Friday, September 14, 2007

VO2 Max Explained

Since I'm tied up with ward work and class (and starting with obs & gynae posting isn't the most pleasant thing in the world), I better write something that is more related with what's occupying my conscious mind. Having said that, I foresee no running or cycling for the next month. I have enough reasons.

Anyways, lets discuss about VO2 Max. Something that all athletes are trying to push higher and higher.

Starring in this play are:

To make this discussion simple, I'm using the absolute definition of VO2 Max as it is simpler and easier to understand. You can read about the other definition when you understand more about it. Also I'm omitting a lot of details as I'm trying to make this as simple as possible.

So, what is VO2 Max?

To simply put it, VO2 Max is the amount of oxygen brought to and used by the muscle in a minute. Since oxygen is used in the metabolism of energy, it can be (directly or indirectly) translated to capability of the muscle producing energy. Loosely used, the higher your VO2 Max is, the more power you produce, the longer you last (hihi).

The picture above illustrates VO2 Max in a well-trained person, like Awea. They could reach numbers up to 8L/min!!

In a normally functioning, untrained, triathlete-wannabe person, the usual VO2 Max level is around 3.5L/min. Like this person down here.

Generally, there are 3 ways for the wannabe to improve his VO2 Max.

1. Optimize muscle condition to utilize oxygen better (train the muscle).
Like people, muscle behaves in various ways. There are lazy muscles, there are hardworking muscles. Lazy muscles need a lot of whipping to get the work done, kinda like me during school days. So they require a lot more oxygen to produce enough energy. Hardworking muscle is different. Because these kind of muscles are used to hard work, they require less oxygen to produce the same amount of energy, thus increasing efficiency.

2. Improve blood circulation (have a good heart i.e. training).
The heart is a natural pump in the body. A weak heart response poorly to exercise. That is why if you try to run 5 km after a month of Manjalara-marathon in front of the TV, you feel your heart is pumping too fast. A well-worked heart adapts better with exercise, thus maintaining adequate circulation of blood throughout the body during physical activity.

3. Improve the capacity of blood to carry oxygen (more training, specifically high-altitude training).
About 42% of blood is made up of red blood cells. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, a substance that is responsible in making your blood red and carrying oxygen. If you increase the amount of red blood cells in blood, you will also increase the capacity of blood to carry oxygen. However, this is difficult to achieve naturally.

Now, when comparing these 2 types of muscle in terms of VO2 Max, it will look something like this:

The limit for trained muscle is the oxygen carrying capacity. This happen because the muscle is now optimized a.k.a. turned to a lean, mean oxygen-burning machine. On its own, it can burn virtually limitless amount of oxygen. The only limit from it doing so is the supply of oxygen itself.

The limit for untrained muscle is the muscle itself. Since weak muscle can't utilize oxygen optimally, there is a lot of 'oxygen waste'. Even if you're able to supply the muscle with maximum amount of oxygen, the muscle simply can't use them, because it's too weak.

Since we're in the topic of improvement, lets further our discussion to doping (illegal improvement). Haha. I like this topic.

Since we've identified the 2 limits in increasing VO2 Max as muscle condition and oxygen transport, intervention in these 2 areas has caused a boom in the doping world.

Small muscle can be made bigger by using anabolic steroids. This rapidly 'matures' the muscle, turning it from Peewee Herman to Rocky Balboa. But this method is losing its popularity because achieving optimal muscle condition is relatively easier. Read: RELATIVELY EASIER. Not easy.

A more popular way of doping now is blood doping. Blood doping (be it EPO, straight blood doping) significantly increases your capability of blood to carry oxygen. Because now you have more red blood cells, you have more power, you last longer (hihi).

The reason why these methods are banned is simply because it's cheating. More than that, you're playing tag with the Grim Reaper. Anabolic steroids can screw up your hormones harmonics (wow, did I just coin the term?). Which is why body builders who take anabolic steroids have small 'prunes'. So Triple H can brag about his big nose and biceps, but I satisfy a woman better than he can.

Same goes to blood doping. Put in too many red blood cells, and you have a condition that is called polycythemia. This multiplies the risk of getting clogged blood vessels. Think stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism.

Doping is not as simple as getting caught and get thrown out of Tour de France. It affects a person even deeper. Fans become disappointed. Then they forget you. You become depressed. Alcohol and cocaine quickly become your best buddy. One day, you invite too many of your new 'friends' and then die in their laughter.

So remember. Don't do drugs. Just train harder.

(Those who know who am I talking about in the last paragraph, tell me about him in the comment box.)



Blogger Mohd Shazly Khan said...

hello drawing doctor. how does nitrix oxide help to increase vo2max? Its a big hit now..

14 September, 2007  
Blogger Azman said...

Nitric oxide (NO) is a normally-occuring substance in the body that serves the function as a vasodilator - it dilates the blood vessel allowing more blood flow. Some drugs that exploit this function is GTN for angina (chest pain due to heart problem) and Viagra (no explanation needed).

As a supplement, I read that it's a big hit among body builders. Their claim is that increases blood flow this increasing growth. But if you ask me, I think it's impossbile for things to work this way. It is very 'tabloid science'. Same goes to Growth Factor, Glucosamine and Yoga. Haha.

14 September, 2007  
Blogger azri fickry said...

physio nye klas ke apa!

16 September, 2007  
Anonymous bacin said...

agak2 kalau aku buat blood doping boleh tak aku kalah kan azwar.. mr chan tak pernah buat test tau :p

17 September, 2007  
Blogger Dancing Ciken said...

hihi i love this one. thx for the full briefs bout this VO2 max. now i can eksyen tell my frens to train their weak muscles :p

17 September, 2007  
Blogger bola2api said...

now i understand better too.. hey, ini mcm subjek kelas tadika la.. so cute the pics.. mengingatkan aku pada iklan2 RTM tahun 80an hahahahha!

17 September, 2007  
Blogger Minci said...

love the drawings.. i am going to korek your archives to see if there's more.. :P

17 September, 2007  
Anonymous Stupid_O said...

marco pantani

17 September, 2007  
Blogger Azman said...

Stupid_O is correct. It was Marco Pantani.

17 September, 2007  
Blogger Azman said...

Bacin: Haha. Try le. Guna darah biawak. Gerenti power. heheheh.

Aini: Best wo katun 80'an dulu. Yang ada sang kancil degan monyet, sang kancil dengan buaya. Haha. I think for 15 years, tula the only Malaysian cartoon yang ada.

Mince: Thanks :). Simple drawing je. Pakai MS Paint.

17 September, 2007  
Blogger Azman said...

Aiseh. Typo. Sorry ye Minci.

17 September, 2007  
Blogger yipwt said...

cool fact, endurance athletes don't need all those doping. It really can cause stroke.

Just look at how many dead cyclist cases for the past years. But maybe glamour and fame is what they want. And they want it fast.

17 September, 2007  
Anonymous z said...

tepi tepi mate relay aku nak lalu...(tumpang glamer)

18 September, 2007  
Blogger Stupe said...

NO help with dilation. Bodybuilder takes it to be more vascular.

Azman, great stuff man!

18 September, 2007  
Blogger bola2api said...

stupid O kaki beskal.. semua nama cyclist dia tau :P

19 September, 2007  
Blogger Azman said...

Steve Yip: I think it gies beyond fame. It's the rivalry. I chatted with Geoff K when he was in France during TdF. He said looking at the level of competitiveness, it's no surprise cyclists resort to doping. Look at Ulrich. Being labeled eternal second to Armstrong is really like 2 slaps on the face.

King Z: Uuuuit. Apa habaq? Lama tak dengar khabar.

Stupe: Ooooooh. Patut la urat kat tangan macam ular!

19 September, 2007  
Blogger Raymond said...

haha,virtual physiology lecture here!
Good stuff man-keep it up!

19 September, 2007  
Blogger ungku said...

what a story man!
hehehehe good one

25 September, 2007  

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