Beginning July 11th, over 200 riders will compete and race over 2,000 miles in a span of 23 days in the 2019 Tour de France. Over the course of those 23 days, 21 days (3-weeks) will consist of cyclists vying for the top spot leaving only 2 days for rest and recovery!
Now, imagine yourself as a professional cyclist, pedaling and speeding your way through the hills of France at speeds over 25mph...sounds exhilarating and beautiful all at the same time. Though, towards the later stages of the race you begin feeling fatigued and watch other cyclists soar pass you slowly but surely.
You find yourself now trailing at the end of the pack because of fatigue and other racers being in better peak condition than yourself. But what if there was a way to not only get rid of early onset fatigue throughout the race but to also make sure you arrived in peak aerobic shape?
PowerDot supports all levels of cyclists in enhancing recovery and improving optimal aerobic performance. Whether it’s a 100 mile race or Tour de France, you can trust PowerDot to support you in all aspects of performance. For instance, when Lawson Craddock needed support in the Tour de France, the PowerDot smart muscle stimulator was there. It helped him to finish the Tour de France when most said the pain would be too excruciating to continue.
How can utilizing the updated and new PowerDot 2.0, the best muscle stimulator on the market, elevate a cyclists performance to new heights? The PowerDot smart muscle stimulator utilizes Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) technology to increase aerobic capacity, better known as VO2max.
As a cyclist, having a high aerobic capacity (VO2max) is essential to optimal performance. NMES has the capabilities to enhance this vital physiological variable.
Evidence suggests that using a preset NMES program, oxygen consumption and heart rate increase. This increase cardiometabolic demand suggests NMES may be used as a supplementary training stimulus to improve both aerobic (endurance/long distance) and anaerobic (sprinting) performance eliciting positive performance adaptations.
As avid cyclists, we understand that having a high aerobic capacity is essential to performance. Although, it is essential to better understand the physiological variables that dictate our aerobic capacity to enhance training adaptations.
Imagine yourself cycling in an exercise research lab hooked up to a metabolic analyzer (those cool looking masks cyclists wear during an all-out exercise test). Every second, the intensity is increasing and increasing until you reach a point of maximal exertion and you stop (almost throw up and pass out...but you at least haven’t fallen off the bike).
While breathing into the metabolic analyzer, your VO2 (oxygen consumption) was being measured until your reached your VO2max (maximal oxygen consumption).
This value informs a cyclist how aerobically fit one is. The higher the number, the better someone will perform in long distance endurance events. You can see why this is such an important variable in cycling performance.
What Does a High VO2 Tell Us?: Physiology Breakdown
Adolf Eugene Fick first presented on the physiological variables that impact VO2 at a conference in 1870. This is not new information. Through his discovery came the infamous Fick Equation. Exercise scientists have used this equation to further understand the physiology of endurance athletes. The Fick equation tells us:
VO2 = Cardiac output (HR x SV) x A-VO2dif
Cardiac output is the amount of blood pumped from the heart per minute. It is equal to heart rate (HR) times or multiplied by stroke volume (SV - which is the amount of blood pumped from the heart per beat). To break it down further...
The beats per minute (HR)...
Multiplied by the amount of blood pumped per beat (SV)...
Equates to the amount of blood pumped per minute (CO - cardiac output).
But what is A-VO2dif? The “A” stands for arterial. The “V” stands for venous. And “O2dif” is oxygen difference. Meaning, A-VO2dif is the difference of oxygen between the arteries and veins.
Blood flow recap! We all begrudgingly took a high school science class that explained how oxygenated blood is pumped from the heart and travels through the arteries. This oxygenated blood eventually reaches the capillaries at the skeletal muscle and the oxygen is “dropped off” for the muscles to use. Blood is then returned to the heart as deoxygenated blood via the veins.
Here’s a practical illustration of the A-VO2dif. If our body is at rest, the A-VO2dif is going to be small because our skeletal muscle doesn’t need much oxygen to create ATP. But, when cycling or exercising, the difference increases as more oxygen will be utilized to create ATP.
This explains that VO2 is not only dependent on the amount of blood pumped from the heart per minute (cardiac output) but also the amount of oxygen that the skeletal muscle takes and utilizes (A-VO2dif).
So what happens to VO2 as we exercise? It rises as the physiological variables in the equation are not fixed or constant.
We can all agree that as we exercise our heart rate increases. We also see that stroke volume and the A-VO2dif increase as well. So, reexamining our equation:
↑ VO2 = ↑ Cardiac Output (↑ HR x ↑ SV) x ↑ A-VO2dif
If all of these variables increase, then VO2 increases. These are the variables that influence VO2max or someone’s aerobic capacity. A VO2max test examines both how efficient the cardiovascular system is (cardiac output) as well as skeletal muscle’s ability to take and utilize oxygen (A-VO2dif).
Physiological Adaptations Improve VO2max
Cyclists are considered endurance/aerobic athletes. These athletes have some of the highest VO2max values compared to any other athletes. The high VO2max of a cyclist is what allows them to cycle at high power outputs for sustained performance.
Knowing that VO2max is one of the greatest predictors of cycling performance, it is beneficial to understand the physiological adaptations that improve VO2max. So, if the goal is to increase VO2max we need to train to manipulate the variables within the Fick Equation. This helps to fine focus our training.
Let’s start with heart rate. Heart rate max doesn’t really change. It actually decreases the older we get. However, one beneficial adaptation, not related to maximal intensity, is that our submaximal intensity heart rate decreases.
You may notice after a few weeks of cycling at a certain wattage, that wattage becomes easier and your heart rate does not elevate as high. This is due to increased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system that keeps our heart rate from increasing too quickly.
But let’s get back to maximal intensity. If heart rate max does not increase, but stroke volume max increases from training, then cardiac output increase based on math. Here’s our cardiac output equation:
Cardiac Output = HR x SV
Though heart rate max may not increase, we see maximal stroke volume increase.
↑Cardiac Outputmax = ↔HRmax x ↑SVmax
What causes the increase in maximal stroke volume? Here are two adaptations to training that increase stroke volume:
- ↑ heart mass. The cardiac muscle increases in size and now produces a more forceful contraction increasing the amount of blood pumped from the heart.
- ↑ plasma volume and red blood cell count. This increases the amount of blood returned to the heart so more can be pumped back out.
It’s great to have more oxygenated blood being pumped through the circulation, but it’s not beneficial if our skeletal muscle cannot take it and utilize it. So, what about A-VO2dif and skeletal muscle? Here’s the adaptations that occur at the skeletal muscle that help to take more oxygen up at the skeletal muscle which increases the A-VO2dif:
- ↑ Capillarization (more capillaries). Capillaries are the site of gas exchange at the skeletal muscle (dropping off oxygen). Having more capillaries allows our body to handle the increased cardiac output.
- ↑ Mitochondria. The powerhouse of the cell! Within the mitochondria is where the oxidative energy system does it’s thing. More mitochondria are able to handle more oxygenated blood.
- ↑ Enzymatic Activity. This increased enzymatic activity is within the mitochondria. Enzymes catalyze or speed up reactions. In this case, the increased enzymatic activity increases production of ATP for higher aerobic performance.
- ↑ Myoglobin. Once oxygen is dropped of to the skeletal muscle, the myoglobin protein takes it deep into the mitochondria. With more oxygenated blood, more myoglobin are able to take all that oxygen to where it needs to go...the more mitochondria.
Recap...the cardiovascular and skeletal muscle adaptations go hand in hand and work together to utilize more oxygen (increasing VO2max).
Improve VO2max in Cycling
VO2max is a physiological variable that can be improved with training as noted by the adaptations discussed that accompany training. However, there is some sad news…
Genetically, everyone has a preset VO2max...meaning some of us were born to accel as aerobic/endurance athletes and some of us were not. This explains why world class cyclists are...well...world class.
Though, at a professional level, each athlete’s VO2max is going to be relatively the same. So how can professionals, amateurs, and all cyclists train to have the highest VO2max possible?
Performing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) is one of the most efficient means to improve VO2max no matter what level athlete you are. This consists of cycling at various power outputs within different exercise intensity domains (periods of high-intensity and low-intensity). More on this to come soon!
However, to take your fitness to the next level, incorporate PowerDot into your training. As mentioned above, NMES may be used as a supplementary training tool to incorporate into your training to maximize aerobic performance benefits.
The bluetooth wireless unit syncs to an app on your phone with preset programs scientifically designed to improve parameters of aerobic fitness. Use it at home or take it on the go, it’s so sleek and small you won’t even notice it under your riding shorts. Pick one up today and take your training to the next level!