We tested the importance of aerobic metabolism to human running speed directly by altering inspired oxygen concentrations and comparing the maximal speeds attained at different rates of oxygen uptake. Under both normoxic (20.93% O2) and hypoxic (13.00% O2) conditions, four fit adult men completed 15 all-out sprints lasting from 15 to 180 s as well as progressive, discontinuous treadmill tests to determine maximal oxygen uptake and the metabolic cost of steady-state running. Maximal aerobic power was lower by 30% (1.00 ± 0.15 vs. 0.77 ± 0.12 ml O2 · kg-1 · s-1) and sprinting rates of oxygen uptake by 12-25% under hypoxic vs. normoxic conditions while the metabolic cost of submaximal running was the same. Despite reductions in the aerobic energy available for sprinting under hypoxic conditions, our subjects were able to run just as fast for sprints of up to 60 s and nearly as fast for sprints of up to 120 s. This was possible because rates of anaerobic energy release, estimated from oxygen deficits, increased by as much as 18%, and thus compensated for the reductions in aerobic power. We conclude that maximal metabolic power outputs during sprinting are not limited by rates of anaerobic metabolism and that human speed is largely independent of aerobic power during all-out runs of 60 s or less.
- Anaerobic metabolism
- Oxygen deficit