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VO2 Max & Lance Armstrong

Most people today exercise to lose weight but by improving your VO2 Max you will improve your overall health and increase your capacity to lose weight.

So what is VO2 Max? VO2 Max is defined as the highest rate at which oxygen can be taken in and used during high intensity exercise. What this means in more detail is that as you run on your treadmill your muscles need energy. This comes from the oxygen that you are breathing in. The oxygen breaks down the fats, carbohydrates, and protein thus providing energy (ATP) for the fuel that the muscles need to make them contract resulting in movement. When you are doing nothing your body will still require 3.5 ml of oxygen, every minute, for each kilogram of body weight just to support the cellular activities in the tissues that keep you alive.

As you run faster on the treadmill more energy is required, therefore more oxygen. You will eventually reach a point when you start to run out of breath and can no longer take in the oxygen that your body is craving. This is your VO2 Max.
VO2 Max can differ considerably between individuals. Age, health, activity levels, training programs, and genetics all affect VO2 Max.

A sedentary person has a VO2 Max of around 20 ml of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute of exercise. A highly trained endurance athlete can have a VO2 Max of 70 ml/kg/minute.

So what makes Lance Armstrong special? Well first of all he has a great coach and a great training programme. He also has the pick of the best equipment around, but that’s not all. He has the most amazing genetics for an endurance athlete. For instance his VO2 Max is 85 ml/kg/min, compare this to an average person with 40. His lungs have 2 times the capacity of the average person and his heart is a third larger. He has a resting heart rate of 32 beats per minutes, the average is 70 and his heart peaks at 200 beats per minute. A lean person has a body fat of 15-20% his is 5%. When in training he consumes 6500 calories a day and up 10,000 calories when mountain racing. Finally his muscles accumulate less lactic acid and are more efficient at getting rid of it.

So when you look at his calorie intake compared with his body fat, it is obvious that this type of training will not only improve your overall health, but also burn calories like a steam engine.

To train this way you need to continually challenge your body, working out at 60-85% of your maximum heart rate for extended periods of time. The most important variable is to continue attempting to increase intensity levels of your workouts. Progressively overloading is the key; your body will adapt, and improve your VO2 Max as well as burn more calories for decreased body fat.

So how can you find out what you VO2 Max is? Well the best place is a hospital or a University Human Performance Lab. Here they will strap on an oxygen mask to measure your oxygen exchange and then make you run on a treadmill or cycle on a stationery bike until you cannot do anymore. When being pushed to limit like this it is best that a trained person or physician monitors you.

Another way but not as accurate is to walk/jog/run around a 400- meter track for 12 minutes and then divide the total distance in meters by 44.730.
So for example if you did 7 laps in 12 minutes your total distance would be 2800 meters. Divide 2800 by 44.730 and this will give you a VO2 Max of around 62.

Try to continually improve your fitness levels and measure your performance. This will still result in excellent decreases in body fat but the benefits are far greater than just weight loss alone.

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