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Physiological, biochemical, anthropometric, and biomechanical influences on exercise economy in humans

Journal article
Authors Carsten Lundby
D. Montero
S. Gehrig
Ulrika Andersson Hall
P. Kaiser
R. Boushel
A. K. M. Lundby
N. Kirk
P. Valdivieso
M. Fluck
N. H. Secher
Fredrik Edin
Tobias Hein
Klavs Madsen
Published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Volume 27
Issue 12
Pages 1627-1637
ISSN 0905-7188
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science
Pages 1627-1637
Language en
Keywords biomechanic, locomotion, mitochondria, skeletal muscle, muscle-fiber type, running economy, distance runners, skeletal-muscle, cycling efficiency, oxygen-uptake, metabolic cost, energetic cost, performance, power, Sport Sciences
Subject categories Health Sciences


Interindividual variation in running and cycling exercise economy (EE) remains unexplained although studied for more than a century. This study is the first to comprehensively evaluate the importance of biochemical, structural, physiological, anthropometric, and biomechanical influences on running and cycling EE within a single study. In 22 healthy males (VO(2)max range 45.5-72.1mLmin-1kg-1), no factor related to skeletal muscle structure (% slow-twitch fiber content, number of capillaries per fiber), mitochondrial properties (volume density, oxidative capacity, or mitochondrial efficiency), or protein content (UCP3 and MFN2 expression) explained variation in cycling and running EE among subjects. In contrast, biomechanical variables related to vertical displacement correlated well with running EE, but were not significant when taking body weight into account. Thus, running EE and body weight were correlated (R-2=.94; P<.001), but was lower for cycling EE (R-2=.23; P<.023). To separate biomechanical determinants of running EE, we contrasted individual running and cycling EE considering that during cycle ergometer exercise, the biomechanical influence on EE would be small because of the fixed movement pattern. Differences in cycling and running exercise protocols, for example, related to biomechanics, play however only a secondary role in determining EE. There was no evidence for an impact of structural or functional skeletal muscle variables on EE. Body weight was the main determinant of EE explaining 94% of variance in running EE, although more than 50% of the variability of cycling EE remains unexplained.

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