VO2 Max test: what it is and what information it gives us

The oxygen consumption test or VO2 Max is a test focused on the analysis of the physical capacities of the athlete or of patients with cardiac and pulmonary affections that will allow to measure the total effort capacity and to define the different training zones or to establish the prognosis for an intervention.

How is it performed?

The test is performed on an exercise bike or treadmill and it is essential that the patient begins the activity at rest. Progressively, the workload will be increased, until reaching 8-12 minutes of activity and during which the patient should reach his maximum effort.

When the test is short, the utilization of nutrients will be lower, so it will not allow a maximum development. On the contrary, when we perform a long test we will be testing our effort capacity and not our endurance capacity.

Dr. Juan Carlos Portugal, specialist in Clinical and Sports Cardiology, stresses the need to individualize the test, adapting it to the characteristics of each patient. This test, highly demanded, provides information on:

  • VO2 Max (total effort capacity)
  • VT1 (aerobic endurance capacity and passive recovery)
  • VT2 (compensated endurance capacity)
  • Heart rate training zones
  • Maximum fat consumption zone
  • Amount of Energy produced by fat or carbohydrate in each exertion zone
  • Cardiac efficiency or fatigue (pulse beat curve; VO2/HR)
  • Ventilation and CO2 production curve

Why perform the test?

As the doctor, who currently has his CardiO2Max practice located on Tuset street in Barcelona, points out, knowing our total effort capacity will not only shed light on our physical condition, but will also allow us to know where to focus our training to achieve our goals.

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How to interpret the data?

The three elements to take into account are:

  1. Total effort capacity.
  2. Aerobic capacity without fatigue (VT1).
  3. Compensated aerobic capacity (VT2).

For example, those athletes who perform short distance events (up to 5k) or sprint, will focus more on developing VO2 Max than, for example, those who perform 10k distances. In the latter case, they will focus on having a very high compensated aerobic capacity (VT2).

All this information is especially relevant at the time of training planning, since, as Dr. Portugal, it will allow to calculate training zones by heart rate.