The rate at which VO2 adjusts to the new energy demand following the onset of exercise strongly influences the magnitude of the “O2 defcit” incurred and thus the extent to which muscle and systemic homeostasis is perturbed. Moreover, during continuous high-intensity exercise, there is a progressive loss of muscle contractile efficiency, which is reflected in a “slow component” increase in VO2. The factors that dictate the characteristics of these fast and slow phases of the dynamic response of VO2 following a step change in energy turnover remain obscure. However, it is clear that these features of the VO2 kinetics have the potential to influence the rate of muscle fatigue development and, therefore, to affect sports performance. This commentary outlines the present state of knowledge on the characteristics of, and mechanistic bases to, the VO2 response to exercise of different intensities. Several interventions have been reported to speed the early VO2 kinetics and/or reduce the magnitude of the subsequent VO2 slow component, and the possibility that these might enhance exercise performance is discussed.
Andrew M. Jones and Mark Burnley
Anni Vanhatalo, Andrew M. Jones, and Mark Burnley
The critical power (CP) is mathematically defined as the power-asymptote of the hyperbolic relationship between power output and time-to-exhaustion. Physiologically, the CP represents the boundary between the steady-state and nonsteady state exercise intensity domains and therefore may provide a more meaningful index of performance than other well-known landmarks of aerobic fitness such as the lactate threshold and the maximal O2 uptake. Despite the potential importance to sports performance, the CP is often misinterpreted as a purely mathematical construct which lacks physiological meaning and only in recent years has this concept begun to emerge as valid and useful technique for monitoring endurance fitness. This commentary defines the basic principles of the CP concept, outlines its importance to high-intensity exercise performance, and provides an overview of the current methods available for its assessment. Interventions including training, pacing and prior exercise can be used to alter the parameters of the power-time relationship. A future challenge lies in optimizing such interventions in order to positively affect the parameters of the power-time relationship and thereby enhance sports performance in specific events.