Changes in energy system contributions to the Wingate anaerobic test in climbers after a high altitude expedition



The Wingate anaerobic test measures the maximum anaerobic capacity of the lower limbs. The energy sources of Wingate test are dominated by anaerobic metabolism (~ 80%). Chronic high altitude exposure induces adaptations on skeletal muscle function and metabolism. Therefore, the study aim was to investigate possible changes in the energy system contribution to Wingate test before and after a high-altitude sojourn.


Seven male climbers performed a Wingate test before and after a 43-day expedition in the Himalaya (23 days above 5.000 m). Mechanical parameters included: peak power (PP), average power (AP), minimum power (MP) and fatigue index (FI). The metabolic equivalents were calculated as aerobic contribution from O2 uptake during the 30-s exercise phase (WVO2), lactic and alactic anaerobic energy sources were determined from net lactate production (WLa) and the fast component of the kinetics of post-exercise oxygen uptake (WPCr), respectively. The total metabolic work (WTOT) was calculated as the sum of the three energy sources.


PP and AP decreased from 7.3 ± 1.1 to 6.7 ± 1.1 W/kg and from 5.9 ± 0.7 to 5.4 ± 0.8 W/kg, respectively, while FI was unchanged. WTOT declined from 103.9 ± 28.7 to 83.8 ± 17.8 kJ. Relative aerobic contribution remained unchanged (19.9 ± 4.8% vs 18.3 ± 2.3%), while anaerobic lactic and alactic contributions decreased from 48.3 ± 11.7 to 43.1 ± 8.9% and increased from 31.8 ± 14.5 to 38.6 ± 7.4%, respectively.


Chronic high altitude exposure induced a reduction in both mechanical and metabolic parameters of Wingate test. The anaerobic alactic relative contribution increased while the anaerobic lactic decreased, leaving unaffected the overall relative anaerobic contribution to Wingate test.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2



Average power


Confidence interval


Cohen’s d effect size


Fatigue index

[La-]b :

Blood lactate concentration


Minimum power

p :

Statistical significance for t test


Peak power


Standard deviation

\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2}\) :

Oxygen uptake

V thigh :

Muscle-bone thigh volume


Wingate anaerobic test

W La :

Anaerobic lactic contribution

W PCr :

Anaerobic alactic contribution

W VO2 :

Aerobic contribution


Total metabolic work

\(\dot{W}_{{{\text{TOT}}}}\) :

Total metabolic power


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The authors would like to acknowledge all participants who volunteered to participate in the experiment.

Author information




CD, GFI, FE conceived and designed research. CD, VV, TP conducted experiments. CD, SL, SR, EC, AVB, FE analyzed data. CD, SR, EL, SS, EC, GC, VV discussed data. CD, GFI, EC, GC, FE wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Christian Doria.

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Communicated by Guido Ferretti.

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Doria, C., Verratti, V., Pietrangelo, T. et al. Changes in energy system contributions to the Wingate anaerobic test in climbers after a high altitude expedition. Eur J Appl Physiol 120, 1629–1636 (2020).

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  • Wingate
  • Anaerobic test
  • Anaerobic metabolism
  • Energy sources
  • High altitude
  • Chronic hypoxia