Physiological factors associated with declining repeated sprint performance in hypoxia

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Performance loss in hypoxia might not only be caused by reduced oxygen availability, but might also be influenced by other factors, as for example oxidative stress, perceived exertion or breathing patterns. This study aimed to investigate the influence of these factors on running performance during hypoxic and normoxic shuttle-run sprinting. Eight male amateur soccer players performed shuttle-run sprints in hypoxia (FiO2∼14.8%) and normoxia (random order). Each session comprised 3-sets of 5x10s back and forth sprints (4.5m) with recovery times between repetitions and sets of 20s and 5min, respectively. Sprinting distance, acceleration patterns, heart rate (HR) and breathing frequency were measured during each session (Zephyr-PSM Training System). Redox state and lactate concentration ([La]) were determined before and after each session, whereas rating of perceived exertion (RPE) was assessed after the sprint sessions. Overall distance covered was similar during hypoxia and normoxia sprinting (Δ -8.3±14.3m, 95% CI -20.2 to 3.6, p>0.05). During the 3rd set, distance tended to be reduced in hypoxia compared to normoxia (169±6m, 95% CI 164 to 174 vs. 175±4m, 95% CI 171 to 178, p=0.070). Differences in breathing frequency during sprinting in hypoxia and normoxia were associated with individual reductions in sprinting distance (r=-0.792, p=0.019). Despite a somewhat lower running distance during the 3rd set and similar [La], RPE, HR, and redox responses, the preserved overall running distance indicates that the training stimulus might be enhanced in hypoxia compared to normoxia. Alteration of the respiratory patterns during repeated sprinting in hypoxia might be one factor, beside others, responsible for a potential performance loss. It could be hypothesized that respiratory pattern adaptations are involved in potential performance improvements after hypoxia repeated sprint training.

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