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What's More Important For Endurance Performance? VO2 Max Or Lactate Threshold?

EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses the roles of VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold as it pertains to endurance performance.

Video Transcription:

Luke, I am your endurance guru. If you had worked on your cardio-respiratory fitness, you could have ran away from Obi-Wan Kenobi and not had your legs burned off in hot magma. 

Good morning, my endurance friends. Matt Mosman, Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite, the maker of premium supplements for endurance athletes and endurance training and supplement expert. Hey, I just got back to the gym, as it's very obvious, so I have my official bodybuilding.com t-shirt on and my swollen physique. But I was in the gym and I saw this bro who looked like Bain from the Batman movie, wearing one of those training masks that basically makes you not breathe. And I went up to him and I was like, "What's that for, bro?" And he responded something to the effects of, "When the air has restrains, I make my gains." And I raised my finger to object, and then I just realized I am way too old to deal with all this pseudoscience malarkey. 

But this led me to think of three things. One, friends don't let friends do stupid stuff like that. I mean, if I ever see any of you wearing a training mask, I will hunt you down and I will slay you with science as to everything that is wrong with that. Second, it made me think, "Hey, I might be able to capitalize on this whole training mask thing, and I'm gonna do it and call it the Star Wars starvation method." And basically, it's gonna harness the power of the force to raise the midi-chlorian levels so you can just keep on running or biking, basically, forever. But, that's not the point of this video today. In a roundabout way, it kinda is because we're gonna talk about VO2 Max and some other things you may have heard about as it relates to endurance performance. So what I'm gonna call these is the three gold standards of endurance performance and the biggest predictors of endurance performance success. 

So today, real briefly, we're gonna talk about VO2 Max, we're gonna talk about Lactate Threshold, and we're gonna talk about maximal lactate steady state. We'll briefly describe what each one is, basically how it's measured, and then we'll basically tell you how to improve it. So let's just get this kicked off. 

Let's start with VO2 Max. So by strict definition, VO2 Max is the greatest amount of oxygen on the cellular level that can be used by the entire body. Say what? Yeah, that makes no sense. Basically, what it is, is it's how efficiently your body can use oxygen to fuel muscular contractions, to help you keep on going when you're running, biking, you know, swimming, whatever. Now, a typical range of VO2 Max in people, from an unfit individual up to the ultra-elite, can range anywhere from 30 to 90. I think the highest level ever recorded was in some Norwegian skier named Sven, who had a VO2 Max of 92. And the differences in VO2 Max can be attributed to capillary density, mitochondrial density, and to some extent, genetics.

Now, in the past, VO2 Max was considered the upper echelon of how good of an endurance athlete you're gonna be and it still plays a huge part into how well you're gonna perform, but the next two things we're gonna talk about after VO2 Max may be even more important. So the question you probably want to know is, "How do you test it?" The best way to test VO2 Max is to actually go in a lab and be hooked up to a metabolic cart, where it can measure basically the exchange of gases, oxygen, and CO2, and that'll spit out a number. So you can do that. There's other calculators out there that will predict it for you, but not nearly as accurate. So, what you really, really wanna know is how do you improve VO2 Max. The best way to improve VO2 Max is through the use of interval training. And interval training should be done at about 90% of higher VO2 Max or maximum heart rate, and you want the efforts to be about three to five minutes, with a one to one work to rest ratio. So that means if you do a five-minute interval, you're resting five minutes before you do the other one. So that's VO2 Max.

The next important variable and a good predictor of endurance performance is lactate threshold. Now, what lactate threshold is, is that percentage of VO2 Max or the speed of movement, like how fast you're running or how fast you're riding. So, percentage of VO2 Max or the speed of movement in which blood lactate concentrations in the body begin to rise above normal. So, lactate and lactic acid really are the same thing, and we'll go into that in a different video. But lactic acid isn't really what causes that fatigue. It's kind of the breakdown of the byproducts, and then hydrogen ion accumulation that leads to that. So, with lactate threshold, the way you measure that is not the most pleasant method. It is, you actually go into a lab again and you do a graded exercise test. So you can imagine running on a treadmill and the intensity keeps on getting higher and higher and higher, and then at certain points throughout the test, somebody is gonna prick your finger or take some blood out of you. And then they'll measure the lactate concentrations, and then they can determine your lactate threshold from there. If you don't wanna go to a lab and have blood drawn, I mean that's pretty intense, I wouldn't do it, lactate threshold generally occurs at about 80% to 88% of your VO2 Max or maximum heart rate. So you can kind of get a pretty good idea of what your lactate threshold is.

Now, the best way to improve it is through, well, threshold training. And what threshold training is, is basically, you know, say if we're talking about running. You go out, you warm up for 10 minutes, and then you run for 20 or 30 minutes at your lactate threshold, so about that 80% to 88% of maximum heart rate or VO2 max. So that's kind of the way you train to raise your lactate threshold and deal with those blood lactate concentrations in your body. Biking, kind of the same deal, 10-minute warm-up, probably a bit more prolonged effort at lactate threshold, anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. 

The last variable we're gonna talk about... So we have VO2 Max and lactate threshold so far. Is maximal lactate steady state. This is pretty similar to lactate threshold, but just a little bit different. And most researchers think this is the biggest indicator of how successful you're gonna be as an endurance athlete, even more important than VO2 Max and lactate threshold. And what maximal lactate steady state is, is basically when accumulation of the lactate in the blood equals the clearance. So you're never really building up that lactate because what's being produced is automatically being basically shuttled out, and so you're not gonna get that feeling of fatigue. 

All things considered, between all those, obviously, VO2 Max is important, but the more successful endurance athlete will not only have a good VO2 max. They'll also have a good maximal lactate steady state or lactate threshold. So, if you're comparing two guys side by side who have the exact same VO2 Max, more than likely the guy with the higher lactate threshold or maximal lactate steady state will be more successful. With the maximal lactate steady state too, it's basically, you know, the same training as lactate threshold training, so not much difference there. It just basically has to deal with, you know, that point where you can have that blood lactate level in your blood really elevated but your body' s clearing it very efficiently. 

So, that's about it for today. If you like this video, share it with your friends. If you want more endurance-related content, I highly recommend you check out the EndurElite website, www.endurelite.com. And until next time, stay fuelled, stay focused, stay fast, and may the force be with you.

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