Journal of Applied Physiology

Ventilatory and treadmill endurance during acute semistarvation

P. R. Bender, B. J. Martin


Little is known about respiratory muscle function in acute undernutrition, although an inadequate caloric intake is common in numerous disease states. Twelve young-adult, healthy female volunteers performed two familiarization experiments and were then studied after 7 days of consuming 40% of normal daily caloric intake as well as after 1 wk of normal caloric intake. In each experiment subjects performed tests of resting pulmonary function, inspiratory muscle strength, and ventilatory endurance, the last of which involved two 60-s and two 6-min isocapnic maximum voluntary ventilation maneuvers. Subjects then walked to exhaustion in 8–20 min on a treadmill. The caloric restriction did not affect performance of any breathing test but did lower endurance time in severe treadmill exercise (P less than 0.05). Basal metabolic rate was lowered, resting blood levels of free fatty acids and beta-hydroxybutyrate elevated, and glucose lowered following the caloric restriction (P less than 0.05). Blood lactate levels were lower during and after exercise following caloric restriction (P less than 0.05). We conclude that ventilatory muscle strength and endurance are fully preserved in caloric restriction severe enough to cause mild ketoacidosis and hypoglycemia, lowered basal metabolic rate, and decreased endurance in severe treadmill exercise.