Increase VO2 Max

Does anyone know of a sure way to increase ones VO2 Max. I’m a expert bike racer, so strength, endurance and lactic acid buffering are most important to me not bulk and size. My body needs to be able to run as near my max heart rate as possible for about 2hrs. Occasionally you hit everything just right and you have an awesome race…but more often you blow up, cramp up or are just totally fatigued. I read that increasing your testosterone increases your red blood cell count which in turn will carry more oxygen to your working muscles. Is this true?? If so can someone recommend a simple way to proceed for a newbe. I know nothing about all this stuff on todays market. I see all these Pro riders cranking out incredible amounts of wattage and recover by the next day. I realize genetics plays a huge part, but they got to be taking something to help mother nature.
Thanks for your help

if you are a newbie, work more on your lactate threshold…

Lactate threshold training is a good way of increasing both your threshold and your VO2. It should be understood that there are certain genetic limitations of VO2 max or peak, BUT with good conditioning and training it can be raised. To learn more about lactate threshold training try the text The Physiology of Running by David Costill. There are other good books and even websites for this. Good luck!

If you are an expert mtn biker, your VO2 is likely maxed out. I assume that you have been riding for several years and VO2 adaptation happen relatively quickly. With consistent training, it can increase incrementally, but not substantially. An exception to this would be if you can sustain the same aerobic power output and loose body weight. Here, your relative VO2 max (ml/kg/min) would increase, but the absolute value wouldn’t change much. Another exception would be if you add more muscle. It is possible to increase muscle mass and maintain oxygen saturation if endurance training is maintained. This would result in higer absolute, but not necessarily relative VO2max. The thing here is you have to watch the power to weight ratio, of course, because you can get dimishing returns with regard to climbing etc.

What happens over the long haul with regard to performance is the efficiency of the cycling motion is increased. This takes much repetition and consistency of training. Not knowing your style, you may want to experiment with higher cadences if your legs seem to be the weak link. Also, by training smartly, one can increase both lactate threshold and lactate tolerance. Both of these would enable the rider to perform better in the absence of increased VO2max.

With regard to things to take, be aware that many things are banned substances (ie. andro/nandro products, stimulants etc). If you take those things you will be cheating although at the expert level, you likely won't be tested. So, I won't recommend anything. It is possible though to increase VO2max acutely by increasing blood/plasma volume. A substance which has been debated with regard to effectiveness for this has been glycerol. I have seen several studies where glycerol supplementation (oral) has increased plasma volume. The performance results have been debateable though. I am guessing this may be due to heterogeneity in subject samples or lack of motivation. Be aware that glycerol is a banned substance in some organizations as well (not sure about NORBA), but it has been argued that this only applies to IV adminstration. So, it depends on your ethics with regard to whether you feel you are cheating.

Expert bike racer AND a newbie? Seems at odds to me, but here goes anyway. VO2max is expressed as volume of oxygen per kg body mass per minute. Small increases in VO2max can be achieved by reducing body weight. Increasing cycling efficiency and endurance can increase the percentage of your VO2max that you can sustain for extended periods of time (lactate threshold). You need to first determine your lactate threshold (also known as anaerobic threshold), then train at or near it on hill repeats or time trials. As for test increasing red blood cell count – I don’t think so. There are drugs that can do this (EPO being one), but they increase red cell count without increasing overall volume, making the blood thicker. Remember the Belgian cyclists who were dying a few years ago? EPO. Lance Armstrong used a hypobaric chamber to simulate altitude, which increases red blood cell count AND total blood volume. There’s an article on the Velonews site that goes into some more detail.


There is quite a bit of evidence that testosterone as well as various AAS increase RBC production.

I stand corrected. I still wonder about the increases in total blood volume vs. just red blood cell count.