Performance diagnostics for beginners: These 3 tests make sense
Which performance diagnostics are guaranteed to help you
This is why performance diagnostics is so important in sports
The term performance diagnostics is heard very often in endurance sports. It is often talked about in both professional and amateur sports. But why is performance diagnostics so important for athletes?
Simply put: There is no ONE right training plan that leads all athletes to success. The physiological reactions with which the body responds to training vary from person to person.
Every athlete has different prerequisites, different strengths and also diverse goals – a sporting fingerprint, so to speak. In order to adapt the training to this fingerprint, a performance diagnostic is necessary.
What the performance diagnostics tell you
In other words, a performance diagnostic provides you with the answer to the question:
How can I make the most progress with the least amount of training?
Because through the performance diagnostics you and/or your trainer will find out, among other things:
- What your optimal training and performance ranges are
- When is the right time to set the stimulus, and which stimulus should be set
- How to maximize your training time
- How you can exploit your individual performance potential
- How to avoid overtraining and undertraining
- How to avoid fatal mistakes in training planning (and thus avoid injuries and illnesses)
- What are the final requirements for the optimal training catering
But for performance diagnostics to make sense, it must be well planned. Because as top endurance coach Philipp Seipp of Kickass Sports says: “Those who ask better questions get better answers”.
Important considerations before performance diagnostics in sports
In order to get the right answer through the tests, you need to think about some important things in advance.
You can do this as follows :
Reflect on your end goal, for example: run a marathon, complete a triathlon, climb Mount Everest, or or or….
Depending on the goal, you think about the requirements and what you need to train for it (endurance, speed, strength…).
Then set a goal for the upcoming training block (e.g. improve endurance performance) and then choose a realistic time frame (e.g. 8 weeks).
After this 8-week training block, you can then find out whether you have reached this goal (better endurance performance) by means of performance diagnostics.
If not, you should change or adjust your training strategy.
Sometimes it also happens that you reach a different goal than you wanted to reach. Also in such a case, the trainer must adjust the training strategy.
Learn more in THIS Webinar with Philipp Seipp and Robert Gorgos.
Effective testing as an endurance athlete
Since you probably don’t want to/can’t go to a performance test every 2 months, especially as an amateur athlete*, you have to ask yourself how you can test as effectively as possible.
You don’t have to perform all available tests for every test and spend a whole day on it. If you consider well in advance which tests make sense for you, it is sufficient to perform only those.
To do this, simply consider whether the tests offered fit the question.
For example, if you want to know more about your endurance ability, you don’t have to spend half the afternoon doing flexibility tests to do it.
Simple considerations like this will save you time and money – and you may be able to go to performance diagnostics a little more often in return.
While professional athletes perform a whole range of tests, three tests stand out for amateur athletes in endurance sports that are extremely useful – and provide plenty of important information.
Spiroergometry is used in routine sports medicine and scientific studies in three areas:
- For endurance performance diagnostics
- To determine the energy conversion
- In the study of performance limitations
However, endurance performance diagnostics is the largest field of application. Here, maximal oxygen uptake and, to some extent, ventilatory thresholds serve as indicators of endurance performance.
The maximum oxygen uptake is also called Vo2max and is the amount of oxygen your body can take in during maximum endurance exercise.
The value shows you how big your aerobic engine is.
Ventilatory thresholds can be distinguished between ventilatory threshold 1 (VT1) and ventilatory threshold 2 (VT2).
At VT1, there is an increase in ventilation (amount of air inhaled per minute) and carbon dioxide output.
The VT2 corresponds to the respiratory compensation point (RCP). This is characterized by disproportionate ventilation. Thus, from VT2 onwards, (audible) hyperventilation begins.
Calorie consumption during physical activity and the ratio of fat to carbohydrate metabolism can also be estimated.
This knowledge is extremely important when designing the training – but also when planning the optimal catering during it.
The DXA Diagnostics
Another important measurement for endurance athletes is the DXA diagnostic. DXA diagnostics is very precise and provides valuable body composition data. You will get information about lean mass, fat mass and bone density, among others.
This can be interesting for athletes who want to increase their lean mass. In this way, it is possible to regularly check whether one is on the right track and actually losing fat mass, or whether muscle mass is possibly being reduced. (Tips from Robert Gorgos for weight reduction can be found at HERE.)
However, information about bone density is also very important. For example, the data on bone density in the lower extremities tells Philipp Seipp whether a triathlete originally comes from running or swimming. Accordingly, he then adapts the training to the athlete.
It is very important to control the bone density also in adolescence!
It is often the case that young athletes are not properly guided through training and thus fall into an almost chronic overtraining. This can subsequently lead to osteopenia (reduction in bone density).
Osteopenia results in frequent injury breaks and a – concomitant – decrease in performance.
In addition to regular monitoring of bone density through a DXA measurement, a diet adapted to sport also helps to protect bone density. You can read more HERE read
The lactate test
A very popular test is also the lactate test. But what is lactate anyway and what does it say about performance?
Lactate is the salt of lactic acid and is formed in muscle by the metabolism of carbohydrates.
The stronger the load, the more lactate is formed in the muscle and the more your body has to break down. At a certain level, your body can no longer break down the lactate, and the lactate begins to accumulate in the blood. This leads to a drop in performance after a short time.
This lactate formation has been used since the 1970s to test athletic performance capabilities.
The lactate test records the increase in lactate levels in the blood after increasing exertion and thus determines the aerobic/anaerobic threshold. This is the threshold at which you can maintain the highest training intensity for a longer period of time without the lactate concentration in the blood rising too much.
Knowing these can help in planning and managing training.
The lactate value is determined by taking small amounts of capillary blood from the earlobe immediately after exercise. The first step is to start with a low load, and the load level is then progressively increased.
This shows very well in which metabolic state the athlete is at the moment.
If the heart rate and power are recorded at the same time as the lactate value, meaningful values are obtained to optimally control the training. This is because it gives you a detailed insight into how the athlete reacts to different loads.
You can then see, for example, if someone has very good basic endurance, but should work a little more on the anaerobic range. Or whether someone perhaps has too little foundation and should invest a little more time in basic training.
Helpful tips on aerobic or anaerobic training are revealed by top trainer Dan Lorang in THIS article.
Evaluation and correct conclusions in the field of nutrition
There are various softwares that combine all the data just discussed (lactate values, Vo2max, ventilatory thresholds…) and summarize them in a graph, for example the sentiero or the INSCYD software (see figure).
This is helpful, among other things, to optimally plan the catering during the training and thus achieve better effects.
For example, on the corresponding graphs you can see that an athlete can ride about 200-250 watts to boost fat burning. In doing so, it requires approx. 70g carbohydrates/h – significantly less energy than, for example, during interval training at 300 watts. Here he would consume about 160g carbohydrates/h.
However, if he does not know these values, it can easily happen that he always performs his loose training sessions a little too fast, thereby supplying too few carbohydrates and slipping into a creeping glycogen deficit.
This energy is then no longer available to him during key workouts, which stands in the way of increased performance in the long term.
Now that you know your data and how best to train the different metabolic zones, you should adjust your food accordingly.
Train more effectively
This will provide you with long-lasting energy, which will benefit your fat metabolism and help your body save muscle glycogen.
If, on the other hand, you complete a very strenuous interval training, for example, and thus train your carbohydrate metabolism, you need significantly more carbohydrates for this.
In order to be able to consume the required amount of carbohydrates, it makes sense to resort to quickly available carbohydrates, such as those from our FAST CARB to fall back on.
In conclusion, regular performance diagnostics and an adapted training design/nutrition will most likely help you achieve great progress with as little effort as possible.