Sports Medicine

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

The Relationship Between Aerobic Fitness and Recovery from High Intensity Intermittent Exercise

  • Dona L. TomlinEmail author
  • Howard A. Wenger
Leading Article


A strong relationship between aerobic fitness and the aerobic response to repeated bouts of high intensity exercise has been established, suggesting that aerobic fitness is important in determining the magnitude of the oxidative response. The elevation of exercise oxygen consumption (V̇O2) is at least partially responsible for the larger fast component of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) seen in endurance-trained athletes following intense intermittent exercise.

Replenishment of phosphocreatine (PCr) has been linked to both fast EPOC and power recovery in repeated efforts. Although 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies appear to support a relationship between endurance training and PCr recovery following both submaximal work and repeated bouts of moderate intensity exercise, PCr resynthesis following single bouts of high intensity effort does not always correlate well with maximal oxygen consumption (V̇O2max). It appears that intense exercise involving larger muscle mass displays a stronger relationship between V̇O2max and PCr resynthesis than does intense exercise utilising small muscle mass.

A strong relationship between power recovery and endurance fitness, as measured by the percentage V̇O2max corresponding to a blood lactate concentration of 4 mmol/L, has been demonstrated. The results from most studies examining power recovery and V̇O2max seem to suggest that endurance training and/or a higher V̇O2max results in superior power recovery across repeated bouts of high intensity intermittent exercise.

Some studies have supported an association between aerobic fitness and lactate removal following high intensity exercise, whereas others have failed to confirm an association. Unfortunately, all studies have relied on measurements of blood lactate to reflect muscle lactate clearance, and different mathematical methods have been used for assessing blood lactate clearance, which may compromise conclusions on lactate removal.

In summary, the literature suggests that aerobic fitness enhances recovery from high intensity intermittent exercise through increased aerobic response, improved lactate removal and enhanced PCr regeneration.


Blood Lactate Endurance Training Aerobic Fitness Aerobic Power High Intensity Exercise 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Thoden JS. Testing aerobic power. In: MacDougall JD, Wenger HA, Green HJ, editors. Physiological testing of the high-performance athlete. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1991:107–74Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rhodes T, Twist P. The physiology of ice hockey: a testing and training manual. Vancouver (BC): University of British Columbia, 1990Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gaesser GA, Brooks GA. Metabolic bases of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: a review. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1984; 16: 29–43PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hultman E, Bergstrom J, McLenan-Anderson N. Breakdown and resynthesis of phosphorylcreatine and adenosine triphosphate in connection with muscular work in man. Scand J Clin Invest 1967; 19: 56–66PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    di Prampero P, Boutellier U, Pietsch P. Oxygen deficit and stores at the onset of muscular exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol 1983; 55: 146–53PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Harris RC, Edwards RHT, Hultman E, et al. The time course of phosphocreatine resynthesis during recovery of the quadriceps muscle in man. Pflugers Arch 1976; 367: 137–42PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Yoshida T, Watari H. Effect of circulatory occlusion on human muscle metabolism during exercise and recovery. Eur J Appl Physiol 1997; 75: 200–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Sahlin K. Metabolic factors in fatigue. Sports Med 1992; 13: 99–107PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Brooks GA, Hittelman KJ, Faulkner JA, et al. Temperature, skeletal muscle mitochondrial function, and oxygen debt. Am J Physiol 1971; 220: 1053–9PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gladden LB, Stainsby WB, McIntosh BR. Norepinephrine increases canine skeletal muscle V̇O2 during recovery. Med Sci Sport Exerc 1982; 14: 471–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Brehm BA, Gutin B. Recovery energy expenditure for steady state exercise in runners and nonexercisers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1986; 18: 205–11PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Gaitanos GC, Williams LH, Boobis LH, et al. Human muscle metabolism during intermittent maximal exercise. J Appl Physiol 1993; 75: 712–9PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Karlsson J, Saltin B. Oxygen deficit and muscle metabolites in intermittent exercise. Acta Physiol Scand 1971; 82: 115–22PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Mayhew SR, Wenger HA. Time-motion analysis of professional soccer. J Hum Mov Stud 1985; 11: 49–52Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    McLean DA. Analysis of the physical demands of international rugby union. J Sports Sci 1992; 10: 285–96PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Yoshida T, Watari H. Metabolic consequences of repeated exercise in long distance runners. Eur J Appl Physiol 1993; 67: 261–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Wooten SA, Williams C. The influence of recovery duration on repeated maximal sprints. In: Knuttgen HG, Vogel JA, Poortmans J, editors. Biochemistry of exercise. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1983: 269–73Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Chance B, Dait MT, Zhang C, et al. Recovery from exercise-induced desaturation in the quadriceps muscles of elite competitive rowers. Am J Physiol 1992; 263: C766–75Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Taylor DJ, Bore P, Styles P, et al. Bioenergetics of intact human muscle: a 31P nuclear magnetic resonance study. Mol Biol Med 1983; 1: 77–94PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Colliander EB, Dudley GA, Tesch PA. Skeletal muscle fiber type composition and performance during repeated bouts of maximal contractions. Eur J Appl Physiol 1988; 58: 81–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Sahlin K, Henriksson J. Buffer capacity and lactate accumulation in skeletal muscle of trained and untrained men. Acta Physiol Scand 1984; 122: 331–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Parkhouse WS, McKenzie DC. Possible contribution of skeletal muscle buffers to enhanced anaerobic performance: a brief review. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1984; 16: 328–38PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Bonen A, Belcastro AN. Comparison of self-selected recovery methods on lactic acid removal rates. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1976; 8: 176–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Arnold DL, Matthews PM, Radda GK. Metabolic recovery after exercise and the assessment of mitochondrial function in vivo in human skeletal muscle by means of 31P NMR. Magn Reson Med 1984; 1: 307–15PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Jansson E, Dudley GA, Norman B, et al. Relationship of recovery from intense exercise to the oxidative potential of skeletal muscle. Acta Physiol Scand 1990; 139: 147–52PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Tesch P, Wright JE. Recovery from short term intense exercise; its relation to capillary supply and blood lactate concentration. Eur J Appl Physiol 1983; 52: 98–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Ekblom B, Astrand P, Saltin B, et al. Effect of training on circulatory response to exercise. J Appl Physiol 1968; 24: 518–28PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Costill D, Thomason H, Roberts E. Fractional utilization of the aerobic capacity during distance running. Med Sci Sports 1973; 5: 248–52PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Tanaka K, Matsuura Y. Marathon performance, anaerobic threshold, and onset of blood lactate accumulation. J Appl Physiol 1984; 57: 640–3PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Boulay MR, Hamel P, Simoneau J, et al. A test of aerobic capacity: description and reliability. Can J Appl Sport Sci 1984; 19: 122–6Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Holloszy JO, Coyle EF. Adaptations of skeletal muscle to endurance exercise and their metabolic consequences. J Appl Physiol 1984; 56: 831–8PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Salon B, Rowell LB. Functional adaptations to physical activity and inactivity. Fed Proc 1980; 39: 1506–13Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Ekblom B, Hermansen L. Cardiac output in athletes. J Appl Physiol 1968; 25: 619–25PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Anderson P, Hendriksson J. Training induced changes in the subgroups of human type II skeletal muscle fibres. Acta Physiol Scand 1977; 99: 123–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Sinoway L, Musch J, Minotti J, et al. Enhanced maximal metabolic vasodilation in the dominant arm of tennis players. J Appl Physiol 1986; 61: 673–8PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Kjellberg S, Rudhe U, Sjostrand T. Increase of the amount of hemoglobin and blood volume in connection with physical training. Acta Physiol Scand 1949; 19: 146–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Hagberg JM, Hickson RC, Ehsani AA, et al. Faster adjustment to and recovery from submaximal exercise in the trained state. J Appl Physiol 1980; 48: 218–24PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ceretelli P, Pendergast D, Pagnelli WC, et al. Effects of specific muscle training on V̇O2 on-response and early blood lactate. J Appl Physiol 1979; 47: 761–9Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Park J, Brown RL, Park CR, et al. Energy metabolism of the untrained muscle of elite runners as observed by 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Proc Nail Acad Sci 1988; 85: 8780–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Thorstensson A, Sjoidin B, Karlsson J. Enzyme activities and muscle strength after ‘sprint training’ in man. Acta Physiol Scand 1975; 94: 313–8PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Karlsson J. Lactate and phosphagen concentrations in working muscles of man. Acta Physiol Scand 1971; 358 Suppl.: 1–72Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Brooks GA, Donovan CM. Effect of endurance training on glucose kinetics during exercise. Am J Physiol 1983; 244: E505–12Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Baum E, Fruck K, Schwennick HP Adaptive modifications in the thermoregulatory system of long-distance runners. J Appl Physiol 1976; 40 (3): 404–10PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Bloom SR, Johnson RH, Park DM, et al. Differences in the metabolic and hormonal response to exercise between racing cyclists and untrained individuals. J Physiol 1975; 258: 1–18Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Gollnick P, Armstrong R, Saubert C, et al. Enzyme activity and fiber composition in skeletal muscle of untrained and trained men. J Appl Physiol 1972; 33: 312–9PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Sjodin B. Lactate dehydrogenase in human muscle. Acta Physiol Scand 1976; 436 Suppl.: 5–32Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Gladden LB, Yates JW. Lactic acid infusion in dogs; effects of varying infusate pH. J Appl Physiol 1993; 54: 1254–60Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Hamilton AL, Nevill ME, Brooks S, et al. Physiological responses to maximal intermittent exercise: differences between endurance trained runners and games players. J Sports Sci 1991; 9: 371–82PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Tomlin DL. The aerobic response to intense intermittent exercise [thesis]. Victoria (BC): University of Victoria, 1998Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bogdanis GC, Nevill ME, Boobis LH, et al. Contribution of phosphocreatine and aerobic metabolism to energy supply during repeated sprint exercise. J Appl Physiol 1996; 80: 876–84PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Balsom PD, Ekblom B, Sjoidin B. Enhanced oxygen availability during high intensity intermittent exercise decreases anaerobic metabolite concentrations in blood. Acta Physiol Scand 1994; 150: 455–6PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Balsom PD, Gaitanos GC, Ekblom B, et al. Reduced oxygen availability during high intensity intermittent exercise impairs performance. Acta Physiol Scand 1994; 152: 279–85PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Piiper J, Spiller P. Repayment of O2-debt and resynthesis of high-energy phosphates in gastrocnemius muscle of the dog. J Appl Physiol 1970; 28: 657-62PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Frey GC, Byrnes WC, Mazzeo RS. Factors influencing postexercise oxygen consumption in trained and untrained women. Metabolism 1993; 42: 822–8PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Sedlock DA. Fitness level and postexercise energy metabolism. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1994; 34: 336–42PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Short KR, Sedlock DA. Excess postexercise oxygen consumption and recovery rate in trained and untrained subjects. J Appl Physiol 1997; 83: 153–9PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    LeMasurier GC. The aerobic response to single and repeated bouts of intense exercise [thesis]. Victoria (BC): University of Victoria, 2000Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Bell GJ, Snydmiller GD, Davies DS, et al. Relationship between aerobic fitness and metabolic recovery from intermittent exercise in endurance trained athletes. Can J Appl Physiol 1997; 22: 78–85PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Poehlman ET. A review: exercise and its influence on resting energy metabolism in man. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1989; 21: 515–25PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Henry FM, Berg WE. Physiological and performance changes in athletic conditioning. J Appl Physiol 1950; 3: 103–11PubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Girondola RN, Katch FI. Effects of physical conditioning on changes in exercise recovery, O2 uptake and efficiency during constant-load ergometer exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1973; 5: 242–7Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Jansson E, Kaijser L. Muscle adaptation to extreme endurance training in man. Acta Physiol Scand 1977; 100: 315–24PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Bassett DR, Merrill PW, Nagle FJ, et al. Rate of decline in blood lactate after cycling exercise in endurance-trained and untrained subjects. J Appl Physiol 1991; 70: 1816–20PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Freund H, Lonsdorfer J, Oyono-Enguelle A, et al. Lactate exchange and removal abilities in sickle cell patients and in untrained and healthy humans. J Appl Physiol 1992; 73: 2580–7PubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Oyono-Enguelle S, Marbach J, Heitz A, et al. Lactate removal ability and graded exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol 1990; 68: 905–11PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Taoutaou Z, Granier P, Mercier B, et al. Lactate kinetics during passive and partially active recovery in endurance and sprint athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1996; 73: 465–70PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Belcastro AN, Bonen A. Lactic acid removal rates during controlled and uncontrolled recovery exercise. J Appl Physiol 1975; 39: 932–6PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Evans BW, Cureton KJ. Effect of physical conditioning on blood lactate disappearance after supramaximal exercise. Br J Sports Med 1983; 17: 40–5PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. 69.
    Oosthuyse T, Carter RN. Plasma lactate decline during passive recovery from high-intensity exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999; 31: 670–4PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Freund H, Oyono-Enguelle S, Heitz A, et al. Comparative lactate kinetics after short and prolonged submaximal exercise. Int J Sports Med 1990; 11: 284–8PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Bogdanis GC, Nevill ME, Boobis LH, et al. Recovery of power output and muscle metabolites following 30 s of maximal sprint cycling in man. J Physiol 1995; 482: 467–80PubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Hakkinen K, Myllyla E. Acute effects of muscle fatigue and recovery on force production and relaxation in endurance, power and strength athletes. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1990; 30: 5–12PubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Saltin B, Astrand P. Maximal oxygen uptake in athletes. J Appl Physiol 1967; 23: 353–8PubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Hakkinen K, Mero A, Kauhanen H. Specificity of endurance, sprint and strength training on physical performance capacity in young athletes. J Sports Med 1989; 29: 23–35Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Gaiga MC, Docherty D. The effect of an aerobic interval training program on intermittent anaerobic performance. Can J Appl Physiol 1995; 20: 452–64PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. 76.
    Dawson B, Fitzsimmons M, Ward D. The relationship of repeated sprint ability to aerobic power and performance measures of anaerobic work capacity and power. Aust J Sci Med Sport 1993; 25: 88–93Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    McMahon SAJ, Wenger HA. The relationship between aerobic fitness and both power output and subsequent recovery during maximal intermittent exercise. J Sci Med Sport 1998; 1: 219–27PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. 78.
    Hoffman JR. The relationship between aerobic fitness and recovery from high-intensity exercise in infantry soldiers. Mil Med 1997; 162: 484–7PubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. 79.
    Hoffman JR, Epstein S, Einbinder M, et al. The influence of aerobic capacity on anaerobic performance and recovery indices in basketball players. J Strength Cond Res 1999; 13: 407–11Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    McCully KK, Bonen BP, Tuchler M, et al. The wrist flexor muscles of elite rowers measured with magnetic resonance spectroscopy. J Appl Physiol 1989; 67: 926–32PubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. 81.
    McCully KK, Vanderbourne K, DeMerleir K, et al. Muscle metabolism in track athletes, using 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 1992; 70: 1353–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. 82.
    McCully K, Posner J. Measuring exercise-induced adaptations and injury with magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Int J Sports Med 1992; 13 Suppl. 1: S147–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. 83.
    Cooke SR, Petersen SR, Quinney HA. The influence of maximal aerobic power on recovery of skeletal muscle following anaerobic exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1997; 75: 512–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. 84.
    Petersen SR, Cooke SR. Effects of endurance training on recovery from high-intensity exercise. In: Bell Fl, Van Gyn GIL editors. Proceedings of the 10th Commonwealth and International Scientific Congress; 1994 Aug 10–14; Victoria (BC), 227–31Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Takahashi H, Inaki M, Fujimoto K, et al. Control of the rate of phosphocreatine resynthesis after exercise in trained and untrained human quadriceps muscles. Eur J Appl Physiol 1995; 71: 396–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations