Purpose: Exercise performance is impaired in the heat, and a contributing factor to this decrement is thermal discomfort. Menthol spraying of skin is one means of alleviating thermal discomfort but has yet to be shown to be ergogenic using single-spray applications. The authors examined whether repeated menthol spraying could relieve thermal discomfort, reduce perception of exertion, and improve exercise performance in hot (35°C), dry (22% relative humidity) conditions, hypothesizing that it would. Methods: A total of 8 trained cyclists completed 2 separate conditions of fixed-intensity cycling (50% maximal power output) for 45 min before a test to exhaustion (TTE; 70% maximal power output) with 100 mL of menthol spray (0.20% menthol) or control spray applied to the torso after 20 and 40 min. Perceptual (thermal sensation, thermal comfort, and rating of perceived exertion) performance (TTE duration), thermal variables (skin temperature, rectal temperature, and cardiac frequency), and sweating were measured. Data were compared using analysis of variance to .05 alpha level. Results: Menthol spray improved thermal sensation (cold sensation cf warm/hot after first spraying; P = .008) but only descriptively altered thermal comfort (comfortable cf uncomfortable; P = .173). Sweat production (994  mL cf 1180  mL; P = .020) and sweat rate (827  mL·h−1 cf 941  mL·h−1; P = .048) lowered. TTE performance improved (4.6 [1.74] cf 2.4 [1.55] min; P = .004). Menthol-spray effects diminished despite repeated applications, indicating increased contribution of visceral thermoreceptors to thermal perception. Conclusion: Repeated menthol spraying improves exercise capacity but alters thermoregulation, potentially conflicting behavioral and thermoregulatory drivers; care should be taken with its use. Carrying and deploying menthol spray would impose a logistical burden that needs consideration against performance benefit.
Martin J. Barwood, Joe Kupusarevic and Stuart Goodall
Martin J. Barwood, Jo Corbett, John Feeney, Paul Hannaford, Dan Henderson, Ian Jones and Jade Kirke
To establish the thermal and performance effects of wearing a lower-body graduated compression garment (GCG) in a hot environment (35.2°C ± 0.1°C) with a representative radiant heat load (~800 W/m2) in contrast to a control (running shorts) and sham condition (a compression garment 1 size larger than that recommended by the manufacturer), with the latter included to establish any placebo effect.
Eight participants (mean ± SD; age 21 ± 2 y, height 1.77 ± 0.06 m, mass 72.8 ± 7.1 kg, surface area, 1.89 ± 0.10 m2) completed 3 treadmill tests at a fixed speed for 15 min followed by a self-paced 5-km time trial. Performance (completion time) and pacing (split time), thermal responses (aural, skin, and mean body temperature, cardiac frequency), and perceptual responses (rating of perceived exertion [RPE], thermal sensation, thermal comfort) were measured.
Performance in the compression group was not different than in either sham or control at any stage (P > .05); completion time 26.08 ± 4.08, 26.05 ± 3.27, and 25.18 ± 3.15 min, respectively. At the end of the 5-km time trial, RPE was not different; it was 19 ± 1 across conditions. In general, thermal and perceptual responses were not different, although the radiant heat load increased site-specific skin temperature (quadriceps) in the garment conditions.
GCG did not enhance performance in a hot environment with a representative radiant heat load. The sham treatment did not benefit perception. GCG provided no evidence of performance enhancement.
Javier T. Gonzalez, Martin J. Barwood, Stuart Goodall, Kevin Thomas and Glyn Howatson
Unaccustomed eccentric exercise using large muscle groups elicits soreness, decrements in physical function and impairs markers of whole-body insulin sensitivity; although these effects are attenuated with a repeated exposure. Eccentric exercise of a small muscle group (elbow flexors) displays similar soreness and damage profiles in response to repeated exposure. However, it is unknown whether damage to small muscle groups impacts upon whole-body insulin sensitivity. This pilot investigation aimed to characterize whole-body insulin sensitivity in response to repeated bouts of eccentric exercise of the elbow flexors. Nine healthy males completed two bouts of eccentric exercise separated by 2 weeks. Insulin resistance (updated homeostasis model of insulin resistance, HOMA2-IR) and muscle damage profiles (soreness and physical function) were assessed before, and 48 h after exercise. Matsuda insulin sensitivity indices (ISIMatsuda) were also determined in 6 participants at the same time points as HOMA2-IR. Soreness was elevated, and physical function impaired, by both bouts of exercise (both p < .05) but to a lesser extent following bout 2 (time x bout interaction, p < .05). Eccentric exercise decreased ISIMatsuda after the first but not the second bout of eccentric exercise (time x bout interaction p < .05). Eccentric exercise performed with an isolated upper limb impairs whole-body insulin sensitivity after the first, but not the second, bout.
Martin J. Barwood, Jo Corbett, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, Dan McVeigh and Richard C. Thelwell
Unpleasant physical sensations during maximal exercise may manifest themselves as negative cognitions that impair performance, alter pacing, and are linked to increased rating of perceived exertion (RPE). This study examined whether motivational self-talk (M-ST) could reduce RPE and change pacing strategy, thereby enhancing 10-km time-trial (TT) cycling performance in contrast to neutral self-talk (N-ST).
Fourteen men undertook 4 TTs, TT1–TT4. After TT2, participants were matched into groups based on TT2 completion time and underwent M-ST (n = 7) or N-ST (n = 7) after TT3. Performance, power output, RPE, and oxygen uptake (VO2) were compared across 1-km segments using ANOVA. Confidence intervals (95%CI) were calculated for performance data.
After TT3 (ie, before intervention), completion times were not different between groups (M-ST, 1120 ± 113 s; N-ST, 1150 ± 110 s). After M-ST, TT4 completion time was faster (1078 ± 96 s); the N-ST remained similar (1165 ± 111 s). The M-ST group achieved this through a higher power output and VO2 in TT4 (6th–10th km). RPE was unchanged. CI data indicated the likely true performance effect lay between 13- and 71-s improvement (TT4 vs TT3).
M-ST improved endurance performance and enabled a higher power output, whereas N-ST induced no change. The VO2 response matched the increase in power output, yet RPE was unchanged, thereby inferring a perceptual benefit through M-ST. The valence and content of self-talk are important determinants of the efficacy of this intervention. These findings are primarily discussed in the context of the psychobiological model of pacing.