For many cyclists, Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is a critical metric that indicates how much power they can sustain over a period of time. However, as age catches up with athletes, the FTP can decline. Understanding how age affects FTP performance is essential for athletes who want to maintain their FTP values as they age.
Understanding How Age Affects FTP Performance
Age can have a significant impact on FTP performance. FTP is a measure of how efficiently your body can produce energy for your muscles to work. As we age, our bodies go through a natural process of muscle loss, which reduces the amount of energy we can produce. This loss of muscle mass, combined with a decrease in the number of muscle fibres, can significantly impact how much power we can sustain.
The decline in FTP performance with age can start as early as the mid-thirties, and the decrease can be as much as 8% per decade. The decline in FTP performance may be gradual, but over time it can have a significant impact on an athlete’s ability to perform. However, understanding the science behind this decline can help athletes prepare and maintain their FTP values as they age.
The Science Behind FTP Decline With Age
The decline in FTP performance with age is primarily due to changes in the body’s aerobic capacity. Aerobic capacity is the ability of the body to transport oxygen to the muscles, and as we age, this capacity reduces. This reduction is mainly due to the decrease in the number of mitochondria in our muscle cells, which are responsible for producing energy.
Additionally, as we age, our bodies become less efficient at using the oxygen we have. This reduced efficiency is due to a decrease in the number of capillaries in our muscles, which are responsible for delivering oxygen. As a result, ageing athletes may experience a decline in VO2 max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can consume per minute. This reduced VO2 max can lead to a decline in FTP performance.
Strategies for Maintaining FTP as You Age
While it is natural to experience a decline in FTP performance as we age, there are strategies that athletes can use to maintain their FTP values. Firstly, athletes should focus on strength training to maintain their muscle mass, which can help them produce more power. Additionally, athletes should focus on interval training, which can help improve their aerobic capacity and their ability to use oxygen more efficiently.
Moreover, athletes should also consider adjusting their training to be more recovery-focused. As we age, our bodies take longer to recover from intense workouts, so focusing on recovery can help athletes reduce fatigue and improve performance. Finally, athletes should also focus on their nutrition to ensure they are getting adequate nutrients to support their training and recovery.
While age can have a significant impact on FTP performance, understanding how age affects FTP and implementing strategies to maintain FTP can help ageing athletes continue to perform at their best. By focusing on strength training, interval training, recovery, and nutrition, athletes can continue to maintain their FTP values even as they get older. Age is just a number, and athletes can continue to perform at their best regardless of their age if they are willing to put in the work.