Issue 15 • July 2013

What’s Your VO2max?

Every day we wake up, take in a deep breath of air and start our day. We think nothing of it and how that same breath can impact how far and how long we can go at a high intensity work out. Whether you prefer running or high intensity resistance training, we all must consume a certain amount of oxygen to continue working at the pace and intensity we want. That exact amount of oxygen can actually be measured by performing a VO2 max test. This test is facilitated by an Exercise Physiologist and measures the of the amount of oxygen consumed in milliliters, used in one minute per kilogram of bodyweight while working at different levels of intensity. Simply put, it is the amount of oxygen being used by the body to create energy.

Have you ever experienced the feeling when your muscles aren’t yet fatigued but you can’t catch your breath and need to take a break? Congratulations, you have officially experienced your VO2 max. The amount of oxygen your body was able to process plateaued (VO2max). You were exercising at so high of an intensity that your body was no longer able to process enough oxygen to meet the demand and therefore could no longer perform the work.

So what’s the average VO2 max or what’s a good VO2 max? Depending on what your goals are, knowing your VO2max allows you to accurately identify your personal heart rate zones. Several Interval Training programs involve bouts of exercise for a determined distance, time and intensity level. Knowing for certain that you are working at the desired intensity level will ensure the adaptation of your body to consume more oxygen (increasing your VO2max) to maintain a steady heart rate during increased activity.

For those looking to relate it to your nutritional habits, with target heart rate zones identified an RER can be determined (Respiratory Exchange Ratio). An RER is used to indicate the substrates (fat, carbs) used at given heart rate zone. Having this information about carb and fat utilization is valuable in developing a nutritional plan and tracking your ability to increase aerobic and overall work capacity.

Anyone who is interested in finding out performance parameters and hoping to add practical and valid training practices to their regimen should perform this test. The bottom line is, no matter what your fitness level, weekend warrior, power lifter or endurance athlete, all can benefit by knowing this information.

VO2max testing performed at The Human Performance Lab.

Henry Nowell

Henry Nowell


  1. JoAnne Seach
    August 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm — Reply

    Where is the human performance lab?

  2. October 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm — Reply

    Soooo, what was Awesome Erin’s VO2 max in the pics there?

    • October 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm — Reply

      Erin’s VO2 was pretty darn good! 59

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