Frequency of the VO2max plateau phenomenon in world-class cyclists

A Lucia, M Rabadan, J Hoyos, M Hernandez-Capilla, M Perez, A F San Juan, Conrad P Earnest, J L Chicharro

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We aimed to determine the frequency of the VO2max plateau phenomenon in top-level male professional road cyclists (n = 38; VO2max [mean +/- SD]: 73.5 +/- 5.5 and in healthy, sedentary male controls (n = 37; VO2max: 42.7 +/- 5.6 All subjects performed a continuous incremental cycle-ergometer test of 1-min workloads until exhaustion. Power output was increased from a starting value of 25 W (cyclists) or 20 W (controls) at the rate of 25 W.min(-1) (cyclists) or 20 W.min(-1) (controls) until volitional exhaustion. We measured gas-exchange and heart rate (HR) throughout the test. Blood concentrations of lactate (BLa) were measured at end-exercise in both groups. We defined maximal exercise exertion as the attainment of a respiratory exchange rate (RER) >or= 1.1; HR > 95 % age-predicted maximum; and BLa > 8 mmo.l(-1). The VO2max plateau phenomenon was defined as an increase in two or more consecutive 1-min mean VO2 values of less than 1.5 Most cyclists met our criteria for maximal exercise effort (RER > 1.1, 100 %; 95 % predicted maximal HR [HRmax], 82 %; BLa > 8 mmol.l(-1), 84 %). However, the proportion of cyclists attaining a V.O (2max) plateau was considerably lower, i.e., 47 %. The majority of controls met the criteria for maximal exercise effort (RER > 1.1, 100 %; predicted HRmax, 68 %; BLa > 8 mmol. l(-1), 73 %), but the proportion of these subjects with a VO2max plateau was only 24 % (significantly lower proportion than in cyclists [p < 0.05]). Scientists should consider 1) if typical criteria of attainment of maximal effort are sufficiently stringent, especially in elite endurance athletes; and 2) whether those humans exhibiting the VO2max plateau phenomenon are those who perform an absolute maximum effort or there are additional distinctive features associated with this phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)984-992
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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