Julian Kyer is a serious cyclist who wants to constantly test his limits.
"I’m competitive about it," said Kyer, 25.
Now, with the help of a program at the University of Colorado's Health and Wellness Center, Kyer undergoes a battery of tests — usually available only to elite athletes — to improve his performance while preventing serious injury and overtraining.
"The mask we wear when we’re in the lab is the same thing as an emissions test on your car," Kyer explained.
For example, one machine measures the gas exchange in Kyer’s body. The test shows how efficiently carbs and fat are being burned while he bikes.
In another test, tiny blood samples reveal the release of lactic acid, which acts like a temporary fuel source during intense workouts. Doctors then use the results to design an individual exercise plan.
"The majority of people that are entering these sports, they don’t know how to train. They don’t know how to eat, how to recover. They are all over the map," said Iñigo San Millán, director, sports performance program, Anschutz Health & Wellness Center/CU Sports Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The tests revealed that Kyer needed to increase his ability to clear lactic acid and also increase his carbohydrate intake. For Kyer, this meant more endurance training.
San Millán warns that restricting carbs in athletes can lead to overtraining and even muscle damage.
Julian’s power output went from about 240 watts to 270 watts. The more watts you produce the fitter you are.
"The average athlete, they are going to get a lot out of this kind of testing," Kyer said.
The cost of training like an Olympian is not cheap. The initial test is $450.
A specific workout called lactate clearance interval ride is good for clearing lactic acid. Cyclists should do the first half of their ride at their maximum sustainable power for a given duration and then they should ease back for the second half.
It's also a good option for runners training for a 5k or 10k.