Oxygen Deficit and Slow Oxygen Component Relationships Between Intermittent and Continuous Exercise

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Journal of Sports Sciences


Anaerobic Metabolism, Anaerobic Threshold, Oxygen Deficit


Above the lactate/ventilatory threshold, prolonged steady-state exercise produces a secondary rise in oxygen uptake, the slow oxygen component. The slow oxygen component 'represents an additional energetic requirement' above steady state; however, a lack of consensus on how to measure anaerobic energy expenditure makes it difficult to ascertain how or if anaerobic metabolism also contributes to energy expenditure. The aim of this study was to establish if the slow oxygen component is the sole source of 'additional energetic requirements' during steady-state exercise above the lactate/ventilatory threshold. Ten participants completed an 8 min continuous treadmill run and four 2 min intermittent runs at a speed of 2.67 m.s -1 and a grade located halfway between the ventilatory threshold and maximum oxygen uptake. Each participant performed five submaximal runs below the ventilatory threshold to estimate energy expenditure at this exercise intensity. Both the oxygen deficit and the slow oxygen component were derived from this estimated energy expenditure. Oxygen equivalent units (ml O 2 ) were used for comparison. The slow oxygen component for the 8 min continuous run began 2-4 min into exercise (73 ml O 2 ), rose quickly at 4-6 min (178 ml O 2 ) and declined at 6-8 min (96 ml O 2 ). For the intermittent 2 min runs,a decrease in the oxygen deficit was seen between the first and second trial (-273 ml O 2 ), indicating a larger aerobic energy expenditure contribution. The oxygen deficit began to increase when the third and fourth trials (+62 ml O 2 ) were compared, suggesting a larger contribution to anaerobic energy expenditure. At the end of exercise, the intermittent oxygen deficit and continuous slow oxygen component revealed inverse associations; that is, in participants with large slow oxygen component contributions, the oxygen deficit was minimal; participants who had an increased oxygen deficit had smaller slow oxygen component contributions. The results suggest larger aerobic contributions to 'additional energetic requirements' when the slow oxygen component itself is large; however, smaller slow oxygen components do not necessarily indicate a lower energy expenditure. Individuals with smaller slow oxygen components during continuous exercise have larger oxygen deficits during intermittent exercise; thus an anaerobic contribution to the 'additional energetic requirement' may exist.