Program's goal to be the fittest base in the Air Force.

"Before, when we prescribed a fitness improvement program for an individual, it was kind of a shot in the dark when stating how many calories they should be consuming," said Fitness and Sports Director Steve Reichert.

The number of calories a person needs versus the number of calories a person eats are the two variables that go into dieting programs.

"This machine cuts out that guessing and allows us to prescribe a suitable diet. I can take an estimate of what your caloric needs are," Reichert said. "Ninety percent of the time, diet is the main component to becoming more fit."

The indirect calorimeter determines a person's metabolic rate by measuring the amount of oxygen the body uses while at rest.

The machine first measures the amount of oxygen in the room.

Then the participant breathes into the machine through a tube, and the machine measures the amount of oxygen that is emitted compared to the amount of oxygen that is in the room.

The indirect calorimeter also measures the volume of oxygen flow.

The test takes 10 minutes. During the first few seconds, individuals may experience some discomfort while adjusting to breathing through the tube. The machine states the amount of calories the participant should be consuming, as well as a timetable to meet any weight loss goals that they might have.

"Our biggest obstacle is that people don't know that we have this equipment," Reichert said.

The Fitness and Sports Program will begin a 90-day fitness improvement program called the Fittest Fighter on Jan. 1, and it will be open to all of Team Lackland.

"Everybody who wants to do this should come out," Reichert said.