Lower energy cost of skeletal muscle contractions in older humans

Michael A. Tevald, Stephen A. Foulis, Ian R. Lanza, Jane A. Kent-Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Recent studies suggest that the cost of muscle contraction may be reduced in old age, which could be an important mediator of age-related differences in muscle fatigue under some circumstances. We used phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy and electrically elicited contractions to examine the energetic cost of ankle dorsiflexion in 9 young (Y; 26 ± 3.8 yr; mean ± SD) and 9 older healthy men (O; 72 ± 4.6). We hypothesized that the energy cost of twitch and tetanic contractions would be lower in O and that this difference would be greater during tetanic contractions at f50 (frequency at 50% of peak force from force-frequency relationship) than at 25 Hz. The energy costs of a twitch (O = 0.13 ± 0.04 mM ATP/twitch, Y = 0.18 ± 0.06; P = 0.045) and a 60-s tetanus at 25 Hz (O = 1.5 ± 0.4 mM ATP/s, Y = 2.0 ± 0.2; P = 0.01) were 27% and 26% lower in O, respectively, while the respective force ·time integrals were not different. In contrast, energy cost during a 90-s tetanus at f50 (O = 10.9 ± 2.0 Hz, Y = 14.8 ± 2.1 Hz; P = 0.002) was 49% lower in O (1.0 ± 0.2 mM ATP/s) compared with Y (1.9 ± 0.2; P < 0.001). Y had greater force potentiation during the f50 protocol, which accounted for the greater age difference in energy cost at f50 compared with 25 Hz. These results provide novel evidence of an age-related difference in human contractile energy cost in vivo and suggest that intramuscular changes contribute to the lower cost of contraction in older muscle. This difference in energetics may provide an important mechanism for the enhanced fatigue resistance often observed in older individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R729-R739
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • ATP
  • Bioenergetics
  • Dorsiflexors
  • Force-frequency
  • Magnetic resonance
  • Twitch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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