Mental fatigue impairs time trial performance in sub-elite under 23 cyclists
This study investigates the effect of a mentally demanding response inhibitory task on time trial performance in sub-elite under 23 cyclists.
Ten under 23 road cyclists completed two separate testing sessions during which they performed two different cognitive tasks before completing a 30-min time trial on the cycle ergometer. In the experimental condition, 30 min of a standard cognitive task (Stroop task) was used to elicit mental fatigue; in the control condition, a non-demanding activity was carried out. Subjective workload and mood were measured before and after the treatments, and motivation was recorded before the time-trial. During the time trial, power, cadence, heart rate, and rate of perceived exertion were assessed. Blood lactate concentrations and heart rate variability (using the root mean square of the successive differences) were measured before and after the time trial.
The Stroop task was rated more mentally (P < 0.001) and temporally (P < 0.001) demanding, effortful (P < 0.001), and frustrating (P = 0.001) than the control task; fatigue (P = 0.002) and vigor (P = 0.018) after the cognitive tasks were respectively higher and lower than in the control task. Mean power output (P = 0.007) and cadence (P = 0.043) were negatively affected by the Stroop task, while heart rate (P = 0.349), rating of perceived exertion (P = 0.710), blood lactate concentration (P = 0.850), and root mean square of the successive differences (P = 0.355) did not differ between the two conditions.
A mentally demanding activity reduced the subsequent physical performance in sub-elite under 23 cyclists. Thus, avoiding cognitive efforts before training and races could improve performance of high-level athletes.