Skeletal Muscle Metabolism in Endurance Athletes with Near-Infrared Spectroscopy


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 5 - p 869–875
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827e0eb6
BASIC SCIENCES: Special Report

Purpose: To determine whether near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) measurements of muscle mitochondrial function could detect the expected differences between endurance-trained athletes (n = 8) and inactive subjects (n = 8).

Methods: Muscle oxygen consumption (mV˙O2) of the vastus lateralis was measured with continuous-wave NIRS using transient arterial occlusions. The recovery rate of mV˙O2 after electrical stimulation was fit to an exponential curve, with the time constant (Tc) used as an index of mitochondrial capacity. Whole-body peak oxygen uptake was determined by indirect calorimetry during a continuous ramp protocol on a cycle ergometer.

Results: Whole-body peak oxygen uptake values for endurance-trained and inactive controls were 73.5 ± 9.1 and 33.7 ± 5.9 mL·kg−1·min−1, respectively (P < 0.001). The recovery rates of mV˙O2 after exercise for endurance training were 18.4 ± 3.2 and 18.8 ± 2.5 s, whereas those for inactive controls were 32.4 ± 5.2 and 34.9 ± 5.9 s for the shallow and deep channels, respectively (P < 0.001 for comparison between groups). Resting mV˙O2 was 0.52%·s−1 ± 0.22%·s−1 for endurance athletes and 0.77%·s−1 ± 0.82%·s−1 for inactive controls (P = 0.42).

Conclusions: The recovery rates of mV˙O2 after exercise in endurance athletes were almost twofold faster than inactive subjects measured with NIRS, consistent with previous studies using muscle biopsies and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Our results support the use of NIRS measurements of the recovery of oxygen consumption to assess muscle oxidative capacity.

Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Address for correspondence: Jared Todd Brizendine, M.S., University of Georgia, 330 River Rd., Athens, GA 30602; E-mail:

Submitted for publication August 2012.

Accepted for publication November 2012.

©2013The American College of Sports Medicine