Mental Fatigue and Physical and Cognitive Performance During a 2-Bout Exercise Test

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: The 2-bout exercise protocol has been developed to diagnose nonfunctional overreaching and the “overtraining syndrome.” It consists of 2 maximal exercise bouts separated by 4 hours. Mental fatigue negatively influences performance, but the effects of its occurrence during the 2-bout exercise protocol have never been investigated. The aim of this study was to examine whether mental fatigue (induced during the rest period) influences physical and cognitive performance during/after the second exercise bout of the 2-bout exercise protocol. Methods: Nine healthy, well-trained male cyclists participated in a single-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study. The intervention consisted of either 1.5-hour rest (control) or performing a computer-based Stroop task to induce mental fatigue. Cognitive (Eriksen Flanker task), physiological (lactate, maximum heart rate, and maximum wattage), and subjective data (mental fatigue-visual analog scale, Profile of Mood States, and rating of perceived exertion) were gathered. Results: Ratings of fatigue, tension, and mental fatigue were affected in the mental fatigue condition (P < .05). Neither physiological nor cognitive differences were found between conditions. Ratings of mental fatigue were already affected after the first maximum exercise test (P < .05). Conclusions: Neither physical nor cognitive performance was affected by mental fatigue, but subjective ratings did reveal significant differences. It is recommended to exclude mentally challenging tasks during the 2-bout exercise protocol rest period to ascertain unaffected subjective test results. This study should be repeated in athletes diagnosed with nonfunctional overreaching/overtraining syndrome.

The authors are with Human Physiology Research Group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium. Vrijkotte is also with Zorggroep Solis, Deventer, the Netherlands. Meeusen is also with James Cook University, Douglas, QLD, Australia. van Cutsem is also with the University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom. Pattyn is also with the Royal Military Academy, Brussels, Belgium. Roelands is also with FWO, Brussels, Belgium.

Meeusen (rmeeusen@vub.ac.be) is corresponding author.
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