In this research published in Journal of Physiology Anthony Sargeant and his team describe how the recruitment of different types of muscle fibres with increasing exercise intensity changes the oxygen cost of exercise. Thus the relationship of oxygen uptake and mechanical power output is not constant. This is in contrast to the standard teaching of many physiology textbooks.
Non-linear relationship between O2 uptake and power output at high intensities of exercise in humans
Journal of Physiology
J Physiol. 1995 Oct 1;488 ( Pt 1):211-7
1. A slow component to pulmonary oxygen uptake (VO2) is reported during prolonged high power exercise performed at constant power output at, or above, approximately 60% of the maximal oxygen uptake. The magnitude of the slow component is reported to be associated with the intensity of exercise and to be largely accounted for by an increased VO2 across the exercising legs.
2. On the assumption that the control mechanism responsible for the increased VO2 is intensity dependent we hypothesized that it should also be apparent in multi-stage incremental exercise tests with the result that the VO2-power output relationship would be curvilinear.
3. We further hypothesized that the change in the VO2-power output relationship could be related to the hierarchical recruitment of different muscle fibre types with a lower mechanical efficiency.
4. Six subjects each performed five incremental exercise tests, at pedalling rates of 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120 rev min-1, over which range we expected to vary the proportional contribution of different fibre types to the power output. Pulmonary VO2 was determined continuously and arterialized capillary blood was sampled and analysed for blood lactate concentration ([lactate]b).
5. Below the level at which a sustained increase in [lactate]b was observed pulmonary VO2 showed a linear relationship with power output; at high power outputs, however, there was an additional increase in VO2 above that expected from the extrapolation of that linear relationship, leading to a positive curvilinear VO2-power output relationship. 6. No systematic effect on the magnitude or onset of the ‘extra’ VO2 was found in relation to pedalling rate, which suggests that it is not related to the pattern of motor unit recruitment in any simple way.