Load carriage physiology in normoxia and hypoxia


Abstract Purpose To determine the effects of load carriage in normoxia and normobaric hypoxia on ventilatory responses, hemodynamics, tissue oxygenation, and metabolism. Methods Healthy males (n = 12) completed 3 randomly ordered baseline graded exercise tests in the following conditions: (1) unloaded normoxic (U: F I O 2 = 20.93%), (2) loaded (~ 30 kg) normoxic (LN), and (3) loaded hypoxic simulating ~ 3650 m (LH: F I O 2 =  ~ 13%). Thereafter, experimental exercise trials were completed in quasi-randomized order (i.e., U completed first) consisting of 3 × 10 min of walking (separated by 5 min seated rest) with stages matched with the U condition (in ascending order) for relative intensity, absolute oxygen consumption ([VO 2 ]; 1.7 L min −1 ), and walking speed (1.45 ± 0.15 m s −1 ). Results Load carriage increased perceived exertion and reduced VO 2max (LN: − 7%; LH: − 32%; p textless 0.05). At matched VO 2 , stroke volume and tidal volume were reduced and maintained with LN and LH vs. U, respectively ( p textless 0.05). Increases in cardiac output and minute ventilation at matched VO 2 (with LH) and speed (with LN and LH), were primarily accomplished via increases in heart rate and breathing frequency ( p textless 0.05). Cerebral oxygenated hemoglobin (O 2 HHb) was increased at all intensities with LN, but deoxygenated hemoglobin and total hemoglobin were increased with LH ( p textless 0.05). Muscle oxygen kinetics and substrate utilization were similar between LN and U, but LH increased CHO dependence and reduced muscle O 2 HHb at matched speed ( p textless 0.05). Conclusion Load carriage reduces cardiorespiratory efficiency and increases physiological strain, particularly in hypoxic environments. Potential load carriage-induced alterations in cerebral blood flow may increase the risk for altitude illnesses and requires further study.

European Journal of Applied Physiology