How to Calculate VO2 and VCO2

VO2 and VCO2 measure your body's metabolism and efficiency during exercise.
Image Credit: Chris Tobin/DigitalVision/GettyImages

VO2 and VCO2 are important variables in measuring your body's metabolism and efficiency during exercise. VO2 stands for the volume of oxygen that your body utilizes each minute. Similarly, VCO2 is the volume of carbon dioxide that you breathe out after transporting oxygen through your body.


Taken together, these measurements can provide you with important information about the way your body burns fat and carbohydrates and can help you gauge your overall level of fitness.

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Read more: Causes of Low Carbon Dioxide in the Blood

VO2 Formula and Calculation

The VO2 formula for absolute VO2 is: VO2 (mL/min) = (HR x SV) x a-vO2. "HR" stands for heart rate in beats/min and "SV" for stroke volume, or the amount of blood the heart pumps in each beat. The phrase "a-vO2" is the difference between the amount of oxygen that goes into your muscles and the amount that comes out of them.


As an example, if your exercising HR is 150 beats per minute, your SV is 100 milliliters per beat and your a-vO2 equals 0.14, then your total VO2 would be 2,100 milliliters O2 per minute.

Measuring Absolute VCO2

The equation for calculating absolute VCO2 is: VCO2 (mL/min) = (VE x FeCO2) – (VI x FiCO2). "VE" stands for the volume of air expired in mL/min, "VI" represents the volume of air inspired in mL/min, "FeCO2" stands for the fraction of CO2 in expired air and "FiCO2" stands for the fraction of CO2 in inspired air.


The amount of VCO2 in the air taken in during inhalation is approximately 0.004 percent, but during exhalation, this number increases to 4 percent.

VCO2 and VO2 Test

As you can see, VO2 and VCO2 calculations require a lot of precise information that most people do not have on hand. To get an accurate reading of these values, you will have to go to a well-equipped gym, health club or sports clinic where they have specialized equipment to measure VO2 and VCO2.


A professional test will provide you with extremely accurate measurements at rest and during every level of physical activity. Many athletes perform these tests to assess their VO2max, or their maximum oxygen uptake, which is the gold standard for measuring levels of physical endurance. The Mayo Clinic notes that VO2 is the amount of oxygen required for different activities, measured in milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute.

Read more: How to Calculate VO2 Max From Running


Estimating Your Numbers

While elite athletes and coaches may need to get the most accurate information on VO2 and VCO2, the average person can probably get by with rough estimates. Luckily, there are tests you can perform that require only a stopwatch and a calculator.

For instance, you can estimate your VO2max by running as far as possible in 12 minutes, then measuring that distance (D) in meters along with your body weight in kilograms (BW). Then you can calculate your own physical fitness level with this formula: VO2max = [(0.0268 x D) – 11.3] x BW.




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