Effect of topical menthol gel on power output during 30-second high intensity anaerobic exercise

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Hawkins, William C.
Rogers, Michael E.
Patterson, Jeremy A.
Simmons, Cali K.

Hawkins, Will C.; Rogers, Michael E.; Patterson, Jeremy A.; Simmons, Cali K. 2012. Effect of topical menthol gel on power output during 30-second high intensity anaerobic exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, v.44 no.2 pp.806-807


Topical menthol gel has been reported to reduce acute pain and studies of its effects as a cryotherapy tool have revealed levels of vasoconstriction similar to that of ice. During and following intense anaerobic activity when large amounts of lactate are being produced, lactate is cleared within muscle or transported from muscle to liver as it accumulates. Therefore, if blood flow is restricted then the ability to clear lactate and recover from a bout of intense exercise may be attenuated. PURPOSE: To determine if the topical application of menthol gel has any effect on blood lactate accumulation levels during a 30-second sprint. METHOD: 30 participants (14 male; 16 female) aged 20-38 (24.4 + 4.8) years each completed two trials, one with menthol gel and one without, with 48 hours between trials. For the trial with gel, a dose of 1ml of gel for every 200 cm2 sq cm of surface area was applied bilaterally to the anterior thigh area of each participant. For both trials, following a brief (2-3 sec) unloaded acceleration period, participants pedaled as fast as possible against a load of 0.75 kg kg¯¹ body mass for 30 sec. Blood lactate measures were obtained immediately after each trial. RESULTS: Mean + SD for blood lactate for the control group was 8.88 + 3.8 mmol. The trial group the mean + SD for blood lactate was 9.28 + 5.69 mmol. There were no statistical differences (p<0.05) between blood lactate levels with or without topical menthol gel application. CONCLUSION: Blood lactate levels immediately following exercise do not appear to be affected by using topical menthol gel. Given that our other research has revealed no higher power outputs with the use of topical menthol gel, it appears that anaerobic metabolism is unaffected by its use. However, future studies should evaluate local blood flow and lactate measures at longer post-exercise sampling times that would take into consideration the delay in transporting lactic acid from tissue to blood.

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