The influence of menthol on thermoregulation and perception during exercise in warm, humid conditions

D Jason Gillis, James R House, Michael J Tipton
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2010, 110 (3): 609-18
Menthol has recently been added to various cooling products that claim to enhance athletic performance. This study assessed the effect of two such solutions during exercise in warm, humid conditions. Twelve participants (22 ± 2.9 years; VO2peak 47.4 ± 6.2 mL kg(-1) min(-1)) completed a peak power (PO(peak)) test and three separate exercise bouts in 30°C and 70% relative humidity after being sprayed with 100 mL of water containing either 0.05 or 0.2% l-menthol, or a control spray. During each trial, participants underwent 15 min of rest, spraying, 15 min of rest and 45 min of exercise at 45% of PO(peak). The following variables were measured: rectal temperature (T (re)), sweat rate (SR), skin blood flow (SBF), heart rate (HR), thermal comfort (TC) and sensation (TS) votes, irritation (IRR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Mean skin (MST) and body temperatures (Tbody) were calculated. There was no significant difference in MST, Tbody SR, SBF, HR, TC or RPE between conditions. Spraying with 0.2% menthol significantly (P < 0.05) elevated T (re) by 0.2°C compared to the other conditions. Both menthol sprays caused participants to feel significantly cooler than control spraying (P = 0.001), but 0.2% spraying induced significantly cooler sensations (P = 0.01) than 0.05% spraying. Both menthol sprays induced greater irritation (P < 0.001) than control spraying. These findings suggest that 0.05% menthol spraying induced cooler upper body sensations without measurable thermoregulatory impairment. T (re) was significantly elevated with 0.2% spraying. Irritation persisted with both menthol sprays while TC remained unchanged, suggesting a causal relationship. The use in sport of a spray similar to those tested here remains equivocal.

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