The role of O2 supply in muscle fatigue

Can J Appl Physiol. 2002 Feb;27(1):56-69. doi: 10.1139/h02-004.


It is well established that altering O2 delivery to contracting skeletal muscle affects human performance. In this respect, a reduced O2 supply (e.g., hypoxia) increases the rate of muscle fatigue, whereas increasing O2 supply (e.g., hyperoxia) reduces the rate of fatigue. Interestingly, the faster onset of fatigue in moderate hypoxia does not appear to be a consequence of mitochondrial O2 limitation because these effects occur at submaximal rates of O2 consumption for these conditions and at O2 tensions well above that which impairs mitochondrial O2 uptake in vitro. Alterations in O2 supply modulate the regulation of cellular respiration and may affect the onset of impaired Ca2+ handling with fatigue. Specifically, changes in O2 supply alter the coupling between phosphocreatine hydrolysis and O2 uptake in contracting muscles, which by determining the rate of inorganic phosphate (Pi) accumulation may affect Ca2+ release. Partial ischemia differs somewhat in that the reduction in force could be due to reduced O2 supply and/or impaired removal of metabolic by-products secondary to insufficient blood flow. Nonetheless, recent evidence shows a parallel decline and restoration of force with alterations in O2 supply but not blood flow alone during submaximal contractions. Furthermore, the causes of fatigue are similar when O2 is plentiful and when it is reduced.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hyperoxia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*


  • Oxygen