Methods: After a familiarization period, six well-trained males participated in a diet and exercise regimen lasting 9 d and comprising three cycling tests to exhaustion. A work rate was selected during the familiarization period that would result in fatigue after approximately 90-100 min at an ambient temperature of 10 degrees C (i.e., approximately 75% of VO2max). The first exercise test was a depletion trial and was preceded by a period during which the subjects' normal diet was consumed. A prescribed 70% carbohydrate (CHO) diet was then consumed for 3.5 d. After this diet, a second exercise test was performed; one of two isoenergetic experimental meals was consumed 4 h before this test (70% CHO meal, CHO trial; or 90% fat meal, fat trial). The second exercise test was followed by a further 3.5-d period on the high CHO diet. Four hours before the third test, subjects consumed the other meal. Heparin was administered intravenously 30 min (1000 U), 15 min (500 U), and 0 min (500 U) before exercise on the fat trial. Subjects were assigned to the two meals in randomized order.
Results: Time to exhaustion increased from 118.2 (12.4) min on the CHO trial to 127.9 (12.1) min on the fat trial (P = 0.001). Although no difference in VO2, RER, HR or RPE was found between trials, there was an earlier reduction in RER and an earlier rise in RPE on the fat trial. No difference in total CHO oxidation was found between trials (383 +/- 70 g on the CHO trial and 362 +/- 59 g on the fat trial).
Conclusions: These results suggest that increasing fat availability immediately before exercise by acute fat feeding and heparin infusion can improve endurance exercise in a cool environment in well-trained individuals. This study was not intended to have immediate application to the sports performance field but rather to contribute to our understanding of the factors that may limit endurance performance. Heparin injection to elevate plasma fatty acid concentration would not represent sound medical practice.