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Off seasonal and pre-seasonal assessment of circulating energy sources during prolonged running at the anaerobic threshold in competitive triathletes
  1. B Knoepfli1,
  2. M C Riddell2,
  3. E Ganzoni3,
  4. A Burki3,
  5. B Villiger4,
  6. S P von Duvillard5
  1. 1Alpine Children’s Hospital, Davos, Switzerland
  2. 2York University, York, UK
  3. 3Swiss Triathlon Association
  4. 4TSH Chest Clinic and Swiss Olympic Center
  5. 5California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor von Duvillard
 Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Health, Kinesiology & Sports Studies, Texas A&M University-Commerce, PO Box 3011, Commerce, TX 75429, USA;


Objectives: To compare changes in circulating energy sources during prolonged exercise in off season (OS) and pre-season (PS) training of triathletes.

Methods: Nine athletes of the Swiss national triathlon team (three female, mean (SD) age 28.7 (4.9) years, height 169.8 (6.0) cm, weight 57.0 (6.2) kg, V˙o2max 66.5 (5.3) ml/min/kg; six male, mean (SD) age 24.0 (4.1) years, height 181.4 (6.9) cm, weight 73.5 (6.0) kg, V˙o2max 75.9 (4.9) ml/min/kg) were tested twice (2.5 months apart) during a 25 km aerobic capacity test run at the end of the OS and just before the season. The average training load during the OS was 9.9 h/week, and this increased to 14.4 h/week in the PS. With heart rates as reference, exercise intensity during the aerobic capacity test was 97.0 (4.9)% of the anaerobic threshold and 91.2 (4.5)% of V˙o2max. Blood samples were collected before, during, and after the aerobic capacity test. Samples were collected every 5 km during three minute rest intervals.

Results: Blood was analysed for triglyceride (TG), free fatty acids, cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, glucose, insulin, lactate, and changes in plasma volume. A two factor (season by distance) repeated measures analysis of variance revealed an increase in capacity for prolonged exercise in the PS by a decrease in running intensity during the aerobic capacity test (% of speed at 2.0 mmol/l lactate threshold, p  =  0.008), an increase in running speed at the anaerobic threshold (p  =  0.003) and at 4.0 and 2.0 mmol/l (p<0.001) of the lactate threshold. A significant season by distance interaction was found for TG (p<0.001). TG concentrations peaked at 5 km and decreased logarithmically throughout the OS (1.48 (0.34) to 0.86 (0.20) mmol/l) and PS (1.90 (0.31) to 0.73 (0.18) mmol/l) tests. From the OS to the PS, there was an increase in the difference in TG at 5–15 km with a concomitant increase at 2.0 mmol/l of the lactate threshold. The peak TG concentrations at 5 km followed by a logarithmic decrease suggest that TG may also provide circulating energy. A greater logarithmic decrease in TG occurred in the PS than in the OS, indicating a higher rate of use. There was an increase in the difference in TG at 5–15 km similar to the increase in the speed at 2.0 mmol/l of the lactate threshold between the two seasons. Glucose, insulin, lactate, and free fatty acids were similar in the two seasons.

Conclusion: Free fatty acid and TG concentrations were much higher than expected, and the two training seasons showed significantly different patterns of TG concentration during prolonged running. These responses may be related to aerobic capacity of prolonged exercise.

  • ACT, aerobic capacity test
  • APT, aerobic power test
  • AT, anaerobic threshold
  • FFA, free fatty acid
  • LT, lactate threshold
  • TG, triglyceride
  • o2max, maximal oxygen consumption
  • triathlon
  • lactate threshold
  • prolonged exercise
  • aerobic capacity
  • fat metabolism
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