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Naroa Etxebarria, Megan L. Ross, Brad Clark and Louise M. Burke

Purpose: The authors investigated the potential benefit of ingesting 2 mM of quinine (bitter tastant) on a 3000-m cycling time-trial (TT) performance. Methods: Nine well-trained male cyclists (maximal aerobic power: 386 [38] W) performed a maximal incremental cycling ergometer test, three 3000-m familiarization TTs, and four 3000-m intervention TTs (∼4 min) on consecutive days. The 4 interventions were (1) 25 mL of placebo, (2) a 25-mL sweet solution, and (3) and (4) repeat 25 mL of 2-mM quinine solutions (Bitter1 and Bitter2), 30 s before each trial. Participants self-selected their gears and were only aware of distance covered. Results: Overall mean power output for the full 3000 m was similar for all 4 conditions: placebo, 348 (45) W; sweet, 355 (47) W; Bitter1, 354 (47) W; and Bitter2, 355 (48) W. However, quinine administration in Bitter1 and Bitter2 increased power output during the first kilometer by 15 ± 11 W and 21 ± 10 W (mean ± 90% confidence limits), respectively, over placebo, followed by a decay of 34 ± 32 W during Bitter1 and Bitter2 during the second kilometer. Bitter2 also induced a 11 ± 13-W increase during the first kilometer compared with the sweet condition. Conclusions: Ingesting 2 mM of quinine can improve cycling performance during the first one-third of a 3000-m TT and could be used for sporting events lasting ∼80 s to potentially improve overall performance.

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Avish P. Sharma, Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Brad Clark, Marijke Welvaert, Christopher J. Gore and Kevin G. Thompson

Purpose: To determine the effect of altitude training at 1600 and 1800 m on sea-level (SL) performance in national-level runners. Methods: After 3 wk of SL training, 24 runners completed a 3-wk sojourn at 1600 m (ALT1600, n = 8), 1800 m (ALT1800, n = 9), or SL (CON, n = 7), followed by up to 11 wk of SL racing. Race performance was measured at SL during the lead-in period and repeatedly postintervention. Training volume (in kilometers) and load (session rating of perceived exertion) were calculated for all sessions. Hemoglobin mass was measured via CO rebreathing. Between-groups differences were evaluated using effect sizes (Hedges g). Results: Performance improved in both ALT1600 (mean [SD] 1.5% [0.9%]) and ALT1800 (1.6% [1.3%]) compared with CON (0.4% [1.7%]); g = 0.83 (90% confidence limits −0.10, 1.66) and 0.81 (−0.09, 1.62), respectively. Season-best performances occurred 5 to 71 d postaltitude in ALT1600/1800. There were large increases in training load from lead-in to intervention in ALT1600 (48% [32%]) and ALT1800 (60% [31%]) compared with CON (18% [20%]); g = 1.24 (0.24, 2.08) and 1.69 (0.65, 2.55), respectively. Hemoglobin mass increased in ALT1600 and ALT1800 (∼4%) but not CON. Conclusions: Larger improvements in performance after altitude training may be due to the greater overall load of training in hypoxia compared with normoxia, combined with a hypoxia-mediated increase in hemoglobin mass. A wide time frame for peak performances suggests that the optimal window to race postaltitude is individual, and factors other than altitude exposure per se may be important.

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Avish P. Sharma, Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Brad Clark, Jamie Stanley, Eileen Y. Robertson and Kevin G. Thompson

Purpose:

To determine the effect of training at 2100-m natural altitude on running speed (RS) during training sessions over a range of intensities relevant to middle-distance running performance.

Methods:

In an observational study, 19 elite middle-distance runners (mean ± SD age 25 ± 5 y, VO2max, 71 ± 5 mL · kg–1 · min–1) completed either 4–6 wk of sea-level training (CON, n = 7) or a 4- to 5-wk natural altitude-training camp living at 2100 m and training at 1400–2700 m (ALT, n = 12) after a period of sea-level training. Each training session was recorded on a GPS watch, and athletes also provided a score for session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE). Training sessions were grouped according to duration and intensity. RS (km/h) and sRPE from matched training sessions completed at sea level and 2100 m were compared within ALT, with sessions completed at sea level in CON describing normal variation.

Results:

In ALT, RS was reduced at altitude compared with sea level, with the greatest decrements observed during threshold- and VO2max-intensity sessions (5.8% and 3.6%, respectively). Velocity of low-intensity and race-pace sessions completed at a lower altitude (1400 m) and/or with additional recovery was maintained in ALT, though at a significantly greater sRPE (P = .04 and .05, respectively). There was no change in velocity or sRPE at any intensity in CON.

Conclusion:

RS in elite middle-distance athletes is adversely affected at 2100-m natural altitude, with levels of impairment dependent on the intensity of training. Maintenance of RS at certain intensities while training at altitude can result in a higher perceived exertion.