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How does a regular guy like me compare to an elite athlete like Dwight Howard? To find out, we hit the Gatorade Performance Lab in Anaheim, where some very smart people put us through a series of tests to A) educate us about our bodies and B) advance sports science -- in Howard's case, anyway.
MEASUREMENTS*: Howard: 6-foot-9, 259 pounds. Alipour: 5-6½, 145. So, average height? "Yeah, average -- for a midget," says Howard. Already, I want to take him down.
HYDRATION: Urine samples measure hydration levels. My urine specific gravity of 1.004 is solid (under 1.020 is acceptable). Howard: 1.029. Advantage Alipour! "In my experience," says test conductor Melissa Tippet, "athletes tend to come in dehydrated." Details.
BODY COMPOSITION: We don compression shorts and take turns in the Bod Pod, an air-displacement chamber that estimates body-fat percentage. Despite his not having worked out in months, Howard's body-fat is 7.5 percent (in the elite-athlete range). Alipour's: 17.6 percent. Is that in Stan Van Gundy range? "Actually, Stan's body is better than yours," Howard says. "Have you worked out, like, ever?"
FUEL USAGE: We ride stationary bikes wearing masks that feed expired gas into a carbon dioxide analyzer. Howard burns 225 calories; I burn 131, a difference Tippet attributes to Howard's superior size and fitness. One bright spot: The mask was outfitted with a drool catch. I filled two of them. "We've never seen that before," Tippet says. Sweet!
COGNITIVE ASSESSMENT: To measure the effect of energy expenditure on the brain, the Stroop Color and Word Test requires subjects to identify contrasting words/colors (like the word green in red text) under the clock. "Sam went to college," groans the prep-to-pro. Still, I'm not leaving anything to chance: While Howard tests, I distract him. The upshot: Alipour 62, Howard 53.
THE TAKEAWAY: "I need to work on my hydration," Howard admits. As for me? "You're a fat, short cheater," Howard says. At least I can hit free throws.
(* -- according to Gatorade)