The limits of human performance

Essays Biochem. 2008;44:11-25. doi: 10.1042/BSE0440011.

Abstract

Human performance, defined by mechanical resistance and distance per time, includes human, task and environmental factors, all interrelated. It requires metabolic energy provided by anaerobic and aerobic metabolic energy sources. These sources have specific limitations in the capacity and rate to provide re-phosphorylation energy, which determines individual ratios of aerobic and anaerobic metabolic power and their sustainability. In healthy athletes, limits to provide and utilize metabolic energy are multifactorial, carefully matched and include a safety margin imposed in order to protect the integrity of the human organism under maximal effort. Perception of afferent input associated with effort leads to conscious or unconscious decisions to modulate or terminate performance; however, the underlying mechanisms of cerebral control are not fully understood. The idea to move borders of performance with the help of biochemicals is two millennia old. Biochemical findings resulted in highly effective substances widely used to increase performance in daily life, during preparation for sport events and during competition, but many of them must be considered as doping and therefore illegal. Supplements and food have ergogenic potential; however, numerous concepts are controversially discussed with respect to legality and particularly evidence in terms of usefulness and risks. The effect of evidence-based nutritional strategies on adaptations in terms of gene and protein expression that occur in skeletal muscle during and after exercise training sessions is widely unknown. Biochemical research is essential for better understanding of the basic mechanisms causing fatigue and the regulation of the dynamic adaptation to physical and mental training.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Sports / psychology