Making Sense of Incremental Exercise Test Fat Oxidation Data


Fat oxidation, and fat oxidation rates get talked about a lot in the world of endurance sports and triathlon. Of course, being able to break down fats for use as fuel during prolonged exercise is an important determinant of performance in ultra-endurance events like Ironman. Our other fuel source – carbohydrates – are relatively limited and are depleted during prolonged or intense exercise. Being able to use fat effectively reduces the rate at which we burn through our carbohydrate stores, and thus delays the fatigue associated with depleted carbohydrate stores, or ‘hitting the wall’.

Given that having a robust capacity to make use of fat stores during exercise is important, I quantify it in the lab with the athletes I work with. We can measure fat oxidation rates during exercise using a technique called indirect calorimetry, which involves the collection of expired air, and we typically do this across a range of exercise intensities in...

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