The researchers took some endurance athletes and replaced their regular endurance style training with "frequent high-intensity sessions each consisting of 8–12 30-s sprint runs separated by 3 min of rest".
There was a big reduction in training volume but these guys maintained their fitness and actually got more efficient at using energy....
Four weeks of speed endurance training reduces energy expenditure during exercise and maintains muscle oxidative capacity despite a reduction in training volume
We studied the effect of an alteration from regular endurance to speed endurance training on muscle oxidative capacity, capillarization, as well as energy expenditure during submaximal exercise and its relationship to mitochondrial uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3) in humans. Seventeen endurance-trained runners were assigned to either a speed endurance training (SET; n = 9) or a control (Con; n = 8) group. For a 4-wk intervention (IT) period, SET replaced the ordinary training (45 km/wk) with frequent high-intensity sessions each consisting of 8–12 30-s sprint runs separated by 3 min of rest (5.7 ± 0.1 km/wk) with additional 9.9 ± 0.3 km/wk at low running speed, whereas Con continued the endurance training. After the IT period, oxygen uptake was 6.6, 7.6, 5.7, and 6.4% lower (P < 0.05) at running speeds of 11, 13, 14.5, and 16 km/h, respectively, in SET, whereas remained the same in Con. No changes in blood lactate during submaximal running were observed. After the IT period, the protein expression of skeletal muscle UCP3 tended to be higher in SET (34 ± 6 vs. 47 ± 7 arbitrary units; P = 0.06). Activity of muscle citrate synthase and 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase, as well as maximal oxygen uptake and 10-km performance time, remained unaltered in both groups. In SET, the capillary-to-fiber ratio was the same before and after the IT period. The present study showed that speed endurance training reduces energy expenditure during submaximal exercise, which is not mediated by lowered mitochondrial UCP3 expression. Furthermore, speed endurance training can maintain muscle oxidative capacity, capillarization, and endurance performance in already trained individuals despite significant reduction in the amount of training.