Written by: Kim Mueller, MS, RD
Kim Mueller discusses the benefits of developing VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold and Running Economy.
Over the past several years, athletes have continued to defy the odds and break performance barriers once believed to be impossible. In fact, just this past year, Michael Phelps amazed us all by earning eight Olympic Gold Medals in Beijing. Distance runner Haile Gebreselassie dipped under 2:04 and broke his own world record at the Berlin Marathon. Triathlete Chrissie Wellington repeated as Ironman World Champion, winning by 15 minutes despite a flat on the bike leg.
Many wonder what factors contribute to these athletes’ performance peaks. Genetics no doubt plays a role, yet research suggests that genes contribute no more than half of an athlete’s VO2 max (maximal rate of oxygen consumption), which is one key predictor of performance capacity. Both training and nutrition manipulation also help to not only boost an athlete’s VO2 max, but also the lactate threshold and sport economy, two additional pieces to the performance puzzle. This article looks at the training and nutrition techniques that have been proven to enhance these three elements, thereby helping to maximize performance potential.
Essential for: Athletes 5K/10K running events.
Your VO2 max measures the maximum amount of oxygen that can be consumed per minute while training. The highest VO2 max ever recorded was by cross-country skier Bjorn Daehilie: at 94 ml/kg/dl, which towers over the average athlete’s VO2 max by 30-40 percent. The good news is that by increasing training volume and intensity, research suggests that an athlete, depending on baseline fitness level, can boost his VO2 max by as much as 40 percent. And a 10 percent increase in VO2 max can shave more than a minute off a 5K run time!
Increased training volume is the most common way to improve your VO2 max, but it is important to understand there are diminishing returns at a certain volume: 60-90 run miles/week or 10-12 hours for most athletes. A more efficient way to improve VO2 max, according to French exercise physiologist Veronique Billat, is to do intervals at a speed that elicits your VO2 max – or the fastest effort you can maintain – for about eight minutes (up to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate).
Nutrition Tip: Blood sugars tend to decrease while levels of common inflammation markers increase after finishing high-intensity efforts – making nutrition important for optimal recovery. Try blending the following recovery-focused ingredients after your next workout: tart cherry juice, low-fat vanilla yogurt and a frozen banana.Pages: 1 2