As a cyclist, chances are you heard about VO2 max and are looking for ways to increase it. If you want to learn more about VO2 max and how to measure and calculate VO2 max at home, check out our guide!
Before we look at the best supplements to help you increase VO2 max, we need to make something clear. The only way to increase your VO2 max is with a structured and focused training plan.
To help you increase your VO2 max, we teamed up with the Human Performance Center, the cycling lab of renowned nutritionist Dr. Tim Podlogar and VO2 max specialist and professional coach Simon Cirnski. Together we prepared an optimized 10-week training plan to increase your VO2 max, which you can get for FREE here!
Now, let's delve into the subject of VO2 max and supplements.
While there is a lot of ongoing research on the effect of supplements on VO2 max, and the results are largely inconclusive, our take on it is that supplements do not increase your VO2 max.
Let us explain.
Yes, many studies have confirmed an increase of VO2 max in control groups compared to placebo groups when complementing training with supplements. These results vary from zero to approximately 10%.
But we think that's the wrong way of looking at supplements and VO2 max. Rather than trying to measure how much supplements increase your VO2 max, you should see supplements as the support to your training routine, which in fact does increase your VO2 max.
Look at it this way. Fuel does not make a car run faster. But without fuel, the car will get nowhere.
Now let's look at the best 3 supplements to complement your training to increase VO2 max.
Most supplements focused on increasing your VO2 max are based on adaptogens.
The reason for it is that adaptogens have several benefits for athletes that lead to an improvement of VO2 max.
- Improved oxygen flow.
- Increased time to exhaustion.
- Reduced stress levels.
These benefits allow you to perform better training sessions, which will help you to increase your VO2 max. And since your VO2 max is directly linked to your ability to utilize oxygen, increasing oxygen flow will directly benefit your VO2 max as well.
How stress affects your body
Stress is a crucial factor. During intense exercise, which a training routine to increase VO2 max undoubtedly is, your body is under severe physiological stress. Stress, especially if endured over a prolonged period of time, has several negative effects.
- Decreased performance.
- Weakened immune system.
- Illness and injuries.
By reducing stress levels, adaptogens allow you to avoid the negative effects of stress.
Stress hormones, such as cortisol, also negatively affect the levels of testosterone in your body. By lowering stress, you naturally increase, or rather preserve, the levels of testosterone, which greatly benefits your performance and training effectiveness.
Stress also increases vasoconstriction, the narrowing of your blood vessels, which hinders blood flow and consequently oxygen flow. By reducing stress, adaptogens stimulate the opposite effect vasodilation, that is the widening of your blood vessels, improving blood and oxygen flow.
Finally, stress is a direct threat to your immune system. And without a strong immune system, you won't be able to endure several weeks or months of grueling exercise. Please, take a few minutes to learn more about the immune system and how to boost it.
The best adaptogens to increase VO2 max
You should definitely check out our blog on ashwagandha, one of the most powerful adaptogens, and its several benefits for your health and performance.
If you are looking for more than a single adaptogen, you can use adaptogenic formulas, which contain several adaptogens and other ingredients, such as beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that reduces muscle fatigue and improves exercise capacity. This improves your ability to perform your training sessions, which helps you to increase your VO2 max.
There are several adaptogenic formulas you can choose from. First Endurance's Optygen HP has been used for years by endurance athletes to improve VO2 max. Activlab's Oxygenic is also another very popular and much more affordable option. There is also Vitadapt by Nutrex, a powerful blend of vitamins, minerals, and adaptogens.
But if you are looking for the most efficient adaptogenic formula to increase your VO2 max, you should definitely consider our top-performance VO2 max booster Absolute, a 100% natural high-quality supplement based on adaptogens (cordyceps, ashwagandha, rhodiola, ginseng) and beta-alanine.
Iron is an extremely important mineral that:
- boosts the immune system,
- reduces fatigue,
- increases energy levels,
- improves mental and physical performance,
- enables oxygen flow.
The main role of iron in your body is to enable oxygen flow. It does so by stimulating the production of two vital proteins, hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin transports oxygen through your blood vessels, and myoglobin delivers oxygen to your muscles.
Since iron is directly responsible to support your oxygen flow, it is no surprise that it is a crucial supplement when it comes to increasing your VO2 max. It improves it directly by enabling oxygen flow and indirectly by improving your performance and allowing you to get the best out of your training session.
You should also keep in mind that athletes often suffer from iron deficiency, so supplementing iron should be on your radar even if you have no plans to increase your VO2 max. It is advisable, though, to consult your doctor before supplementing large quantities of iron.
As far as sources of iron go, you can go for straight iron supplements, such as Iron Swanson or Iron Complex Now, or you could take supplements rich in iron, such as spirulina.
You can get the best of 2 worlds in our premium Iron+ which was specifically made for athletes.
Carbohydrates are not often linked to VO2 max, but in our opinion that is a huge mistake.
We mentioned a car and its fuel. Well, carbohydrates, that is sugar, are your body's main source of fuel. And if you are attempting to complete a training program to increase your VO2 max, you will definitely need lots of fuel.
Many athletes make the mistake of neglecting their energy intake during intense exercise. This has several negative effects, but perhaps the most important one is the increase of stress levels.
During intense exercise, your body consumes its glycogen stores, stored in the muscles and liver, to get energy. The more your glycogen is consumed, the more your stress levels increase.
This process can be significantly slowed down by consuming an external source of fast-acting sugars, such as glucose or fructose. It is especially efficient to consume a combination of glucose and fructose, as this allows you to use both carbohydrate transporters in your body and get the highest absorption without digestive issues.
The most efficient way to consume carbohydrates during exercise is energy gels or isotonic drinks. These two supplements provide carbohydrates and minerals, which become electrolytes in your blood stream and sustain proper hydration, another crucial factor to sustain performance and successfully complete your training session.
Not sure what an energy gel is and what it does? We've got you covered!
And if you want to find the best energy gel to fuel your exercise, check out or top 3 recommendations!
Alternatively, if you have a thing against supplements, many cyclists love their gummy bears, which some people even refer to as Dr. Tim Podlogar's secret weapon!
Don't look at supplements as something that increases your VO2 max. Look at them as the support for your training sessions that increase your VO2 max.
Before you think about supplements, get your FREE training plan here!
Once you're ready to train, the main supplements you should use to improve your performance and increase VO2 max are: adaptogens, iron, carbohydrates.
These supplements will:
- Provide you the fuel you need
- Improve your athletic performance
- Boost your immune system
- Sustain and increase your oxygen flow
- Help you manage and reduce stress
- Preserve your health, longevity, and well-being
If there is more you'd like to know about VO2 max before you start training, check out our comprehensive guide.