OWW Blog

From licensed healthcare providers who are experts in their field

Metabolic Testing/V02 Max

Oct 11, 2023

Written By: Dr. Tara Kulikov, DACM, L.Ac., MA Exercise Science



Many of us have seen the images of an elite, professional, or Olympic athlete, undertaking the VO2 Max Test by wearing some sort of mask or mouthpiece and hooked up to electrodes for monitoring during an exercise protocol that looks intense and miserable!


While this image does hold some truth, what I would like to explain is the importance of metabolic/VO2 Max testing for everyone no matter what your goal is. Some of us are looking for objective values to help with athletic performance and advancement in sport while others are looking for weight loss solutions.  This test can provide the objective measurements to help establish a fitness plan that will work for all populations.


First, what is VO2 and metabolism?  “VO2 max testing is the gold standard or most accurate test of aerobic or cardiovascular fitness. Its definition is the athlete's maximum capacity to utilize oxygen in a graded exercise test (1).  In simple terms, VO2 max or your oxygen uptake, can show the volume (V) or how much oxygen (O) your body absorbs and uses while working out (2).  There are calculated graphs (*see below) that give you a “range” of what your VO2 Max is at according to age and gender.


The collective operation of the heart, lungs, blood, and cells to maintain life are what we call metabolism. Knowing how well your metabolism is working during exercise can help to determine a specific and individualized exercise plan for your goals be that sport, weight loss or longevity.  It is a bit of a “reality check.”  Just because a person looks one way or another on the outside, does not mean they are functioning optimally on the inside. It is well documented that the efficiency with which oxygen flows through your body is the most powerful predictor of how long and well you will live (3)!

In terms of performance, heat rate zones are the top way a person can maximize the results from cardio and interval training. These zones should be known by all who wish to get the maximum benefit from exercise.  While general equations and watches can “predict” these zones, the gold standard for knowing and reassessing heart rate zones is VO2 Max testing.  Know that most people train in only one or two of the five heart rates zones that can be calculated which can limit the benefits of exercise. Also, these zones change over time and can be modified and improved by proper and customized training as your VO2 Max number changes.

An important thing to note is that the actual test is modified to the subject.  Running or walking on a treadmill, cycling on an indoor bike, rowing, or a combat bike with incremental varying intensity, after a medical evaluation and clearance has been given, are the options.  After a warm-up, the actual test only lasts 8-10 minutes followed by inactive recovery.  So, if you want to live long and well, perform your best, lose weight, gain muscle, or just make sure you are not wasting your time with your current fitness plan, save your pennies for a VO2 Max test.

Bio:  Dr. Tara Kulikov is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, and a Sports Physiologist. Tara lives and works in Truckee, CA where she offers medical and performance services through Acu-Energy and Kensho Well-being. Tara incorporates the healing modalities of traditional medicine into her practice for a number of conditions. Working with Kensho Well-being, Tara uses the PNOE device to test clients and loves the amounts of objective findings this device offers outside just the VO2 Max number. 

Tara loves to keep herself fit and to know her VO2 Max number and heart rates zones in order to live a long, healthy, and adventurous life. Tara’s desire is for her patients to also live a long, healthy, and adventurous life; knowing your V02 Max number can help you achieve this goal.

CALCULATED GRAPHS (referenced above)


1.      Mike Bundy MBBS MRCGP DipSportsMed(Bath) FFSEM(UK), Andy Leaver BSc(Hons) MCSP SRP, in A Guide to Sports and Injury Management, 2010).

2.       (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-vo2-max-and-how-to-calculate-it/)

3.      PNOE.com

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