Test Results

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  • #8968


    I did a gas exchange test a week ago and got what I think is some very useful information.
    First, as I suspected, I have ADS – already working to fix it. And I must thank you for all the effort and information you have put out to educate us on proper training.
    Second, turns out my maxVO2 is 72 mL/kg/min. I also read your chapter and articles on the “Max VO2 Myth” so I feel I understand it a lot better now.
    But there’s a few things I can’t wrap my mind around yet, so I would be very grateful if you could help me out.

    -So, I understand a high maxVO2 enables a higher lactate threshold. So athletes with an high maxVO2 can better raise their lactate threshold. Now, my question is: is lactate threshold related to absolute or relative maxVo2? Here’s what’s going through my mind – relative maxVo2 relates to weight, but what about lactate threshold? Would a 70kg man with a 75 maxVo2 be better able to raise his lactate threshold than a man weighting 60kg with a 75 maxVo2 (that is, having a lower absolute maxVO2)?

    -Second: I read maxVO2 is called a “first-wave response” because it increases rapidly on untrained individuals, then it plateaus, right? So, being that I have been training for almost 3 years:
    -I’ve been improving from year to year, despite my “newfound” ADS. If next year I repeat the gas exchange test, but instead I can keep going for 2 or 3 more minutes, will the maxVo2 be the same? So, is this value independent of how long I can sustain the maximum effort during the test? If then, what might have changed/improved that enables me to sustain a maximal/very high effort for longer?
    -MaxVo2 is a “first-wave response”, but how soon and how much does it plateaus? I’ve read on some data published by Kilian Jornet the following: “Vo2 Max: 92ml/min/kg (74 at 13 years old, 83 at 18 years old)”. So, his values seem to have improved over the years. First 74, then 83 and finally 92. But of course Kilian is Kilian. 😉

    -Finally, what valuable data can I extract from the respiratory exchange ratio values (RER)?

    Long post, sorry.

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    Anonymous on #8983

    First of all thanks for your kind words about the book and website.

    You chose your parents well! Someone with just 3 years of training under their belt and a maxVO2 of 72ml/kg/min has probably got a genetic predisposition for endurance. I’ll address your points below but with a brief summary first.

    A person’s oxygen uptake (rate they use oxygen in their muscles during exercise) is an indirect measure of human power. It does not correlate particularly well with endurance performance. It is not a measure of endurance per say (as is often misinterpreted). It IS a measure of endurance POTENTIAL. When it comes to predicting or measuring actual endurance the best biometric indictor if the speed at ones lactate threshold (also called anaerobic threshold). However top endurance athletes often have very high maxVO2. People make the old correlation is not causation mistake.

    Lactate Threshold and maxVO2
    Well trained endurance athletes can achieve LT HRs as high as ~90% of their maxVO2. 90% of 72ml/kg/min (like yours) is going to be higher than 90% of 62ml/kg/min. MaxVO2 puts an upper limit on endurance. Improve maxVO2 and you can potentially improve endurance by raising the LT. But keep in mind that it is performance in the filed that athletes are concerned with: Your running speed, your uphill skinning speed or the speed you can front point up the 3rd ice field on the N Face of the Eiger. These are real performance metrics. Just increasing the LT HR or VO2 at LT doesn’t necessarily translate to performance becasue of little thing called economy. An athlete with high economy uses less oxygen to for the same speed than one with low economy. This explains why races are held: If all the mattered was a laboratory measurement of maxVO2 or LT, athletes would only need to present their lab test results and the medals could be handed out based on those. We often see athletes with low maxVO2 beating those with very high numbers due to better economy.

    Relative vs Absolute maxVO2
    Relative is also sometimes called “Specific”. Absolute is a gross measure like the horsepower of the engine in your car. 200 horsepower in a car or 6L/min of O2 uptake in a human. But a 200 horsepower engine in a heavy car will not yield as much performance as a 200 horsepower engine in a light car. So we divide the absolute O2 uptake by the athlete’s body mass in Kg to get a measure of horsepower per kg. This allows us to compare from athlete to athlete regardless of the size of the person. Relative maxVO2 is important in endurance sports where athletes have to overcome the effects of gravity in their locomotion (running uphill). In a sport like Rowing where the athlete mainly has to overcome the resistance of the water on the boat’s hull with our lifting his body mass relative to the earth (gravity) the absolute maxVO2 is very important and is why you see a natural selection of bigger athletes in rowing than in running. As to your question regarding the 70 vs 60kg athlete having more upside in LT. I can’t see any reason why that would be so.

    First Wave Response
    This means that the adaptations that result in increased maxVO2 occur quite rapidly when engaging in endurance training. Especially in the young and untrained. Genetics seems to play a big role in response rates and ultimate values. Notice that the numbers you present for Kilian were recorded when he was young. The young (adolescents through mid twenties) are the most trainable in most athletic qualities.

    Increasing VO2
    If you stay on the treadmill 2-3 minutes longer using the same test protocol this will mean that you will be moving faster and will most like see an increase in maxVO2. But an increase in speed can come from improved economy and a higher LT as well.

    I hope this helps

    tonys on #8985

    You’re welcome. I’ve been reading a little about you and Steve and I think it is really awesome to be able to reach to someone of your caliber for tips and expertise.
    So, thank you for the in depth, clear response.

    By your answer I can tell I’m probably not reasoning very well on this one, but my thought on the absolute maxVO2-LT thing arises from the following: Athlete A weights 70kg and has a maxVO2 of 75ml/kg/min, so he has an absolute maxVO2 of around (70kg x 75ml/kg/min) 5250 V’O2 ml/min (not sure if I’m using the correct notation), right? Athlete B weights 60kg with a maxVO2 of 75ml/kg/min, so he has an absolute value of (60kg x 75ml/kg/min) 4500 V’O2 ml/min. So, say that most of A’s added weight is muscle mass located on the upper body, so A and B’s leg muscle mass is the same. Regarding LT at running, wouldn’t A have some sort of advantage over B as he would be able to supply more O2 to the specific leg muscles being used, which have the same mass as B’s? So, same leg muscle mass, but different supply of O2 to the recruited fibers. Again, I may not be reasoning very well.

    Now that you mention economy, may I also ask something else. Improved economy can be attained through changes in what? Technique? I’ve carefully watched videos of mountain running athletes such as Kilian, Marco de Gasperi, Stian Angermund Vik and they all seem to have very “clean” movements, solid footing, landing mostly on the forefoot, having little air time and vertical motion on the uphills, etc. Specially with Kilian, there are little to no “parasitic” movements, I think.

    Once again, thank you very much. Love this discussions!

    Anonymous on #8996


    Athlete A in your example above has to carry the added muscle mass when he runs. That muscle mass has to be oxygenated (not at the same rate as at the running muscles) so is a parasitic draw. maxVO2 is a measure global measure of the heart’s ability to supply, and the muscle’s ability to use, O2. There’s a reason top runners are don’t look like weight lifters. Forget absolute VO2 measures for weight bearing sports. Relative VO2 is a more useful metric.

    Economy has too components-
    1) Mechanical (technique + other factors) – The energy cost of, in this case, running (but could be any locomotive activity). How many calories does it take to move at give speed. Several factors influence this: Muscle fiber type predominance, Connective tissue tension for rebound energy return, body proportions such as leg length to torso and leg swing weight, vertical oscillation….

    2) Metabolic – Relates to how those calories are produced (oxidative vs glycolytic metabolic pathway)

    While certainly genetics plays a big role in body proportions and muscle fiber type, Economy, along with Aerobic and Lactate Threshold, are highly trainable qualities. Economy varies with pace. Ideally the runner will optimize economy (minimize energy cost) at race pace. Economy can vary by more than 25% even among similar speed runners.

    In a highly technical sport like XC skiing economy plays an ever bigger role.


    tonys on #9068

    Ok, got it. Thank you!

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