It is not known whether the asymptotic behavior of whole body O2 consumption (VO2) at maximal work rates (WR) is explained by similar behavior of VO2 in the exercising legs. To resolve this question, simultaneous measurements of body and leg VO2 were made at submaximal and maximal levels of effort breathing normoxic and hypoxic gases in seven trained male cyclists (maximal VO2, 64.7 +/- 2.7 ml O2.min-1.kg-1), each of whom demonstrated a reproducible VO2-WR asymptote during fatiguing incremental cycle ergometry. Left leg blood flow was measured by constant-infusion thermodilution, and total leg VO2 was calculated as the product of twice leg flow and radial arterial-femoral venous O2 concentration difference. The VO2-WR relationships determined at submaximal WR′s were extrapolated to maximal WR as a basis for assessing the body and leg VO2 responses. The differences between measured and extrapolated maximal VO2 were 235 +/- 45 (body) and 203 +/- 70 (leg) ml O2/min (not significantly different). Plateauing of leg VO2 was associated with, and explained by, plateauing of both leg blood flow and O2 extraction and hence of leg VO2. We conclude that the asymptotic behavior of whole body VO2 at maximal WRs is a direct reflection of the VO2 profile at the exercising legs.
- Copyright © 1992 the American Physiological Society