A UNIVERSITY of Portsmouth sports scientist has discovered how exhausted athletes push themselves at the last second to try to win races.
Dr Jo Corbett has found the winning burst is due to the brain tapping into the body’s ‘anaerobic energy stores’ – produced by lactic acid fermentation when the muscles have no access to oxygen.
His research shows even when athletes reach physical fatigue they can improve performance by 1.7 per cent.
Dr Corbett said: ‘Most sports people know they perform harder and better when they are competing, but until now we didn’t know precisely why.
‘We’ve found out an athlete is able to dip further into their anaerobic energy reserves to beat their opponent.
‘Whenever you do exercise you’re likely to think “how much am I willing to hurt myself?” and there’s usually a point which holds you back because you don’t want to do yourself irreparable damage.
‘But when racing someone head-to-head the athlete’s brain can manipulate this signal and keep on going.’