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Philippe Richard and François Billaut

Purpose: Speed skating leads to blood-flow restriction and deoxygenation in the lower limbs (especially the right leg) that may affect performance. Although the acute influence of such deoxygenation is not clearly understood, the authors tested whether remote ischemic preconditioning (RIPC) could modify muscular oxygenation and improve time-trial performance in that sport. Methods: Using a randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design, 9 elite speed skaters performed 1000-m on-ice time trials preceded by either RIPC of the upper limbs (3 × 5-min compression/5-min reperfusion cycles at 30 mm Hg >arterial systolic pressure) or placebo treatment (SHAM; 10 mm Hg). Changes in tissue saturation index, oxyhemoglobin–oxymyoglobin, deoxyhemoglobin–deoxymyoglobin, and total hemoglobin–myoglobin in the right vastus lateralis muscle were monitored using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Differences between RIPC and SHAM were analyzed using Cohen effect size (ES) ± 90% confidence limits and magnitude-based inferences. Results: Compared with SHAM, RIPC had a negligible effect on performance and NIRS variables. However, in a subgroup of sprinters (n = 5), RIPC likely lowered tissue saturation index at the beginning of the time trial (−6.1%; ES = −0.65) and likely increased deoxyhemoglobin–deoxymyoglobin at the beginning (3%; ES = 0.39), middle (2.9%; ES = 0.37), and end of the trial (−2.1%; ES = 0.27). In the middle section of the trial, these metabolic changes were concomitant with a possible increase in total hemoglobin–myoglobin. Conclusion: RIPC has no practical ergogenic impact on 1000-m long-track speed-skating performance in elite athletes. The relevance of using RIPC during training to increase physiological stress in sprinters particularly deserves further investigation.

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François Billaut and Kurt Smith

The ability to repeatedly generate maximum power output is usually accompanied by neuromuscular adjustments.

Purpose:

This study aimed to explore the occurrence of arterial O2 desaturation during prolonged repeated-sprint ability (RSA) testing and its relationship to neuromuscular activity, as evidenced by changes in surface integrated electromyogram (iEMG).

Methods:

Fifteen, national-level soccer players performed twenty 5-s cycle sprints (25 s of rest). Mechanical work and surface iEMG of the vastus lateralis (VL) and rectus femoris (RF) of the dominant lower limb were recorded for every sprint. Arterial O2 saturation (S O2) was estimated via pulse oximetry and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) recorded immediately after every sprint.

Results:

Over the sprints, mechanical work (23.5%), iEMG (VL: 14.2%, RF: 16.4%) and S O2 (3.5%) decreased, and RPE progressed to 19 (all P < .05). There was a strong linear relationship (R2 = .83, P < .05) between the changes in mechanical output and iEMG during the sprints. More importantly, changes in S O2 accompanied changes in mechanical work, iEMG and RPE (R2 = .68, R2 = .64, R2 = .62, P < .05, respectively).

Conclusion:

The study suggests that in a homogenous group of athletes a progressive arterial O2 desaturation develops during a prolonged RSA test, which may contribute toward performance regulation via an effect on sense of effort and neuromuscular activity.

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Myriam Paquette, François Bieuzen and François Billaut

Purpose: To characterize the relationships between muscle oxygenation and performance during on- and off-water tests in highly trained sprint canoe–kayak athletes. Methods: A total of 30 athletes (19 kayakers and 11 canoeists) performed a maximal incremental test on a canoe or kayak ergometer for determination of VO2max and examination of the relation between peak power output (PPO) and physiological parameters. A subset of 21 athletes also performed a 200- and a 500- (for women) or 1000-m (for men) on-water time trial (TT). Near-infrared spectroscopy monitors were placed on the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, and vastus lateralis during all tests to assess changes in muscle O2 saturation (SmO2) and deoxyhemoglobin concentration ([HHb]). The minimum O2 oxygenation (SmO2min) and maximal O2 (Δ[HHb] extraction) were calculated for all subjects. Results: PPO was most strongly correlated with VO2max (R = .9), but there was also a large correlation between PPO and both SmO2min and Δ[HHb] in latissimus dorsi (R = −.5, R = .6) and vastus lateralis (R = −.6, R = .6, all P < .05). Multiple regression showed that 90% of the variance in 200-m performance was explained by both Δ[HHb] and SmO2min in the 3 muscles combined (P < .01) and 71% of the variance in 500-/1000-m performance was explained by Δ[HHb] in the 3 muscles (P < .01). This suggests that O2 extraction is a better predictor of performance than VO2max in sprint canoe–kayak. Conclusions: These results highlight the importance of peripheral adaptations in both short and long events and stress the relevance of adding muscle oxygenation measurements during testing and racing in sprint canoe–kayak.

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Kurt J. Smith and François Billaut

Purpose:

To understand the role of O2 utilization in the sex differences of fatigue during intermittent activity, we compared the cerebral (prefrontal lobe) and muscle (vastus lateralis) oxygenation of men and women during repeated-sprint exercise (RSE).

Methods:

Ten men and 10 women matched for initial-sprint mechanical work performed ten, 10 s cycle sprints (with 30 s of rest) under normoxic (NM: 21% FIO2) and acute hypoxic (HY: 13% FIO2) conditions in a randomized single-blind and crossover design. Mechanical work was calculated and arterial O2 saturation (SpO2) was estimated via pulse oximetry during every sprint. Cerebral and muscle oxy- (O2Hb) and deoxy-hemoglobin (HHb) were monitored continuously by near-infrared spectroscopy.

Results:

Compared with NM, work decrement was accentuated (P = 0.01) in HY for both men (–16.4 ± 10.3%) and women (–16.8 ± 9.0%). This was associated with lower SpO2 and lower cerebral Δ[O2Hb] in both sexes (–13.6 ± 7.5%, P = .008, and –134.5 ± 73.8%, P = .003, respectively). These HY-induced changes were nearly identical in these men and women matched for initial-sprint work. Muscle Δ[HHb] increased 9-fold (P = .009) and 5-fold (P = .02) in men and women, respectively, and plateaued. This muscle deoxygenation was not exacerbated in HY.

Conclusions:

Results indicate that men and women matched for initial-sprint work experience similar levels of fatigue and systemic, cerebral, and peripheral adjustments during RSE performed in NM and HY. These data suggest that cerebral deoxygenation imposes a limitation to repeated-sprint performance.

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Mathew W.H. Inness, François Billaut and Robert J. Aughey

Purpose:

To determine the time course for physical-capacity adaptations to intermittent hypoxic training (IHT) in team-sport athletes and the time course for benefits remaining after IHT.

Methods:

A pre–post parallel-groups design was employed, with 21 Australian footballers assigned to IHT (n = 10) or control (CON; n = 11) matched for training load. IHT performed eleven 40-min bike sessions at 2500-m altitude over 4 wk. Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test level 2 (Yo-Yo IR2) was performed before; after 3, 6, and 11 IHT sessions; and 30 and 44 d after IHT. Repeated time trials (2- and 1-km TTs, with 5 min rest) were performed before, after, and 3 wk after IHT. Hemoglobin mass (Hbmass) was measured in IHT before and after 3, 6, 9, and 11 sessions.

Results:

Baseline Yo-Yo IR2 was similar between groups. After 6 sessions, the change in Yo-Yo IR2 in IHT was very likely higher than CON (27% greater change, effect size 0.77, 90% confidence limits 0.20;1.33) and likely higher 1 d after IHT (23%, 0.68, 0.05;1.30). The IHT group’s change remained likely higher than CON 30 d after IHT (24%, 0.72, 0.12;1.33) but was not meaningfully different 44 d after (12%, 0.36, –0.24;0.97). The change in 2-km TT performance between groups was not different throughout. For 1-km TT, CON improved more after IHT, but IHT maintained performance better after 3 wk. Hbmass was higher after IHT (2.7%, 0.40, –0.40;1.19).

Conclusion:

Short-duration IHT increased Yo-Yo IR2 compared with training-load-matched controls in 2 wk. An additional 2 wk of IHT provided no further benefit. These changes remained until at least 30 d posttraining. IHT also protected improvement in 1-km TT.

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Laura A. Garvican, Kristal Hammond, Matthew C. Varley, Christopher J. Gore, Francois Billaut and Robert J. Aughey

Purpose:

This study investigated the decrement in running performance of elite soccer players competing at low altitude and time course for abatement of these decrements.

Methods:

Twenty elite youth soccer players had their activity profile, in a sea-level (SL) and 2 altitude (Alt, 1600 m, d 4, and d 6) matches, measured with a global positioning system. Measures expressed in meters per minute of match time were total distance, low- and high-velocity running (LoVR, 0.01–4.16 m/s; HiVR, 4.17–10.0 m/s), and frequency of maximal accelerations (>2.78 m/s2). The peak and subsequent stanza for each measure were identified and a transient fatigue index calculated. Mean heart rate (HR) during the final minute of a submaximal running task (5 min, 11 km/h) was recorded at SL and for 10 d at Alt. Differences were determined between SL and Alt using percentage change and effect-size (ES) statistic with 90% confidence intervals.

Results:

Mean HR almost certainly increased on d 1 (5.4%, ES 1.01 ± 0.35) and remained probably elevated on both d 2 (ES 0.42 ± 0.31) and d3 (ES 0.30 ± 0.25), returning to baseline at d 5. Total distance was almost certainly lower than SL (ES –0.76 ± 0.37) at d 4 and remained probably reduced on d 6 (ES –0.42 ± 0.36). HiVR probably decreased at d 4 vs SL (–0.47 ± 0.59), with no clear effect of altitude at d 6 (–0.08 ± 0.41). Transient fatigue in matches was evident at SL and Alt, with a possibly greater decrement at Alt.

Conclusion:

Despite some physiological adaptation, match running performance of youth soccer players is compromised for at least 6 d at low altitude.

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Philippe Richard, Lymperis P. Koziris, Mathieu Charbonneau, Catherine Naulleau, Jonathan Tremblay and François Billaut

Purpose: Nitrate supplementation can increase tolerance to high-intensity work rates; however, limited data exist on the recovery of performance. The authors tested whether 5 d of nitrate supplementation could improve repeated time-trial performance in speed skating. Methods: Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design, 9 international-level short-track speed skaters ingested 1 high (juice blend, ∼6.5 mmol nitrate; HI) or low dose (juice blend, ∼1 mmol nitrate; LO) per day on days 1–4. After a double dose of either HI or LO on day 5, athletes performed 2 on-ice 1000-m time trials, separated by 35 min, to simulate competition races. Differences between HI and LO were compared with the smallest practically important difference. Results: Salivary [nitrate] and [nitrite] were higher in HI than LO before the first (nitrate: 81%, effect size [ES]: 1.76; nitrite: 72%, ES: 1.73) and second pursuits (nitrate: 81%, ES: 1.92; nitrite: 71%, ES: 1.78). However, there was no difference in performance in the first (LO: 90.92 [4.08] s; HI: 90.95 [4.06] s, ES: 0.01) or the second time trial (LO: 91.16 [4.06] s; HI: 91.55 [4.40] s, ES: 0.09). Plasma [lactate] measured after the trials (LO: 14.8 [1.1] mM; HI: 14.8 [1.2] mM, ES: 0.01) and at the end of the recovery period (LO: 9.8 [2.1] mM; HI: 10.2 [1.9] mM, ES: 0.05) was not different between treatments. Conclusion: Five days of high-dose nitrate supplementation did not change physiological responses and failed to improve single and repeated time-trial performances in world-class short-track speed skaters. These data suggest that nitrate ingestion up to 6.5 mmol does not enhance recovery from supramaximal exercise in world-class athletes.

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Tom R. Eaton, Aaron Potter, François Billaut, Derek Panchuk, David B. Pyne, Christopher J. Gore, Ting-Ting Chen, Leon McQuade and Nigel K. Stepto

Heat and hypoxia exacerbate central nervous system (CNS) fatigue. We therefore investigated whether essential amino acid (EAA) and caffeine ingestion attenuates CNS fatigue in a simulated team sport–specific running protocol in a hot, hypoxic environment. Subelite male team sport athletes (n = 8) performed a repeat sprint running protocol on a nonmotorized treadmill in an extreme environment on 4 separate occasions. Participants ingested one of four supplements: a double placebo, 3 mg.kg-1 body mass of caffeine + placebo, 2 × 7 g EAA (Musashi Create)+placebo, or caffeine + EAA before each exercise session using a randomized, double-blind crossover design. Electromyography (EMG) activity and quadriceps evoked responses to magnetic stimulation were assessed from the dominant leg at preexercise, halftime, and postexercise. Central activation ratio (CAR) was used to quantify completeness of quadriceps activation. Oxygenation of the prefrontal cortex was measured via near-infrared spectroscopy. Mean sprint work was higher (M = 174 J, 95% CI [23, 324], p < .05, d = 0.30; effect size, likely beneficial) in the caffeine + EAA condition versus EAAs alone. The decline in EMG activity was less (M = 13%, 95% CI [0, 26]; p < .01, d = 0.58, likely beneficial) in caffeine + EAA versus EAA alone. Similarly, the pre- to postexercise decrement in CAR was significantly less (M = −2.7%, 95% CI [0.4, 5.4]; p < .05, d = 0.50, likely beneficial) when caffeine + EAA were ingested compared with placebo. Cerebral oxygenation was lower (M = −5.6%, 95% CI [1.0, 10.1]; p < .01, d = 0.60, very likely beneficial) in the caffeine + EAA condition compared with LNAA alone. Coingestion of caffeine and EAA appears to maintain muscle activation and central drive, with a small improvement in running performance.