Thursday, 6 January 2011

VO2 max and Metabolism

Wow my brain in super charged with exercise physiology today after another fun day of training. I did 2 sub maximal VO2 max tests today. A sub maximal exercise test is useful to find out how fit you are and make sure your body has a normal response to exercise i.e the heart, lungs and metabolism are functioning as they should.

My VO2max is 31.9 ml/kg/min, When you exercise the body requires more oxygen in order to turn ATP into energy which allows muscles to contract and work to continue. VO2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen that can be utilized by the body during whole body exercise.
My VO2 max value is moderate for my age around the 50th percentile, this is after a few months of being despicably inactive, I wonder how much VO2 would improve after a few months of getting back to training bjj regularly.

How important is VO2 max to those of us training BJJ?
As I mentioned VO2 is a good estimate of how fit you are, I went back to class for the first time in ages and it kicked my ass big time. Physiologically speaking I had lost a lot of muscle mass and my heart wasn't as efficient at getting oxygen to my working muscles. My body's ability to oxidise fat as an energy source was therefore reduced and could explain why I was felt so drained by the end of class.

When training at such an intense level my body had to start using up all my blood sugar and then all the stored muscle glycogen too. Based on my metabolism anything that causes my heart rate to beat at 165bpm (85% of my estimated HRmax) and my body favours carbohydrates as a fuel.
The efficiency of my heart at delivering oxygen to the muscles was pretty bad too which means I need to get my lazy butt to the gym for some cardio!

Knowing your VO2 max can help you if you are going to do additional sessions in the gym in an effort to increase fitness and can provide some interesting information regarding your metabolic function. Increasing metabolism can help to maintain or lose weight which seems to be an eternal battle for some of us.

It is important to remember that a good nutritional plan is even more important when you start training after a period of inactivity. As failing to get a good intake of carbohydrate post training can mean recovery is slow.
Often people will not eat a good meal after training (this can be due to appetite suppression that can occur up to 1h post exercise and training finishing late at night) and if you are trying to lose weight this can be ok as long as you are getting a good intake of carbohydrate through out the day, or don't have another training session in the next 24h.

Certain foods can actually slightly increase your metabolism and include spicy foods like chilli, and green teas. 60% of the calories you burn each day are a result of your basal metabolic rate which is the calories required to maintain normal body function. On top of that you will require differing amount of calories to provide the energy for daily tasks and exercise. You can use rmr or bmr calculators online to get an estimate of this value. Make sure you are sensitive to your body's needs as the equations used by these calculators assume that metabolism is the same for everyone of a certain age.

If you have been out of training and want to improve your fitness quickly the best thing to do is 15-30 minutes high intensity interval training daily and some light or body weight exercises and stretches to help reduce risk of injury. HIIT has been shown to improve VO2 max in as little as 2 weeks and also maybe more effective at fat burning particularly around the abdomen. To make it more bjj specific mix cardio and weights together and do 5-7 minute intervals with a 1-5 minute rest in between to mimic sparing.
Here are a couple videos for some exercise ideas both videos are a bit random but the exercises seemed well balanced and specific to bjj

When ever I have to take a break from training I really dread coming back when I know my fitness will not be so good it was interesting to have it scientifically confirmed but it will be useful to test my VO2 max again after a few months of training to see if it improves any.
So if your coming back to training after time off here are some recommendations.

1) Make sure you eat well increased carbohydrate/calorie intake after training might be necessary at first to replenish depleted muscle glycogen stores until fitness picks up and the body becomes more efficient. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water
2) Do regular stretching and solo drills
3) Do some interval training using a mix of cardio and weights
4) Don't push your self too hard in sparing get back into things slowly avoid sparing with overly competitive people or anyone who's likely to take advantage of your less than peak physical condition (sounds bad but it happens)
5) Tape fingers (this might just be me playing too much guard but protect any areas you know are prone to injury)
6) Drill all the basics particularly escapes to get your mind focused again

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