Stone, M. R., Thomas, K., Wilkinson, M., Jones, A. M., Gibson, A. St. C., & Thompson, K. G. (2012). Effects of deception on exercise performance: implications for determinants of fatigue in humans. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44, 534-541.

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This study investigated whether it is possible to reduce the time taken to complete a 4000-m cycling time-trial by misleading Ss into believing they were racing against a previous trial when, the power output was actually 2% greater. Trained male cyclists (N = 9) completed four 4000-m time-trials. The first trial was for habituation and the second-trial data were used as baseline. During trials 3 and 4, Ss raced against an avatar, which they were informed represented their baseline performance. However, whereas one of these trials was an accurate representation of baseline, the power output in the other trial was set at 102% of baseline and formed the deception condition. Oxygen uptake and respiratory exchange ratio were measured continuously and used to determine aerobic and anaerobic contributions to power output.

There was a significant difference between trials for time-to-completion. Ss completed the deception ride quicker than baseline and the accurate ride. The accurate ride was completed quicker than baseline. The difference in performance between the deception and accurate rides was attributable to a greater anaerobic contribution to power output for 90% of the total distance.

Implication. The provision of surreptitiously augmented feedback derived from a previous performance reduces the time taken for cyclists to accomplish a time-trial of known duration. The extra energy for the improved performance had to come from somewhere. It is suggested that cyclists operate with a metabolic reserve even during maximal time-trials and that this reserve can be accessed after deception. Thus, one cannot be sure that a maximum effort is truly maximal. The challenge is to tap the reserves that are retained in normal maximum efforts so that superior performances can be achieved.

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