Purpose: This study was designed to determine the effects of prior exercise on energy supply and performance in a laboratory-based 4000-m time trial.
Methods: After one familiarization trial, eight well-trained cyclists (mean ± SD; age = 30 ± 8 yr, body mass = 78.7 ± 8.6 kg, stature = 181 ± 5 cm, V˙O2 peak = 63.7 ± 6.7 mL·kg−1·min−1, peak power output (PPO) = 366 ± 39 W) performed three 4000-m laboratory-based cycling time trials each preceded by one of three prior exercise regimens in randomized order: no prior exercise (control), prior heavy exercise, and self-selected prior exercise.
Results: Cyclists adopted a wide range of self-selected prior exercise regimens: duration ranged = 11-80 min, intensity = 48-120% PPO, and recovery = 2-11 min. Relative to control, pre-time-trial blood lactate was raised by 2.5 ± 1.9 and 1.4 ± 1.5 mmol·L−1 after prior heavy and self-selected exercise, respectively. The 4000 m was completed 2.0 ± 2.3% and 2.2 ± 1.9% faster after prior heavy and self-selected exercise regimens, respectively, and mean power output was 5.4 ± 3.6% and 6.0 ± 5.8% higher, respectively. The overall aerobic contribution (VO2) and oxygen deficit were not different between conditions (∼323 ± 23 and ∼64 ± 22 mL·kg−1, respectively), although V˙O2 was higher (P < 0.05) in the prior heavy (by 2.1-5.8 mL·kg−1·min−1) and self-selected (2.5-4.3 mL·kg−1·min−1) regimens compared with the control throughout the first half of the time trial.
Conclusion: Very high intensity cycling performance was improved after both self-selected and prior heavy exercise. Such priming increased the early aerobic contribution but did not change overall aerobic contribution or oxygen deficit. Thus, athletes seem to manage their energy potential to exploit the available anaerobic capacity, independent of the aerobic contribution. Athletes are advised to perform a bout of heavy exercise as part of their prior exercise regimen.