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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1986 Nov;61(5):1935-41.

Propranolol does not impair exercise oxygen uptake in normal men at high altitude.


Decreased maximal O2 uptake (VO2max) and stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system have been previously shown to occur at high altitude. We hypothesized that tachycardia mediated by beta-adrenergic stimulation acted to defend VO2max at high altitude. Propranolol treatment beginning before high-altitude (4,300 m) ascent reduced heart rate during maximal and submaximal exercise in six healthy men treated with propranolol (80 mg three times daily) compared with five healthy subjects receiving placebo (lactose). Compared with sea-level values, the VO2max fell on day 2 at high altitude, but the magnitude of fall was similar in the placebo and propranolol treatment groups (26 +/- 6 vs. 32 +/- 5%, P = NS) and VO2max remained similar at high altitude in both groups once treatment was discontinued. During 30 min of submaximal (80% of VO2max) exercise, propranolol-treated subjects maintained O2 uptake levels that were as large as those in placebo subjects. The maintenance of maximal or submaximal levels of O2 uptake in propranolol-treated subjects at 4,300 m could not be attributed to increased minute ventilation, arterial O2 saturation, or hemoglobin concentration. Rather, it appeared that propranolol-treated subjects maintained O2 uptake by transporting a greater proportion of the O2 uptake with each heartbeat. Thus, contrary to our hypothesis, beta-adrenergic blockade did not impair maximal or submaximal O2 uptake at high altitude due perhaps to compensatory mechanisms acting to maintain stroke volume and cardiac output.

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