Central Governor Theory

Central Governor Theory & Model – Is Fatigue Physiological Or Psychological?

The central governor theory is a process in the brain controls the exertion by the body. This is thought to control the intensity of how hard we can perform during physical activity without threatening the body.

In this article, we take a look behind this theory and also the theory of Central Fatigue.

Central Governor Theory & Model – A Complete Guide

The central governor theory is based around the assumption that the brain overrides the athlete’s ability to exercise, shutting down the body to protect itself from serious, or even permanent, damage.

This theory believes that a signal or a response is issued to the brain during exercise to preserve health rather than a physiological as we all once thought. This means that the likelihood of pushing physically harder is a possibility that we haven’t quite understood yet.

Nearly all athletes experience this during racing and training. When it gets difficult, the thought of pushing harder seems non-existent. Yet during the end of a workout or race, you are some how able to push that little bit harder.

Once your brain realizes this, it opens your biological pathways to push harder. But this doesn’t mean the physiological requirements aren’t genuine, it just means that the central governor theory is a balance between physical and biological systems, motivation, and pain tolerance. All these factors play a role in how hard you are able to push yourself.

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The biggest misunderstanding when looking into the central governor theory is that couldn’t we just learn to shut this out or train ourselves to push harder? But as written above the combination of physical and mental ability plays a key role in this.

So how do you have some effect on this central governor theory? By improving your ability to tolerate physical stress and discomfort. This is done by focusing on improving your ability to handle the physical and psychological demands of pushing your limits.

Central Fatigue Theory

Central Fatigue Theory

Central fatigue theory is a type of fatigue that links to variations in the synaptic concentration of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Which in turn, affects the athlete’s performance and muscular function.

The mechanisms of central fatigue are largely unexplored, but the central fatigue hypothesis suggests that it can cause a deterioration in sport and exercise performance.

This theory relates to biochemical changes in the brain that can force the athlete to stop the exercise or reduce the intensity. These circumstances can happen when, for example, body temperature increases too much during endurance exercise. Believed to be caused by a decrease in glycogen stores, branched-chain amino acid (BCAA), and an increase in free fatty acids in the blood level.

This exercise reduction could possibly be linked to the body’s way of protecting the vital organs from harmful effects with training under these conditions.

Through recent studies, it is believed that nutritional strategy could play a role in slowing down the effects of central fatigue during exercise. One of the studies involve BCAA supplementation, but unfortunately, the studies are limited and may not be viable. On the other hand, carbohydrate supplementation has been proven to be somewhat effective. But with the lack of scientific evidence, it is not 100% possible to distinguish the effects of carbohydrates on central fatigue mechanisms.

What Is The Physiological Basis For Muscle Fatigue?

Muscle fatigue is often caused by the decline in muscle force over periods of physical activity but can also be caused by pathological issues as well. Impaired blood flow, accumulation of lactic acid, ion imbalance, and Metabolic Fatigue are some of the major factors that can cause muscle fatigue.

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With adequate training, the metabolic capacity of a muscle can improve and delay the onset of muscle fatigue. Additionally, with increased exercise, both circulatory and respiratory improvements can help improve oxygen and glucose to the muscles, thus improving the delay in the onset of muscle fatigue.

Fatigue Physiological Or Psychological

Is Fatigue Physiological Or Psychological?

As stated with the central governor theory, fatigue is both physiological and psychological. When pushing the body hard during racing, the physiological fatigue translates to the inability of the muscles to maintain physical performance. While psychological fatigue stems from prolonged periods of demanding cognitive activity.

So is fatigue physiological or psychological? For the competitive athlete, it is technically both. Fatigue is a weakening or reduction of one’s physical and/or mental resources. For the competitive athlete, this can be caused by either a general state of lethargy or fatigue in the muscles when training.

But fatigue, in general, is classed as a physiological state. This means that both your mental and physical capability is affected. Whether this is through lack of sleep or increased workload, it affects everyone, not only the athlete.

Its been known for some time that mental fatigue can play a large role in physical performance, so remember to not only improve your fitness but your mind too.


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