Updated: Dec 17, 2021
by Sara Stover
When you think about cardio-metabolic testing, you might envision Lance Armstrong spinning away on a time-trial bike in a high-tech lab, while hooked up to a beeping machine that spits out data only a rocket scientist could translate. Although pro cyclists do undergo metabolic testing, the process itself is far less intimidating and much more accessible than you might assume.
From competitive athletes to individuals who simply want to improve their health through diet and exercise, a metabolic test offers you the most complete snapshot of your physiology.
“So what? Why should I care about my physiology?” you might ask.
Let’s break it down!
Why Metabolic Testing Matters to Athletes
Say you’re an endurance runner or triathlete and feel like you’ve reached a performance plateau. You’ve been training by pace and mileage, but you aren’t seeing the gains you hoped for. It might be time to think about training by heart rate and discussing training plans based on zones.
Cardio-metabolic analysis can measure an athlete’s peak oxygen consumption or VO2 max, and the results can prescribe training zones and determine workout programs. VO2 max, or the maximum oxygen amount that the body can use during exercise, is a combination of your muscles efficiency in the extraction and utilization of oxygen, and the among of oxygen-rich blood that your heart can actually pump.
Once VO2 max is determined through cardio-metabolic analysis, you can train at your unique VO2 max. Doing so increases the oxygen amount that your body can utilize. And if you can use more oxygen, you can run, bike, or just move faster!
Since VO2 max workouts are done at a pace that is likely faster than what you’ve been training at, training at VO2 max “tricks” your body into moving more efficiently and your form typically improves as well. Not to be confused with running efficiency, running economy is how much energy is required to run at a given pace. Training at VO2 max also increases the power and strength of your leg muscles, which improves your economy of movement.
Why Metabolic Testing Matters for Weight Loss
If your doctor has advised you to follow a weight-loss program for improved health, then you’re going to need science-based, weight-loss support. That’s where dietetics comes into play. Dietetics is the science of examining how eating impacts overall health. And in the field of dietetics, cardio-metabolic analysis can evaluate the consumption of calories, as well as carbohydrate and fat oxidation.
Aerobic exercise is an important aspect of fat burning and subsequent weight loss, but in the absence of VO2 testing, you’ll be left guessing as to what level of exercise intensity is actually aerobic for you.
Cardio-metabolic analysis determines the level of exercise that will maximize your fat-burning ability, so you’ll know the exact intensity level that will optimize the amount of fat you burn. Data gathered from your cardio-metabolic test provides the foundation upon which you can build a customized nutrition plan, promoting healthy weight loss.
Why Metabolic Testing Matters for Anyone at Risk of Heart Disease
Anyone who has a family history of cardiovascular disease knows how important heart health is. And even if your family doesn’t have a history of the disease, you may have other reasons to be concerned about heart disease and how to prevent it.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and we can’t just blame family history or high cholesterol anymore. According to the NCEP guidelines, 50% of people who suffer a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels, so standard cholesterol tests alone may fail to uncover your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Your heart may be at risk if you smoke, are sedentary, are coping with high levels of stress, and /or have high blood pressure. Presented as cardio-pulmonary exercise testing, cardio-metabolic analysis is the most accurate, non-invasive way to detect the presence of heart disease.
If you suspect that you are at risk as a result of your family history, lifestyle, or the presence of chest pain, don’t wait to schedule a cardio-metabolic analysis. Testing can help determine whether chest pain and dyspnea (difficulty breathing) are due to a lung or heart problem, so you can identify the best course of action to improve your heart health… and possibly save your life!
NOTE: Seek immediate medical attention if you have signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Never disregard or delay seeking medical attention because of something you have heard or read on the internet or in this post.
How a Cardio-Metabolic Test Works
At CTG, we use PNOE, the world's first affordable clinical grade metabolic analyzer.
With PNOE’s highly accurate, portable cardio-metabolic analyzer we can scan the health of all your vital functions, including your cellular, metabolic, heart, and lung fitness.
The test consists of two parts: Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) testing and Exercise testing. RMR testing will be first, followed by the Exercise test. For the RMR test, you will be in a reclined position, with your eyes closed, breathing normal for approximately 10 minutes of stillness.
For the Exercise test, you will begin by warming up for 3 minutes. The Exercise test will be 9 to 12 minutes long, with the intensities increased every minute. This will be followed by 2 minutes of inactive recovery. For testing, we use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale to measure the intensity of your exercise.
What About Cardio-Metabolic Test Results?
Accurate and non-invasive, cardio-metabolic analysis will test your carbon dioxide production and oxygen at rest and during exercise. Within 48 hours, we will email your test results to you.
From the results, we can determine your daily caloric burn, fat and carbohydrate utilization, thresholds of your training zones, and other key information. And you’ll have the opportunity to discuss how to apply your test results to build the most personalized nutrition and workout plan with a licensed physical therapist.
Schedule Your Metabolic Test
Whether you are working toward a PR or determined to reach a healthy weight, a cardio-metabolic test can provide you with a 360-degree view of your metabolic, cellular, cardiovascular, and respiratory fitness. Contact us and schedule an appointment at Change the Game PT for a cardio-metabolic test today.