Impact of aerobic fitness status, menstrual cycle phase, and oral contraceptive use on exercise substrate oxidation and metabolic flexibility in females.


The influence of menstrual cycle phase and fitness status on metabolism during high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE) was assessed. Twenty-five females (24.4(3.6) yr) were categorized by normal menstrual cycle (n = 14) vs. oral contraceptive use (n = 11) and by aerobic fitness, high fit females (HFF: n = 13) vs. low fit females (LFF: n = 12). HIIE was four sets of four repetitions with 3 min rest between intervals on a cycle ergometer at a power output halfway between the ventilatory threshold and V̇O2peak and performed during follicular (FOL: day 2-7 or inactive pills) and luteal phases (LUT: day ~21 or 3rd week of active pills). Substrate oxidation was assessed via indirect calorimetry, blood lactate via finger stick, and recovery skeletal muscle oxidative metabolism (mV̇O2) via continuous-wave near-infrared spectroscopy. HFF oxidized more fat (g•kg-1) during the full session (FOL: p = 0.050, LUT: p = 0.001), high intervals (FOL: p = 0.048, LUT: p = 0.001), low intervals (FOL: p = 0.032, LUT: p = 0.024) and LUT recovery (p = 0.033). Carbohydrate oxidation area under the curve was greater in HFF during FOL (FOL: p = 0.049, LUT: p = 0.124). Blood lactate was lower in LFF in FOL (p ≤ 0.05) but not LUT. Metabolic flexibility (Δ fat oxidation g•kg-1•min-1) was greater in HFF than LFF during intervals 2-3 in FOL and 1-4 in LUT (p ≤ 0.05). Fitness status more positively influences exercise metabolic flexibility during HIIE than cycle phase or OC use.

Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism