How does my VO2 compare to pro cyclists?

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Oct 25, 2010
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acoggan said:
The distinction that needs to be drawn here is between a valid measurement of VO2max (classically defined by a absolute or relative plateau in VO2 with respect to demand) and measurement of VO2peak.

In the case of my tests described above, only the cycle ergometer test elicted my true VO2max...the speed of the treadmill test was far too high for me, such that my legs fatigued prematurely, preventing me from achieving VO2max. However, I have done numerous (i.e., dozens) treadmill tests using a much lower speed (and hence a higher grade), and consistent with conventional understanding/knowledge in the field of exercise physiology* the highest VO2 I can achieve under such conditions is the same as when cycling.

*Then there is Tim Noakes' widely-discredited central governor theory, which is completely inconsistent with the results of numerous studies...but I won't go there. :D
Doesn't it depend on "your chosen method of sport"? I'm sure that a runner would experience the same issues on a bike. I wonder what the hell they do for swimmers.

In the series of tests that I did, my maximum HR was also limited by the fact that my arms were not moving.

I also notice that indoor training elevates my HR significantly as compared to similar efforts outside in the wind and cool air. Cardiac "Drift". Not sure if that led to my tests ending prematurely or not. Doesn't that skew the data?
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Le breton said:
you would expect VO2max measured at 1800 m altitude to be ~10% lower than measured at sea level

If that were the case I would have to make a sizeable upward correction to the estimated 94 ml/mn.kg obtained for the Alpe d'Huez climb, ending at about 1845m.
Would you? I thought you came up with that based on the estimated power output and an assumed efficiency?

To put it another way: what would change is not the estimated aerobic power requirement, but the capability of the athlete to provide it, no?

(Note that in either case there is still an apparent discrepancy...but there's enough slop in the calculations - again! - that I'm not convinced any firm conclusions can really be drawn.)
 
Mar 18, 2009
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BotanyBay said:
Doesn't it depend on "your chosen method of sport"?
Yes, and no. That is, provided the test is properly designed/executed than most anyone can achieve VO2max while running uphill on a treadmill, or during combined leg+arm cranking, i.e., during modes of exercise that require recruitment/vasodilation of a very large muscle mass. With specific training, however, cyclists can also achieve VO2max while cycling, swimmers while swimming (well, not quite on average), etc., whereas individuals not trained in those modalities (usually) cannot.


BotanyBay said:
I wonder what the hell they do for swimmers.
Swim flume or tethered swimming...sometimes arm+leg cranking.

BotanyBay said:
I also notice that indoor training elevates my HR significantly as compared to similar efforts outside in the wind and cool air. Not sure if that led to my tests ending prematurely or not. Doesn't that skew the data?
A properly-designed/executed VO2max test is kept short enough that thermal strain does not limit the individual's ability to achieve VO2max.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Le breton said:
Unfortunately the distribution is not accessible and the abstract does not give a value for the standard deviation.
For the 210 young men of their cohort 1 (i.e., new recruits), the average VO2max was 51.1 +/- 5.1 mL*min-1*kg-1. Both the mean and the SD were comparable to those found in five out of six prior (albeit smaller) studies they cited, so I think they can be considered reasonably representative of lean, young, physically-active-but-not-formally-trained men.*

*The study was published at a time when increasing rates of obesity, inactivity, and economic considerations have made it much more difficult for the US military to recruit truly fit-for-service-from-the-git-go volunteers. OTOH, the subjects do not represent a random sample of the population, and presumably those who are the least fit would also be less likely to volunteer for the rigors of military service.
 
acoggan said:
For the 210 young men of their cohort 1 (i.e., new recruits), the average VO2max was 51.1 +/- 5.1 mL*min-1*kg-1. Both the mean and the SD were comparable to those found in five out of six prior (albeit smaller) studies they cited, so I think they can be considered reasonably representative of lean, young, physically-active-but-not-formally-trained men.*

*The study was published at a time when increasing rates of obesity, inactivity, and economic considerations have made it much more difficult for the US military to recruit truly fit-for-service-from-the-git-go volunteers. OTOH, the subjects do not represent a random sample of the population, and presumably those who are the least fit would also be less likely to volunteer for the rigors of military service.
Thanks Andy. Interesting that the mean and s.d. from this "select" group are not so different from the values obtained in the "Polar study" (47, s.d.~6) for the 20-24 years old group.
 
acoggan said:
+1

The other tidbit I might add: population values for VO2max are pretty well-established. This one study alone, for example, included data from almost 2,000 subjects:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3949654
If untrained numbers on average are around 47 mlxkg then we are looking at ~6.5 mlxkg difference in VO2 max between untrained and trained? basically there is an increase in 5 % VO2 max from basic training from 51 mlxkg. So the average of trained people for men would be ~53.55 mlxkg VO2 max? give or take. Now should we considered ranges of trainabilities?
 
Le breton said:
you would expect VO2max measured at 1800 m altitude to be ~10% lower than measured at sea level

If that were the case I would have to make a sizeable upward correction to the estimated 94 ml/mn.kg obtained for the Alpe d'Huez climb, ending at about 1845m.
No. Correct for the average. Remember Alpe D'Huez starts at 763 m, but I see where you are going.;)
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Le breton said:
Thanks Andy. Interesting that the mean and s.d. from this "select" group are not so different from the values obtained in the "Polar study" (47, s.d.~6) for the 20-24 years old group.
Right - I think that there are numerous data to point to a value of ~50 mL*min-1*kg-1 as the "default" VO2max of young, lean, healthy, untrained-but-physically-active men. To get much below that value requires bad genetics, too much adipose tissue, and/or a very sedentary (albeit typical of the modern world) lifestyle, whereas to get much above that value requires the converse (i.e., good genetics + low body fat + endurance training).
 
acoggan said:
Due to the reduced pO2 in inspired air, VO2max decreases with altitude. Although interindividual differences exist, on average you would expect VO2max measured at 1800 m altitude to be ~10% lower than measured at sea level (more if you are completely unacclimatized, less if you are well-acclimatized).

Applied to Armstrong, this means that 1) his VO2max at sea level is (was) significantly higher than the 82-84 mL/min/kg value given in that 1996 Scientific American article, and/or 2) he is less affected by altitude than average. Unfortunately, the only way of really determining which it is would to measure his VO2max at sea level (at/near the same time, ideally using the same equipment). In other words, no post-hoc correction of the data is really possible.
Just for argument's sake.
If truly in 96 LA VO2 value was considerably lowered by altitude in Colorado Springs, ie by 11.1% according to Bassett and 6.9% according to Péronnet,
then his VO2 estimated for the 1st part of the AdH TT in 2004 between 725m. and 1395 m. should be increased by about 7.3% according to Bassett and 4% according to Péronnet.

But I have read somewhere that his VO2 max in fact did not vary much as such altitudes.
 
Escarabajo said:
If untrained numbers on average are around 47 mlxkg then we are looking at ~6.5 mlxkg difference in VO2 max between untrained and trained? basically there is an increase in 5 % VO2 max from basic training from 51 mlxkg. So the average of trained people for men would be ~53.55 mlxkg VO2 max? give or take. Now should we considered ranges of trainabilities?
No, I am now quoting acoggan above
Starting from the untrained state, VO2max increases by 15-25% with moderate training
see post 88
 
Le breton said:
No, I am now quoting acoggan above
Starting from the untrained state, VO2max increases by 15-25% with moderate training
see post 88
Ok. thanks. (~60 mlxkg on average +-5%)

So Craig is slightly over that average. Not as big as originally thought.

Note: I was referring to 5% increase just on basic trainning. But i see that increases of 15%-25% just on more intense trainning which is where Craig should fall I assume.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Le breton said:
Just for argument's sake.
If truly in 96 LA VO2 value was considerably lowered by altitude in Colorado Springs, ie by 11.1% according to Bassett and 6.9% according to Péronnet,
then his VO2 estimated for the 1st part of the AdH TT in 2004 between 725m. and 1395 m. should be increased by about 7.3% according to Bassett and 4% according to Péronnet.
Again, no: the VO2 requirement would be determined solely by the individual's (estimated) power output and their (estimated) efficiency. Altitude would only affect the individual's ability to meet that requirement.
 
acoggan said:
Again, no: the VO2 requirement would be determined solely by the individual's (estimated) power output and their (estimated) efficiency. Altitude would only affect the individual's ability to meet that requirement.
OK, agreed, I didn't express myself correctly, but I believe you perfectly understand what I meant.

Anyway, what I was driving at in my last posts was trying to see if there was any real knowledge of the high-end tail of the VO2 max distribution in the population.

Obviously to gain such knowledge it would not be necessary to test the whole population. It is possible to eliminate the bulk of the sample to concentrate on the high end studying closely the VO2 max only for those people able to climb up the Washington monument (via the stairs, not outside "faces") in less than x minutes (5-6, forgot the exact height of the monument), or the Empire State Bldg in less than say 10 min.
 
Aug 12, 2009
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Le breton said:
GALIC HO : Gregs figures make sense, because I've heard Hinault state his...not much between them. Ironically they were always close in GTs. A position or two at most between them.

Yes , we find everywhere figures around 92-93 for both LeMond and Hinault, while L.A. never went above 83ml/mn.kg.
.

GALIC HO : Bjorn Dhaelie has the highest I've ever heard of, 96.
The figure for Dhaelie is from a highly suspicious period. Before that 96 figure started appearing, the highest recorded VO2 max was by Juha MIETO, also a nordic skier, with 94 ml/mn.kg and 7.4 l/mn. He therefore weighed 78.7 kg at the time. Since he got his medals in 1972 and a few years after, that number was not boosted by exogenous EPO. However, since Lasse Viren was a contemporary of his, blood transfusion boosting can't be excluded.

GALIC HO : The numbers from Verbier in 09 were off as well. Le Monde (newspaper) stated Contador rode with a VO2max of 99 that day.

That figure does not come from Le Monde, it comes from Frédéric Portoleau and cyclismag.com. It should be revised a little bit downwards after corrections introduced by Portoleau to take into account the effect of favorable wind and the data provided by Sorensen(?) - srm powermeter
Yeah I know the nordic skiing figures are suspect. The Russian Nordic skiing team was given a warning less than two years back. Fix their suspect doping ring and overall profile figures (blood paramters mostly) or risk their entire team being banned from the upcoming Winter Olympics in their own back yard. I know Nordic skiiers abused EPO in the 90s. They get as big a boost as cyclists do from it.

As for the Frédéric Portoleau and cyclismag.com article, I was referring to Greg Lemond's article, which from memory was based on the figures provided in those two sources. Greg's article was the one that started the major threads in 2009 in the Clinic, the one quoted mostly because it was an opinion piece from a former TdF winner (better, the last guy thought to have won the Tour clean). Your reference is far more accurate. Besides, I disliked the focus in all the pieces. If the numbers are almost spot on, what does that say about Andy Schleck and every other rider? He would have been over 90 himself. AC's true VO2max, when he reaches fatigue is over 100 based on the logic given! Just seemed to far fetched for my liking, even for the Clinic's acceptance and believe in what the general public deem absurd.

Regarding Basso...I take things I hear about him with a grain of salt. I gave the low 80s figure because it was the only one I had seen in 3 years of looking. I've said it before and I will say it again...Mapei are suspect. I did not trust Sassi one iota. Any site that claims to be sticking up for anti-doping and transparency would never, ever, require people to register to view stats. It defeats the purpose of the site and the moral and ethic stance said people are taking. You have your feet in two camps. The non naive see right through it because they question. I tried to find stuff on Basso and Evans after last years Giro but the Mapei site wanted me to register. I immediately assume censorship will be working in some way or form because they filter viewers. They can block you if they chose. Wasn't worth the 10-20 minutes process just to see some figures. If he's clean, make them available across the board, don't make people jump through hoops.

Without dragging up the past, Lance's VO2max figures in the Coyle paper have been ripped apart numerous times for varying reasons. Mostly to do with fluctuations in testng parameters. As I said, I take everything with Mapei in it with a grain of salt. It is weird and odd that you mention Bassos' VO2max as mid to high 80s. The figure I heard, of 81-82 had actually increased because Basso's handlers noticed Lance's had, so they did the same thing to him, spread the number out there on the grapevine and let the rumours do the rounds. That is the only time I ever heard any figure given (sometime in 2009). Not that it matters what I think, but I don't trust Basso's PR team, especially given that I've been told they have a habit of deliberately increasing actual recorded stats...we all know why people do that, especially in cycling.
 
Galic Ho said:
.............
It is weird and odd that you mention Bassos' VO2max as mid to high 80s. The figure I heard, of 81-82 had actually increased .................
I only mention it because it is given in your Mapei reference as such:). Actually 2 values , 83.5 in one case and 78.9 in the other.

No other comment on your post, except that everything you write is OK by me.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Galic Ho said:
Without dragging up the past, Lance's VO2max figures in the Coyle paper have been ripped apart numerous times for varying reasons.
Got any links? The only criticisms I've seen directed towards the VO2max data have due to the fact that they were never obtained in season, i.e., when he was presumably most fit. As such, they are generally quite low, at least given his subsequent successes in the TdF.

(Note: I am intamitely familiar with the system that I believewas used to obtain Armstrong's data, having used/modified/validated it myself. If anything, it had a tendency to under-, not over-, estimate VO2.)
 
Sep 25, 2009
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acoggan said:
Got any links? The only criticisms I've seen directed towards the VO2max data have due to the fact that they were never obtained in season, i.e., when he was presumably most fit. As such, they are generally quite low, at least given his subsequent successes in the TdF.

(Note: I am intamitely familiar with the system that I believewas used to obtain Armstrong's data, having used/modified/validated it myself. If anything, it had a tendency to under-, not over-, estimate VO2.)
i'm sorry to interject, but it seems galic was referring to the coyle 'study' of armsrong's vo2max number that he, coyle, put down to armstrong's own word about his weight (a lie or a the truth what ever). that criticisms is hardly the only one i heard and remains a scientific no-no as far as i am concerned.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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python said:
i'm sorry to interject, but it seems galic was referring to the coyle 'study' of armsrong's vo2max number that he, coyle, put down to armstrong's own word about his weight (a lie or a the truth what ever). that criticisms is hardly the only one i heard and remains a scientific no-no as far as i am concerned.
With all due respect, your memory seems to be as faulty as galic ho's: whenever Coyle measured Armstrong's VO2max, he also weighed him, and while he took Armstrong's word for what he weighed during the TdF, he (Coyle) never used this value to estimate Armstrong's VO2max.
 
Sep 25, 2009
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acoggan, with all due respect, either your memory is failing or, as expected, you’re protecting your mentor’s shabby work. it’s easy to show.

on page 2:
ed coyle said:
body weight was reported by the subject to be 72–74 kg
(emphasis added by me)
acoggan said:
(Coyle) never used this value to estimate Armstrong's VO2max.
and on page 3
ed coyle said:
however, with the conservative assumption that &#729]we estimate [/U]his V O2 max to have been at least 85...
there he is estimating vo2 max at 85 taking an athlete's word and putting it in the scientific paper.
 
acoggan said:
..............
Based on his highly-cited detraining study, Coyle goes on to predict that Armstrong's VO2max would stabilize at 61-63 mL/min/kg should he cease training entirely for an extended period of time. Prodigous talent, or residual benefit of doping (or both)?
Prodig(i)ous talent, or residual benefit of doping (or both)

should he cease training entirely for an extended period of time
Coyle says 3 months.


So, prodigious talent starts at a mere 61-63 ml/min/kg in young adults. Sh^t. I didn't realize I was part of them prodigies:):):)

When I started biking regularly again (about 9 months every year) at age 38 after 12 years of very intermittent training/racing (which included 3 years with almost no cycling at all), my doctor insisted that I take a stress test before racing again. Which I did in early March, when I had not started training again due to the harsh winter, so that I had done very little physical exercise in the previous 5 months.

That was the easiest stress test i ever took as the 40 watts steps were only 1 min in duration. VO2 was not measured or estimated, it was a cardiological test. I stopped at the end of the 400 watts step. I breathed through the 360 watts step but stopped at the next one as I had been struggling and probably didn't actually exert the full 400 watts during that minute as I could not keep up the required rate of 80(?)rpm. HR reached : 190 bpm.

What really made me laugh was the Dr's written comment : Totally negative test (i.e. devoid of any pathological sign) for a perfectly trained athlete. Little did they know that I had not touched my bike in months.

I was certainly overweight, probably 66, maybe even 67 kg.

Other piece of data : used to doing silly things, around those years I have climbed a nearby mountain pass after 3-4-5 months of inactivity, this at about 220 watts (almost 50min effort).

Those 2 pieces of info make me think that in detrained condition, around age 40, I probably had a VO2 max of around 60.
My racing results and VO2max measurements a few years later are ample evidence that among racing cyclists I was rather ordinary which leads me to question your statement above concerning a supposedly prodigious talent.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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python said:
acoggan, with all due respect, either your memory is failing or, as expected, you’re protecting your mentor’s shabby work. it’s easy to show.

on page 2:


(emphasis added by me)

and on page 3


there he is estimating vo2 max at 85 taking an athlete's word and putting it in the scientific paper.
Sorry, my bad: I was referring to the data actually reported in the Results. Numbers presented in a Discussion are never considered to be "real".
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Le breton said:
in detrained condition, around age 40, I probably had a VO2 max of around 60.
My racing results and VO2max measurements a few years later are ample evidence that among racing cyclists I was rather ordinary which leads me to question your statement above concerning a supposedly prodigious talent.
So are you saying that you were wrong earlier when you wrote this:

Originally Posted by Le breton
> 47 ml 50%
> 53 ml 16%
> 59 ml 2.5%
> 65 ml 0.15%
> 71 ml 0.003%

or are you saying that you don't think that being in the top ~1% of the population constituted being extremely talented?

(As for your experience, one explanation could be that you are genetically endowed with a high VO2max, but aren't especially trainable. That is possible since the two - i.e., baseline VO2max and trainability - appear to be under the control of different genes.)
 
acoggan said:
So are you saying that you were wrong earlier when you wrote this:

Originally Posted by Le breton
> 47 ml 50%
> 53 ml 16%
> 59 ml 2.5%
> 65 ml 0.15%
> 71 ml 0.003%

or are you saying that you don't think that being in the top ~1% of the population constituted being extremely talented?

(As for your experience, one explanation could be that you are genetically endowed with a high VO2max, but aren't especially trainable. That is possible since the two - i.e., baseline VO2max and trainability - appear to be under the control of different genes.)
Top 1% is good, not prodigious.

Prodigious would mean something not happening every year in a country the size of the US.
Let's say 2 000 000 boys born yearly in the US, 1/2000000 means about 5 standatrd deviation above the mean.

Assuming the Polar distribution to be valid at 5 s.d. it would correspond to VO2 max > 77 ml ; not 61-63.

Have to go
 
Aug 12, 2009
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acoggan said:
Got any links? The only criticisms I've seen directed towards the VO2max data have due to the fact that they were never obtained in season, i.e., when he was presumably most fit. As such, they are generally quite low, at least given his subsequent successes in the TdF.

(Note: I am intamitely familiar with the system that I believewas used to obtain Armstrong's data, having used/modified/validated it myself. If anything, it had a tendency to under-, not over-, estimate VO2.)
I was referring to an old thread. You basically summed the whole thing up. Some of the aussie academics had some issues with it if I remember correctly. I only stated what I did for those who weren't around in the Clinic when the last thread on VO2max was dragged up. It went into great detail, many, many pages. The only measurements I remember that were slight issues were Lance's weight (that one alone took up 10+ threads in the Clinic back in 2009), the timing of the tests (pre or post training) and finally the ergometer, which was rumoured to have changed. That was the hardest to find evidence on. A few random jpg's on the internet are hardly conclusive.

The tone of the thread was focused mainly on Coyle's paper and it's accuracy. People were discussing the SCA case and Coyle's testament during said case. Back then in the Clinic, anything to do with Lance was discussed in great detail and Coyle's paper was discussed heavily because it gave credence to the notion Lance's post cancer improvement was achieved naturally. LA camp used it as a PR tool to a degree. You and many others said exactly what you said above in that thread, which is your right. Naturally being the Clinic, people fell on both sides of the fence in relation to their beliefs. Short story, it was a thread with people discussing the happenings of the SCA case, so a lot of he's said, she said ideas were flung about...typical Clinic stuff.

As you stated on this page, there is a difference between actual measurements recorded and discussions about those recordings. I never said Coyle's figures were wrong, I only stated people have debated the accuracy of the readings. It may be fine for academics to take Coyle's word for what it is, but in the thread I was referring to, many people didn't think that is good enough for the reasons Python mentioned. Either way, it did not matter, the court case was decided on contract law, not doping. Basically if Coyle had of covered all the bases as people here in the Clinic thought in 2009, no questions who need to have been asked. All it created was a topic for people to debate back and forth. Naturally your perspective is different than the typical Clinic poster, given your career path you have a deeper insight into the exact science discussed. For what it is worth, they were close enough to a true figure IMO. Ironically we have more figures relating to Armstrong than almost any other pro cyclist, because everything in cycling is hush, hush business.
 

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