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The VCO2/VO2 relationship during heavy, constant work rate exercise reflects the rate of lactic acid accumulation.

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  • 1Division of Respiratory and Critical Care, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, CA 90509, USA.


Oxygen uptake (VO2) kinetics have been reported to be modified when lactic acid accumulates; however little attention has been given to the simultaneous carbon dioxide production (VCO2) kinetics. To demonstrate how VCO2 changes as a function of VO2 when lactic acid is buffered by bicarbonate, eight healthy subjects performed 6-min constant work rate cycle ergometer exercise tests at moderate, heavy and very heavy exercise intensities. VCO2 and VO2 were measured breath-by-breath, and arterial blood samples were obtained every 7.5 s during the first 3 min of exercise, and were analyzed for pH, partial pressure of carbon dioxide, standard bicarbonate, and lactate. VCO2 abruptly increased relative to VO2 between 40 and 50 s after the start of exercise for the high exercise intensities. These gas exchange events were observed to correlate well with the time and VO2 at which lactic acid increased and plasma bicarbonate decreased (r = 0.90, r = 0.95, respectively). We conclude that bicarbonate buffering of lactic acid can be determined from the acceleration of VCO2 relative to VO2 kinetics in response to constant work rate exercise and the increase is quantitatively related to the magnitude of the lactic acid increase. This is easily visualized from a plot of VCO2 as a function of VO2.

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