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Why Do You Need More Than Just A VO2Max Number?

We are excited to announce that with INSCYD, we are now able to test our cyclists virtually using the Power Performance Decoder!


We’ve come across a couple discussions about VO2 Max compared to Blood Lactate Testing & VLaMax. Some athletes have done VO2Max testing, not realizing the true differences in data and information received from the test. VO2Max is a great number to have because for each milliliter of oxygen processed in the aerobic metabolism, energy is produced. But why do we need to know MORE than that?? Let’s dive in:

Here are some quick facts:

  • 20% of the difference in performance between amateurs (cyclists or top age-group triathletes) and professionals can be explained by VO2Max

  • 75% of the difference in performance between these two categories is attributed to the difference in VLamax (Anaerobic Capacity)

  • When you get your VO2Max, it is an estimation of your threshold (if they provide that), along with a number showing how much oxygen you process maximally during a graded step test in the lab

  • VLaMax will give you the max production of lactate, which allows us to measure where your energy is coming from during specific intensities (anaerobic or aerobic), which is insight into carb and fat fueling. This is done in or out of the lab, swimming, biking, running and rowing! Different intensities = increased accuracy.

Why do we need to know more than just this number? And why should we measure different intensities?

  • Muscles produce lactate using carbohydrates. So, a high lactate production rate consequently results in higher carbohydrate utilization rates. With a higher amount of energy coming from carbohydrates, as a consequence the fat combustion rate is lower.

  • It is extremely important to understand what system your energy is primarily coming from, and how much of that system you can utilize at a specific duration, speed or intensity.

We can give you both VO2Max AND VLaMax to find this out, but you cannot get this information solely from your VO2Max test.

So, you have your VO2Max number and think you’re good to go?


Let’s look at two identical athletes. These athletes share identical body weight and body composition (muscle mass, fat mass, etc.), identical efficiency (energy needed to produce one Watt of power), identical buffering capacity, identical aerobic capacity (VO2max; Blue Line), but with two different VLamax.

The dotted line athlete has a higher VLaMax compared to the solid line athlete.

The high VLaMax = higher lactate production rates at all sub maximum intensities.

The athlete with the higher VLaMax possess a higher lactate production rate, for any given power output, when compared to the athlete with the low VLaMax. This means the athlete with the higher VLaMax is running through glycogen (carb) stores at a faster rate than our solid line athlete.

This is NOT optimal for endurance events such as marathon or triathlon. A higher VLaMax is optimal for sprint distances. We would not be able to tell this marker from only looking at VO2Max.

Higher VLaMax = higher lactate production = lower intensity at which lactate production equals lactate clearance. This is the mechanism of how a high VLaMax lowers anaerobic threshold- as shown below. We would not be able to know this with only VO2Max.

Again, not only does this assist in showing us where our true efficiencies are, but taking this a step further will allow us to look into our fueling utlization.


Our dotted line athlete with the higher VLaMax, will be using more glycogen stores and less fatty acids compared to our solid line athlete. This is shown below:

So, we emphasize again that gaining only a VO2Max number will leave out crucial information for you to be able to perform at your optimal levels.

Luckily we can give you all of the numbers listed above!! If you want to know your VO2 AND VLaMax numbers, give us a call or leave us a message!!!

Optimize Performance along with additions from Sebastian Weber, Human Performance in Professional Sports



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