Using Saturated Muscle Oxygen and Total Hemoglobin to Measure the Need for Calories

A few days ago, I posted about all of the things I think I'm seeing when I put a Moxy Monitor up on a client's leg. Well, here's an example.

Mike Brandley is a client who focuses on mountain biking, so his season and schedule can be a little bit different than others. He came in early one morning this week, and while excited to be working out, during our warmup and bike prep, he revealed that he'd forgotten to eat on his way over. I told him I wanted to try the monitor on him, and that it might tell us some things that he and I might not otherwise know. 

Here's a cut from his workout. Unfortunately, we still need to get a broader range for the red line, which indicates Total Hemoglobin, but I'll provide several images to enforce my point, with details...
Mike Brandley - 2015-01-14T06-45-28 - Snapshot

Now, if you look first at the warmup, the green line is the SmO2, and the red line is ThB. Follow the red line out to about the beginning of the third green spike, and notice the little red notch. I was looking at the rider's dashboard, and I noticed this immediately. Also notice - the Rider's SmO2 was NEVER that high to begin with during the warmup, and it began to crater in to the SINGLE DIGITS during the first two intervals!

But wait - there's more. Notice how each time the rider recovered from an interval (Remember, the green line when it's low indicates the interval, and high indicates the recovery) at a HIGHER level? This is where my two terms from the previous blog post come in to play. I believe that Mike's "ACTIVE RESTING SmO2" level is pretty low - around 35-38%. However, IF WE HAD PROPERLY WARMED UP, USING A LONGER PROTOCOL AND SOME SHORT, SHARP INTERVALS AT HIGHER INTENSITIES, then we would have found that his "MAXIMAL SATURATED SmO2" would be around 60+%. This would have made for a BETTER WORKOUT, because we could have combined what we know about his SmO2 levels, with his wattage intensities, and adjusted things accordingly. 

BUT WAIT - THERE'S MORE!!!

Remember that little knock in the ThB Red Line that occurs around the recovery time after the third interval? Here it is in a close-up. 
Mike Brandley - 2015-01-14T06-19-54 - Snapshot

THAT, my friends, when combined with a LOW SmO2 during a Vo2-themed 2-minute interval... IS A CALORIE-RELATED BONK!

Look back up at the first graphic. After that little knock in ThB, it never really came back up. HOWEVER, after feeding him a BONK BREAKER, around 300 Kcals, and forcing him to drink a water bottle with an appropriate amount of OSMO Active Hydration in it, here's what happened....

SmO2 did NOT really recover to near the previous 'Maximal Active Saturation' level, but the "MINIMUM SATURATED SmO2" level, or the 'Vo2' Plateau that I believe leads to the best biological response for the rider on THAT given day, bottomed out at a HIGHER level for each interval, around 10, then 12, then 14 percent. Now, let's add wattage back in to the picture. 
Mike Brandley - 2015-01-14T06-45-41 - Snapshot

Mike's Critical Power, on paper, is about 255 Watts. These were two-minute intervals, based on slope, and I wanted him to finish the intervals with an average over the two-minutes at 110-120% of Critical Power. I don't have the CP/FTP line on the chart, but you can see that he was able to rally, and completed the entire workout, performing rising-intensity intervals, at the appropriate training dose. 

What's the moral of the story? 

Sometimes, the wattage doesn't give us the complete picture. Having onscreen Muscle Oxygen and ThB gives the smart coach an extra tool to determine what's best for a cyclist on any given day. In this case, we were able to more quickly determine that Mike's fasting from the night before could lead to a failed workout. Had we been using wattage alone, we may have collectively ended up beating our heads against a wall as we tried harder and harder to accomplish something that just wasn't feasible. Instead, we rectified it immediately, got him fed, watered, and salted, and he was actually able to IMPROVE the quality of his intervals, and later, ACHIEVE THE GOALS SET OUT FOR HIM, without throwing in the towel. His Muscle Oxygen range helped him get the proper training dose, in conjunction with wattage, and the ThB values gave us a really good clue about how much was in the tank, and how quickly it was depleted. It's hard to show in this blog, but for the savvy reader, if you download and purchase a copy of PerfPro Analyzer, the 'Analyze' tab includes max,min, and average Smo2 and Thb PER INTERVAL. I've taken the liberty to export the chart to Excel, where I made a simple graph. 
Mike Brandley ThB Lap Averages

What you see is that after the initial 'Bonk', he ate and drank, and had a ThB Rebound. Later, it tapered off again, AS HIS POWER CAME BACK UP, and for the last 10 minutes of the workout, which was two, separate 5-minute intervals AT CRITICAL POWER, well, the ThB continued to rise. 

I'm convinced that this tool, in the right hands, can complement our goals of helping recreational cyclists accomplish their goals, each and every workout, through the combination of watts, heart rate, and now, muscle oxygen and total hemoglobin. Here's my takeaway from this client and his workout, some of it's simple, some, notsomuch. 

  1. ALWAYS show up for a ride or training session properly rested, fed, watered, and salted. That's what Grape-Nuts and Greek Yogurt is for. 
  2. EAT and DRINK throughout the workout. I don't care if you're trying to lose weight. Training to raise your Critical Power will help you burn more KiloJoules, ergo, KiloCalories, and you'll end up losing the weight anyway. Eating and Drinking a light-sugar solution like OSMO, will help keep the ThB Levels and SmO2 levels higher. I THINK having a higher value in both, is optimal.
  3. IF you know an athlete's SmO2 levels for "Maximum Active Saturation", you can then modify a workout and train for DOSE, instead of training for a wattage output goal. We know more about Mike's Max Saturation, and per the later intervals, his appropriate minimum saturation. We'll train for DOSE, and use WATTS as the resistance, while setting a general FLOOR for SmO2. We'll also track his HR, which I bet, I bet I bet, will drop as he gets back in to his training regime. 
  4. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS WARM UP! Starting a workout cold or unprepared can hurt you physcially as well as mentally, so ALWAYS give yourself 20-30 minutes to warm up, and ALWAYS include several 20-40 second pick-me-up intervals at high intensity, with adequate recoveries, so that you will begin the intervals with the highest SmO2 and THB levels possible.

That's it for now - I'll try to write more in the upcoming days, but until then, don't forget - if you haven't come in for a first ride, download the App and let's get you in. The upcoming season is nigh upon us, and in Texas at least, it won't be cold for long!!!

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