Effect of acute severe hypoxia on peripheral fatigue and endurance capacity in healthy humans

Lee M Romer, Hans C Haverkamp, Markus Amann, Andrew T Lovering, David F Pegelow, Jerome A Dempsey
American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 2007, 292 (1): R598-606
We hypothesized that severe hypoxia limits exercise performance via decreased contractility of limb locomotor muscles. Nine male subjects [mean +/- SE maximum O(2) uptake (Vo(2 max)) = 56.5 +/- 2.7 ml x kg(-1) x min(-1)] cycled at > or =90% Vo(2 max) to exhaustion in normoxia [NORM-EXH; inspired O(2) fraction (Fi(O(2))) = 0.21, arterial O(2) saturation (Sp(O(2))) = 93 +/- 1%] and hypoxia (HYPOX-EXH; Fi(O(2)) = 0.13, Sp(O(2)) = 76 +/- 1%). The subjects also exercised in normoxia for a time equal to that achieved in hypoxia (NORM-CTRL; Sp(O(2)) = 96 +/- 1%). Quadriceps twitch force, in response to supramaximal single (nonpotentiated and potentiated 1 Hz) and paired magnetic stimuli of the femoral nerve (10-100 Hz), was assessed pre- and at 2.5, 35, and 70 min postexercise. Hypoxia exacerbated exercise-induced peripheral fatigue, as evidenced by a greater decrease in potentiated twitch force in HYPOX-EXH vs. NORM-CTRL (-39 +/- 4 vs. -24 +/- 3%, P < 0.01). Time to exhaustion was reduced by more than two-thirds in HYPOX-EXH vs. NORM-EXH (4.2 +/- 0.5 vs. 13.4 +/- 0.8 min, P < 0.01); however, peripheral fatigue was not different in HYPOX-EXH vs. NORM-EXH (-34 +/- 4 vs. -39 +/- 4%, P > 0.05). Blood lactate concentration and perceptions of limb discomfort were higher throughout HYPOX-EXH vs. NORM-CTRL but were not different at end-exercise in HYPOX-EXH vs. NORM-EXH. We conclude that severe hypoxia exacerbates peripheral fatigue of limb locomotor muscles and that this effect may contribute, in part, to the early termination of exercise.

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