Training with low muscle glycogen enhances fat metabolism in well-trained cyclists

Carl J. Hulston, Michelle C. Venables, Chris H. Mann, Cara Martin, Andrew Philp, Keith Baar, Asker E. Jeukendrup

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine the effects of training with low muscle glycogen on exercise performance, substrate metabolism, and skeletal muscle adaptation. Methods: Fourteen well-trained cyclists were pair-matched and randomly assigned to HIGH- or LOW-glycogen training groups. Subjects performed nine aerobic training (AT; 90 min at 70% V̇O2max) and nine high-intensity interval training sessions (HIT; 8 × 5-min efforts, 1-min recovery) during a 3-wk period. HIGH trained once daily, alternating between AT on day 1 and HIT the following day, whereas LOW trained twice every second day, first performing AT and then, 1 h later, performing HIT. Pretraining and posttraining measures were a resting muscle biopsy, metabolic measures during steady-state cycling, and a time trial. Results: Power output during HIT was 297 ± 8 W in LOW compared with 323 ± 9 W in HIGH (P < 0.05); however, time trial performance improved by ∼10% in both groups (P < 0.05). Fat oxidation during steady-state cycling increased after training in LOW (from 26 ± 2 to 34 ± 2 μmolkgmin, P < 0.01). Plasma free fatty acid oxidation was similar before and after training in both groups, but muscle-derived triacylglycerol oxidation increased after training in LOW (from 16 ± 1 to 23 ± 1 μmolkgmin, P < 0.05). Training with low muscle glycogen also increased β-hydroxyacyl-CoA-dehydrogenase protein content (P < 0.01). Conclusions: Training with low muscle glycogen reduced training intensity and, in performance, was no more effective than training with high muscle glycogen. However, fat oxidation was increased after training with low muscle glycogen, which may have been due to the enhanced metabolic adaptations in skeletal muscle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2046-2055
Number of pages10
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • exercise performance
  • skeletal muscle
  • substrate metabolism
  • Training adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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