VO2 Max Testing & Lactate Testing
Are you training with all the facts?
A finely tuned and planned training program is a key element in maximizing your training time and improving performance. One of the most important parts of a structured training plan is to train at the correct intensity. Using a heart rate monitor or cycling power meter are both excellent methods to monitor intensity during workouts and races.
When using intensity monitoring devices it is crucial to establish training zones based around your lactate threshold (LT), often times referred to as anaerobic threshold (AT). Sports Science research has shown that using lactate threshold to establish training zones is the most precise way to set up training zones.
Often times athletes use formulas, such as 220-age, to estimate maximum heart rate. These types of formulas have statistical value for a large population, but are not very applicable to individuals especially athletes focused on improving performance. Maximum heart rate differences are very large within people of the same age and can vary 20 to 30 beats.
Using a fixed percentage of actual maximum heart rate is another popular method for establishing training zones. This method presents some potential sources of error. Athletes with the same maximum heart rate may have very different lactate threshold heart rates. One person’s LT may occur at 65% of max while the other athlete’s LT could occur at 85% of max. This 20 percentage point difference can be a 35 beat difference in actual heart rate.
Performing individual time trials, conconi tests, and other subjective methods used to determine zones are a bit more accurate than max heart rate equations, but they still are estimates and can be affected by many factors.
Lab testing of LT/AT is the most accurate method for establishing zones and until recently was only available for elite athletes or through University performance labs.
This type of testing is often referred to as metabolic testing, VO2 max testing, or lactate threshold testing.
Now it is available for the amateur athlete!
How it works
VO2 Max Testing
This exercise test which helps maximize performance is routinely done on Olympic and professional athletes. VO2 max testing used to be costly and time consuming. Cutting edge technology has now made this testing less costly and available to the average person.
The cardiovascular system’s ability to utilize oxygen can be measured by the volume of oxygen you consume while exercising at your maximum capacity. VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen in milliliters, one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight.
Lactate Threshold Testing
While VO2 Max is important to know as it gives you a comparison to other people, the real value in metabolic testing is in determining the point in which your body relies less on fat as the primary energy source and begins to use carbohydrates as the key energy source. This point of exertion is called the anaerobic threshold (AT) and corresponds to the lactate threshold (LT). The AT is crucial for development of heart rate training zones.
How are VO2 max and Lactate threshold tests performed?
You can either run a treadmill or use a bicycle ergometer on a set protocol, which increases in speed and gradient. This process usually lasts around 10 – 15 minutes depending on the individual. The athlete wears a mask with sensors attached to a metabolic analyzer so that respiratory gases can be measured (Oxygen uptake, Carbon Dioxide production, and total volume).
For multisport athletes it is highly recommended to test both the bike and run as heart rate training zones are different for each sport. Usually running heart rates are slightly higher, but this is not always the case.
The testing helps determine the best program for improvement. It can also help determine what type of “engine” you have and how to improve your weaknesses.
A detailed and highly accurate report of the status of your cardiovascular fitness as well as your training zones will be compiled after the test. This data is useful for 3-5 months as AT will change in relation to heart rate as fitness increases.
Initial Exercise Assessment Test includes:
- VO2 Max. and Anaerobic Threshold data
- Results report. (see pdf on right)
- Heart Rate training zones
Initial Resting Metabolic Test includes:
- Resting metabolic data
- Daily Calorie expenditure
- Percentages of Energy Nutrients