This archived forum used to be called 'Peatarian' (in reference to Ray Peat).

VO2 Max and adiposity. Cardio to get lean.

People want to get lean. They hear about "tricks" like low carb and intermittent fasting, which turn out to be a very bad idea for most people beyond the short term. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

I gather a "trick" that actually works to get lean without much stress is boosting VO2 Max. It goes beyond burning calories with exercise. People with higher VO2 max seem to be much more resistant to fat gain even when they cease exercising.

A bunch of these seem to touch on the idea that high VO2 max means lean:

I know Ray Peat isn't so down on exercise for health purposes. But I don't think proper cardio training is especially high stress. Don't run marathons. Run just 1km as fast as you can two or three times a week. You should be burning a bit and gasping for air at the end.

Am I wrong on this? Because it sure squares up with my personal experience. A good 400m time means shredded regardless of diet.

asked Mar 6, 2014 by 4a552f55cbb9

How much time will it take to improve VO2 max with 1km 2-3 times a week in your opinion? I walk on average 5km a day but my CO2 level is probably very low and I can't run for very long (500m at full speed I think).

Moderate strength training is the best bet imo.
As long as you keep your breath under control during the activity, it should be okay.

I did strength training (slow movements, big weights) for 6 months last year and gain more muscles I ever gain. And while it is great to have more muscles for daily activities (less pains, able to walk all day without any problems, etc) my VO2 max is still very very low and strength training didn't do much in that area.

Moderate strength training is almost the opposite of what will boost vo2 max. You need to push really hard and be gasping for breath.

2 Answers

A trick for building VO2 max and metabolic rate is to emulate conditions of altitude as much of the day and night as you can, and to do concentric exercise in short durations.

Emulating "high" altitude (for example, Aspen) requires 15-16% oxygen in the air you breathe (which can be achieved with 5-6% CO2).This isn't as hard as it sounds if you make your own rebreather with sufficient dead space (similar to an elephant's trunk or a giraffe's neck), or add a little CO2 from a tank to your air supply.

You can prove this works for yourself if you can measure VO2 max. Or if you're into studies (which I'm not, too many uncontrolled variables, and I'd rather prove it for myself), there's this:

@4a55, to your question, the type of exercise you do can be guided by your ability to do it at conditions that emulate very high altitude. If you can blast a 1K at (emulated) 9,000 feet, then rock it!

I think you'll be amazed by how much more benefit you achieve from the same level of exertion when done at emulated altitude, even for much shorter durations. My experience: emulating altitude before, during and after exercise, and as much of the day and night as you can, even when sleeping, will give you the greater benefit.

I think you're right about high VO2 and less fat. The greatest challenge in climbing extreme heights is getting emaciated, no matter how much you eat.

answered Feb 7, 2015 by visionofstrength
edited Feb 7, 2015 by visionofstrength

Sounds like a good plan. Maybe do like 3-4 hard 1ks each time you run it with a about 2-3 minutes rest, that way you stay at v02 max a bit longer. Also short sprints after the 1ks could help too.

answered Mar 6, 2014 by max219