Evaluation of a graded exercise test to determine peak fat oxidation in individuals with low cardiorespiratory fitness: Estimating maximal capacity for fat oxidation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)
193 Downloads (Pure)


The maximal capacity to utilise fat (peak fat oxidation, PFO) may have implications for health and ultra-endurance performance and is commonly determined by incremental exercise tests employing 3-min stages. However, 3-min stages may be insufficient to attain steady-state gas kinetics, compromising test validity. We assessed whether 4-min stages produce steady-state gas exchange and reliable PFO estimates in adults with peak oxygen consumption < 40 mL·kg −1·min −1. Fifteen participants (9 females) completed a graded test to determine PFO and the intensity at which this occurred (FAT MAX). Three short continuous exercise sessions (SCE) were then completed in a randomised order, involving completion of the graded test to the stage (i) preceding, (ii) equal to (SCE equal), or (iii) after the stage at which PFO was previously attained, whereupon participants then continued to cycle for 10 min at that respective intensity. Expired gases were sampled at minutes 3–4, 5–6, 7–8, and 9–10. Individual data showed steady-state gas exchange was achieved within 4 min during SCE equal. Mean fat oxidation rates were not different across time within SCE equal nor compared with the graded test at FAT MAX (both p > 0.05). However, the graded test displayed poor surrogate validity (SCE equal, minutes 3–4 vs. 5–6, 7–8, and 9–10) and day-to-day reliability (minutes 3–4, SCE equal vs. graded test) to determine PFO, as evident by correlations (range: 0.47–0.83) and typical errors and 95% limits of agreement (ranges: 0.03–0.05 and ±0.09–0.15 g·min −1, respectively). In conclusion, intraindividual variation in PFO is substantial despite 4-min stages establishing steady-state gas exchange in individuals with low fitness. Individual assessment of PFO may require multiple assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1288-1297
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism
Issue number12
Early online date31 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018



  • peak fat oxidation
  • FatMax
  • Exercise Metabolism
  • Gas Exchange Kinetics
  • Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness

Cite this