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Refer to: Locksley R: Fuel utilization in marathons: Implications

for performance-Medical Staff Conference, University

of California, San Francisco. West J Med 133:493-502,
Dec 1980
Medical Staf Conference

Fuel Utilization in Marathons:

Implications for Performance
These discusslons are selected from the weekly staff conferences In the
Department of Medllne, University of Callfornla, San Francisco. Taken
from transcriptions, they are prepared by Drs. David W. Martin, Jr, Pro-
fessor of Medicine, and James L. Naughton, Assistant Professor of Medl-
cine, under the directlon of Dr. Lloyd H. Smith, Jr, Professor of Medllne
and Chalrman of the Department of Mediclne. Requests for reprlnts should
be sent to the Department of Medlilne, University of Callfornla, San Fran-
cisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA 94143.

DR. SMITH: * In keeping with our yearly tradition, was undertaken to provide background for these
this Medical Grand Rounds will be presented by emerging concepts, as well as to assist runners
our chief resident. Dr. Richard Locksley will dis- preparing for such an event.
cuss fuel utilization in marathons, and its impli- The energy expenditure of a marathon is
cations for performance. This is not just of aca- roughly 60 kcal per km (96 kcal per mile). Pace
demic interest to Dr. Locksley because he has has little effect on the caloric cost per mile."," The
run the marathon in less than 2 hours and 30 intensity of a competitive marathon is between
minutes himself. 70 percent and 80 percent of the maximal oxygen
uptake (Vo2 max). Vo2 max defines the point at
DR. LOCKSLEY:t Marathons have become increas- which oxygen consumption and combustion can
ingly popular races in the United States, with more no longer keep up with the breakdown of adeno-
than 50,000 men and women runners completing sine triphosphate (ATP) by contracting muscles;
such races in 1979. The high intensity and pro- that is, when oxidative (or aerobic) exercise can
longed duration of these grueling 42 km (26.2 no longer continue. Thus, a marathon is an aero-
mile) road races clearly illustrate the role of body bic event. This contrasts to the sprint events, in
fuels in sustained exercise. Furthermore, a study which ATP is supplied principally by anaerobic
of high-intensity prolonged aerobic exercise can glycolysis and consumption of the stored phos-
shed light on many facets of intermediary metabo- phagens ATP and creatine phosphate.
lism that are broadly applicable to other hyper- The fuel stores in an average man in the rest-
catabolic states, such as occur in trauma, starva- ing postabsorptive state are given in Table 1. At
tion or during surgical procedures. Recent data the pace of a competitive marathon, if only car-
increasingly suggest several metabolic benefits of bohydrate stores (glucose and glycogen) were
long-distance running." 2 The following review used, the blood glucose would be consumed in
*Lloyd H. Smith, Jr, MD, Professor and Chairman, Department less than half a mile, the hepatic glycogen by two
of Medicine.
tRichard Locksley, MD, Chief Medical Resident. miles, and the entire muscle glycogen supply in an

additional four miles. Obviously the large adipose

ABBREVIATIONS USED IN TEXT reserve must be mobilized for fuel. Protein is
acetyl-CoA = acetylcoenzyme A largely, although not entirely,5 inaccessible as fuel.
ADP = adenosine diphosphate Muscle fuels are either endogenous (glycogen
ATP = adenosine triphosphate and triglyceride) or exogenous (free fatty acids
FFA = free fatty acids
Vo2 max= maximal oxygen uptake [FFA] and glucose)., Endogenous fuels are han-
dled more efficiently because they do not re-
quire mobilization or uptake, and are instantly
available for energy when the contractile appara-
TABLE 1.-Fuel Reserves in an Average Man* tus activates.
Fuel Reserves in an The reservoir for blood glucose is hepatic gly-
A erage Man
Fuel Tissue Kcal Grams cogen, which is converted through a series of
enzymatic steps to glucose-6-phosphate. This in
Triglyceride . . Adipose tissue 100,000 15,000 turn is converted to glucose by the enzyme glu-
Glycogen .... Liver 200 70
Muscle 400 120 cose-6-phosphatase, and delivered into the blood
Glucose ... Body fluids 40 20 for use by body tissues. Muscle lacks glucose-
Protein . Muscle 25,000 6,000 6-phosphatase. Hence, muscle glycogen can only
*Reprinted by permission from Newsholme,34 p 88. by utilized by the individual muscle fiber in which

TABLE 2.-Characteristics of Type I and Type 11 Fibers in Human Skeletal Muscle

Studied in Needle-Biopsy Specimens of Quadriceps*
Characteristic Tvve 11Fibers
A ypr, Al a sucta Tvne
Iype II rFihpr.vr

Reaction to myosin ATPase stain ..................................... Pale staining, Dark staining,

low activity high activity
Morphology and histochemistry
Fiber size, j (untrained men) ..................................... 68.9 69.2
Relative fiber frequency, % (untrained men) ........................ 58 42
Capillary, no. of capillary contacts per unit cross-section (,u210-). 1.03 0.85
a-Glycerophosphate dehydrogenase, microphotometry ................. Lower activity Higher activity
NADH tetrazolium reductase, microphotoinetry ...................... Higher activity Lower activity
Relaxation rate (% force loss per 10 milliseconds) .................... 7.6 15.7
Contraction time (milliseconds to peak twitch)t ...................... 102,60,105,102 44,62
(4 motor units)l (2 motor units)
Repetitive stimulation ....... ................................... Resistalnt Fatigable
Repetitive voluntary contractions ..... ............................ Resistalnt Fatigable
Metabolic heat production (cal * minm'g-') ..... ........................ 0.35 2.15
Enzyme activity (pooled or individual fibers, freeze dried)
mol * 10-4g * protein-'min-' (24°C) ..... .......................... 0.3 0.85
Creatinine phosphokinase
mol * 10-4g * protein-'min-' (24°C) ..... .......................... 13.1 16.6
mol 10-4g * protein-'min-' (24°C) ..... ........................... 6.6 12.1
Lactate dehydrogenase (lactate-*pyruvate)
mol * 10-4g protein-1min-' (24°C) ..... ........................... 1.45 3.66
mmol * kg-1min-' (25°C) ...... ................................. 25.8 49.4
Succinate dehydrogenase
mmol * kg-1min-' (25°C) ...... ................................. 29.6 19.3
Energy stores (pooled or individual fibers, freeze dried)
Glycogen, mmol * kg-1... .......................................... 355 359
Triglyceride, mmol * kg-1.. ........................................ 207 74
NADH = nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide
*Source: Edwards R, Young A, Wiles M: Needle biopsy of skeletal muscle in the diagnosis of myopathy and the clinical study of
muscle function and repair. N Engl J Med 302:261-271, Jan 31, 1980
fDetermined in medial gastrocnemius, peroneus longus.

494 DECEMBER 1980 * 133 * 6


the glycogen is stored. The glucose-6-phosphate studies have documented positive correlations be-
units enter the Embden-Meyerhof pathway for tween Vo, max and percent of type I fibers, and
cellular combustion. Similarly, the reservoir for between time to fatigue and percent of type II
the plasma free fatty acids is the body adipose fibers.13'4 That elite athletes gravitate to events
tissue. Hormonal stimulation of adipose lipase at which they have genetic favorability is sub-
cleaves stored triglyceride into glycerol and three stantiated by biopsy data showing a high propor-
FFA, which are released into the blood. As is the tion of type I fibers (up to and over 90 percent)
case for muscle glycogen, muscle triglyceride is in successful long-distance runners versus the pre-
not exportable, as shown by the inability to show dominance of type II fibers in sprinters.'5
glycerol efflux from working muscle.7 Training does not change the inherited propor-
tion of fiber types,'6 although there are data that
Fiber Types show conversion of type Ilb fibers to their more
Human skeletal muscle is a mosaic of two fiber oxidative type Ila profile with endurance train-
types, designated type I and type II on the basis ing.'7 Training, however, is much more important
of myofibrillar ATPase activity measured at alka- than genetics in predicting success. Endurance
line pH.8 Type II fibers (high ATPase activity) training further increases oxidative capacity by
are further subdivided into types Ila and Ilb inducing mitochondrial proliferation in the type I
(Table 2). The proportion of fiber types is ge- fibers,'8 changing type II fibers to a more oxida-
netically inherited and independent of sex, al- tive profile,'7 enhancing the activity of enzymes
though variability is greater in males.9 The which mobilize and transport fatty acids to the
average composition of the human quadriceps muscle,19-24 and increasing sensitivity to the
muscle is 52 percent type I, 33 percent type Ila various hormones which orchestrate the metabolic
and 14 percent type lIb. response.2 This increased oxidative capacity is
As shown in Table 2, type I, or slow twitch reflected by the increased Vo., max in elite dis-
fibers, are characterized by higher oxidative en- tance runners. However, fuel utilization charac-
zyme activities, greater vascularization, higher teristics are applicable to all runners of all abili-
myoglobin content and higher lipid stores.10 These ties, and the following comments apply to all
fibers are ideally suited for activity of myofibrillar runners.
ATPase and glycolytic enzymes. Type II fibers Endogenous Fuels
develop peak tension more rapidly than type 1
fibers, but fatigue more rapidly, because of their Triglyceride
lesser oxidative capabilities. Type Ila fibers have Although muscle triglyceride can contribute up
greater oxidative capacity than type Ilb fibers.10 to between 50 percent and 70 percent of the total
Glycogen content is the same in both types of fatty substrate with exercise,6 the endogenous tri-
muscle fiber. By doing biopsies on muscle after glyceride levels in muscle seem not to affect per-
different types of exercise, the degree of glycogen formance. Depletion rates are related to the
depletion in each of the fiber types gives an indi- amount stored, and not to intensity or duration
cation of which type is used preferentially."1"12 As of exercise.26 In fact, elite runners have lower
expected, type I fibers are utilized for prolonged, endogenous muscle lipid levels. The lesser im-
aerobic work. Type II fibers are used for high portance of endogenous lipid supply to total fat
intensity work of short duration. In exercise at metabolism may be related to the fact that FFA
marathon intensity (70 percent to 80 percent uptake is not rate-limiting in muscle.27
Vo, max) type I fibers are used primarily. Type
II fibers are utilized at the initiation of exercise, Glycogen
before vasodilatation and substrate delivery to Repeat muscle biopsy specimens obtained dur-
type I fibers are maximal, and are recruited as ing the course of running at a steady intensity to
exercise is prolonged and type I fibers fatigue. exhaustion show a curvilinear decline in muscle
Thus, recruitment of type II fibers is dependent on glycogen as exercise is continued. The amount of
the intensity and duration of exercise. muscle glycogen decreases from a normal level of
As might be expected, an increased proportion 9 to 20 grams per kg of muscle to 0.6 to 1.0
of type I fibers would confer a metabolic advan- gram per kg (wet weight).28 With muscle gly-
tage in an event like the marathon, because of the cogen depletion, exhaustion occurs and the run-
increased aerobic capacity of the muscle. Several ning pace can no longer be sustained. Regardless

gIioog The other critical point about glycogen deple-

muscle Glycogen utilized tion is that the rate of utilization is directly pro-
2.or portional to exercise intensity (percent Vo2 max),
or pace (Figure 1) .28 Whereas fats alone can
1 ., supply most of the needs for resting muscle, exer-
cising muscle has an obligate requirement for car-
1. 01
bohydrate substrate, which is met primarily by
glycogen, and this obligate requirement increases
with intensity of effort.
0.51 The reason for this obligate use of glycogen is
not entirely clear, but may be related to the fol-
Oxygen uptake C/. of maximal) lowing: increasing recruitment of glycolytic type
50 75 100 II fibers as pace quickens,1"2; the greater high-
Figure 1.-Decrease of muscle glycogen after one energy phosphate yield per mole of oxygen con-
hour of exercise at three different work levels (mean sumed for carbohydrates (P:O = 3.0) in compari-
±SD, n=8). (Reprinted by permission from Hermansen son to fats (P:O=2.8 for palmitic acid, the most
et al,28 p 129.)
abundant saturated fatty acid) 32; the increasing
of the pre-exercise glycogen level, fatigue occurs hormonal stimulus to glycogenolysis as intensity
with glycogen depletion.29 At intensities of 70 increases, principally mediated by increasing cate-
percent Vo2 max, pace cannot be sustained when cholamine levels,33 and the increasing cellular
muscle glycogen content falls below 3 to 5 grams adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to adenosine tri-
per kg of muscle.30 No other variable, including phosphate ratio, which favors glycolysis over fatty
blood glucose, lactate, pyruvate, change in heart acid oxidation.34
rate or oxygen consumption, or fall in body weight The performance corollary is that increasing
(with fluid depletion), correlates so consistently intensity (pace) will shift the glycogen depletion
with fatigue during sustained aerobic exercise. curve to the lfft, and for a given exercise intensity,
Glycogen depletion occurs in a characteristic pat- shorten the duration of sustained effort. The rate
tern during aerobic exercise of this intensity, first of muscle glycogen depletion in the marathon
from the aerobic type I fibers and only later from effort (70 percent to 80 percent Vo2 max) is ap-
type II fibers as they become recruited." proximately 0.5 gram per kg of muscle per km.30
Two important points about the glycogen de- Realizing that glycogen depletion determines
pletion pattern deserve emphasis. First, at a given duration of exercise, a simple calculation under-
exercise intensity (70 percent to 80 percent Vo2 scores the marathon runner's dilemma. Assuming
max for the marathon), the pre-exercise glycogen a working muscle mass of 20 to 25 kg, and a nor-
content of the muscle will determine the duration mal glycogen content of about 18 grams per kg of
of sustained optimal pace. Second, the shape of muscle, the available muscle glycogen will be ap-
the curve shows a disproportionate depletion oc- proximately 400 grams. At the known glycogen
curring at the initiation of exercise. Much of this, depletion rate for marathon pace, 10 to 12.5
up to 20 percent of the total glycogen utilized, is grams of glycogen will be used per km as obligate
consumed in the first five minutes of exercise.6 substrate. Therefore, total glycogen depletion will
This "glycogen burst," perceived by the runner occur between 32 and 40 km (19.8 and 24.8
as discomfort before the "second wind" begins, is miles) of a 42 km (26.2 mile) race.
due to the recruitment of type II glycolytic fibers What happens then is known in runner's par-
for anaerobic glycolysis at the beginning of run- lance as "hitting the wall." Although other factors
ning, before blood flow is redistributed to the contribute to the "wall" in the marathon, includ-
working muscles bringing oxygen and substrates ing dehydration and mental fatigue, glycogen
for oxidative metabolism. Whether true local hy- stores are the final determinant of exercise dura-
poxemia or high catecholamine levels (principally tion at this intensity.
epinephrine) at the beginning of the race mediate It follows from the shape of the glycogen de-
the glycogen burst is unclear. The glycogen burst pletion curve that attempts to either shift the
is reflected by the rising levels of lactate in blood curve upwards and to the right, or change the
and muscle at the onset of exercise, which gradu- rate of depletion, would enhance endurance.
ally clear as exercise continues.6'3' The influence of diet on exercise performance
496 DECEMBER 1980 * 133 * 6

was described by Christensen and Hansen in WORK TI ME

1939.35 They showed that subjects ingesting a
carbohydrate-rich diet could work substantially 300 /OIIsETS:
longer than those ingesting a protein-fat diet (210 liic.d
minutes to exhaustion versus 80). More recently, 0 Pmofesin is1
* fof
ar 2,800
Bergstrom and Hultman explored this relationship : ;XCaarbhydrt
'I"&^fo.ej *F.-
2c0 _
using muscle biopsy specimens.28'36 These inves-
tigators exercised subjects to glycogen depletion
at 75 percent Vo2 max, and then fed them either
a carbohydrate-poor or a carbohydrate-rich diet ieol-
for three days. They then re-exercised their sub-
As seen in Figure 2, duration of work corre- 720_
lated well with the initial glycogen level, as pre-
dicted. Surprisingly, a pronounced effect of diet
on glycogen storage was documented, with indi- 601-
vidual subjects storing up to 45 grams per kg of
muscle, more than double the normal upper limit.
This allowed a doubling of work duration at an in. 1
3 4
intensity of 75 percent Vo2 max. Note that these GLYCOGE0N %1X g MX scZe
data predict that a marathon run in less than 2 Figure 2.-Relationship between diet, initial glycogen
hours 30 minutes would be nearly impossible content in quadriceps femoris and work time in nine
without elevated glycogen stores. subjects exercised at the same intensity. (Reprinted
permission from Bergstrom & Hultman: JAMA 221:999,
Four important observations have been made 197236; copyright 1978, American Medical Association.)
regarding this supercompensation in glycogen
storage. Frequency of meals may also enhance carbohy-
* Supercompensation occurs only following drate loading, with improved storage observed
exercise-induced glycogen depletion. Carbohy- with two meals per day versus multiple smaller
drate-rich diets following a fast or low-carbohy- feedings with the same total caloric value.39
drate diet only replenish muscle stores to normal The performance aspects of glycogen loading
levels, and over several days.36 have been documented. Before competing in a 30
* If depletion is followed by two to three days km (18.6 mile) race, runners ate either a mixed
of low-carbohydrate diet, and then by a high- diet or followed the three-phase glycogen loading
carbohydrate diet, glycogen storage is significantly protocol, that is, a depleting run, followed by a
higher.29 low-carbohydrate intake for two days and a car-
* Glycogen storage occurs only in those mus- bohydrate-rich intake for three days. Three weeks
cles which have been depleted by previous exer- later, the same race was repeated under the same
cise, and only in those fibers which have been conditions, but all diets were switched. In every
depleted. Thus, in experiments studying one- case, the glycogen-loaded runner had a faster
legged exercise to exhaustion, only the depleted time. Fatigue and inability to maintain the initial
(exercised) leg supercompensated after high- pace occurred near the time that muscle glycogen
carbohydrate feeding.37 For a depleting run to be content fell below 3 to 5 grams per kg of muscle.30
effective, it must tax the same muscles and fiber Of note, glycogen loading did not increase the
types to be used in the race. initial pace for any of the runners, but only the
* Finally, fully 60 percent of the total storage duration for which optimal pace could be sus-
occurs in the first 10 hours following high-carbo- tained.
hydrate intake.38 Normal levels can be reached The reasons for supercompensated storage after
by 24 hours. Nearly all of the ingested carbohy- exercise are unknown, but may be related to ob-
drate over the first 24 hours is stored in muscle. served affinity changes in the insulin receptor with
Hepatic glycogen is also rapidly restored. Muscle exercise,40 starvation4' and high-carbohydrate
loading will continue for three to four days, but feeding.4' An additional benefit of glycogen load-
increasingly, excess caloric intake will be stored ing is the 2.7 grams of water stored intracellularly
as adipose rather than in carbohydrate deposits. with each gram of glycogen, and the 0.6 gram of



water formed by the metabolisni of 1 gram of At moderate work levels ingested glucose can
glycogen. Thus, each gram of glycogen stored in be utilized by working muscle, thus sparing
muscle yields just over 3 grams of water for re- muscle glycogen. But at marathon race pace,
pleting evaporative losses incurred with exercise.'; ingested glucose has little sparing effect on gly-
cogen.55 This may be due to the increased epi-
Exogenous Fuels nephrine levels at high work loads. In fact, large
Glucose doses of glucose preceding exercise will raise
The blood glucose represents a relatively small portal vein insulin levels and substantially lower
caloric source (20 grams) which must be pre- blood sugar by impairing hepatic glucose output.56
served for utilization by the brain, blood cells and
anaerobic tissues of the body. With exercise, pe- Fr-ee Faux Acids
ripheral uptake of glucose is greatly enhanced, Free fatty acids are the major exogenous sub-
despite the falling insulin levels, a feature ap- strate for working muscle. They are taken up and
preciated by diabetes specialists years ago. The oxidized almost to completion in direct relation-
exercise-induced glucose uptake does require ship to arterial concentration.7'57 The rate-limiting
small amounts of insulin, probably less than 10 to step in muscle FFA use is in mobilization from
12 mU per mi.4' As exercise is continued, glucose adipose stores. The latter occurs principally
turnover can increase 10-fold to 15-fold, and by through norepinephrine stimulation of adipose
three hours at moderate intensity can account for lipase, 5 which cleaves triglyceride, yielding glyc-
about a third of the total oxidative metabolism of erol and three FFA molecules, which are trans-
the let in human subjects."' In trained runners, ported in blood bound to albumin.
who display improved FFA mobilization and utili- At initiation of running, FFA levels decline
zation, less glucose is used, but it may still account owing to uptake by working muscle.5' Subsequent
for 10 percent to 20 percent of total metabolic FFA mobilization is rapid, mediated by sympa-
nceds. thetic outflow and falling insulin levels. After the
Hepatic glucose output increases progressively initial lag, mobilization outstrips uptake as docu-
up to fivefold as exercise continues, first through mented by rising levels of plasma FFA and glyc-
glycogenolysis, and later through enhanced glu- erol. After 40 to 60 minutes of running, FFA levels
concogenesis, as three-carbon substrates (prin- have risen to six times basal levels. Turnover of
cipally alanine, lactate, glycerol and pyruvate) FFA rises as well, reflecting increased muscle uti-
become available.4"; lization of fatty substrate as exercise continues,
All the major hormonal changes of exercise shown by the falling respiratory quotient in exer-
serve to preserve the blood glucose, and to mobi- cising subjects. Except for the initial lag period,
lize stored complex fuels to simpler forms that mobilization continues to supply FFA faster than
can be utilized by working muscle. Of major im- demand, and fractional extraction of FFA actually
portance are the rise in catecholamines and fall decreases as exercise is continued.60 When exer-
in insulin levels. Thus, epinephrine stimulates cise stops, mobilizing forces are unmasked as an
glycogenolysis, inhibits insulin release and inter- overshoot in the FFA level, which is responsible
feres with insulin action peripherally740 nor- for the ketosis after exercise.
epinephrine mobilizes FFA from adipose tissue; The relationship of FFA utilization to exercise
falling insulin levels minimize peripheral glucose intensity (percent Vo., max) is the reverse of
uptake while allowing lipolysis and glycogenolysis, that for glycogen.'' Therefore, at rest and with
and glucagon levels rise to stimulate splanchnic prolonged light exercise, fats can supply over 90
glucose output in concert with increased epineph- percent of the oxidative needs of the muscle. At
rine and falling insulin levels.' 52 moderate work intensities, free fatty acids become
If liver glycogen is depleted, either through the major blood-borne fuel, supplying up to 50
starvation or prolonged exercise, and the intensity percent of the needs of the muscle.60 However, as
of effort is such that the obligate carbohydrate intensity increases above 55 percent to 60 percent
requirement for the working muscle exceeds the Vo2 max, the amount of fat put to use declines in
glycogen content, blood glucose will be utilized. direct proportion to the amount of obligate carbo-
Gluconeogenesis alone cannot maintain the blood hydrate substrate required for reasons previously
glucose at high work intensities, and hypoglycemia discussed. This reciprocal relationship creates a
occurs, stopping exercise.5 3 continuum of fuel utilization from fats (principally

498 DECEMBER 1980 * 133 * 6


as exogenous FFA) for low-intensity prolonged Glucose

energy use, to carbohydrate (principally as endog- '1s''' \\ \ \Cell membrane
enous glvcogen) for high-intensity short-duration Glucose G6P=- F6P-' FDP- -* -'Pyruvate
At marathon pace (70 percent to 80 percent
Vo., max), the utilization of carbohydrate relative C ytoplasm
to fat is approximately 70:30, although it may be Mitochondrla
_-Citrote.-Acetyl CoAP-Pyruvate
closer to 55:45 in trained long-distance runners.
Inmproved fat metabolism in trained runners is t8
due to enhancement of enzymatic and hormonal Fatty ocy l-CoA (or ketone bod es)
activities controlline mobilization and metabolism Figure 3.-Mechanism of control of glycolysis by fatty
of FFA.-"' acid oxidation in muscle. The reactions are as follows:
(1) membrane transport of glucose; (2) hexokinase;
The relative importance of endogenous glyco- (3) phosphofructokinase; (4) pyruvate transport into the
geni and exogenous FFA in the fuel spectrum has mitochondrion; (5) pyruvate dehydrogenase; (6) citrate
bccn investi>ated.';; At the intensity of the mara- synthase; (7) further reactions of the citric acid cycle;
and (8) beta-oxidation system (or pathway of ketone
thoul, blocking-FFA mobilization with nicotinic body utilization). The dotted lines indicate allosteric
acid does not impair the ability to maintain pace. regulatory mechanism by which some nonequilibrium
However, muscle glycogen utilization increases reactions of glycolysis are controlled via the rate of
fatty acid (and/or ketone body) oxidation in muscle.
sionificantly to cover that portion of oxidative The allosteric factor regulating glucose transport is un-
metabolisnm previously supported by beta-oxida- known. (FDP=fructose-1,6-diphosphate; F6P=fructose-
tion of fatty acids.' This allows two conclusions: 6-phosphate; G6P = glucose-6-phosphate.) (Reprinted
by permission from Newsholme,"4 p 81.)
first, if free fatty acids are unavailable as sub-
strate, glycogen metabolism will accelerate to
cover energy needs at no cost to pace; and second, Figure 3 illustrates cellular metabolism, includ-
because glycogen is metabolized more quickly, the ing the glycolytic pathway by which glucose in the
total dluraltioni of sustained effort will be less. cytoplasm is metabolized to pyruvate, which then
However, we have already seen that at this crosses into the mitochondria to enter the citr-ic
pace glycogen is an obligate substrate, and FFA acid cycle. Fatty acid uptake and transport in
alone cannot be used to sustain pace because of muscle cells are not rate-limiting, ais wNe ha\ve sccn.
its less favorable high-energy phosphate to oxygen Fatty acids are always available in excess with
ratio. If the legs are first glycogen depleted by a exercise, and they will be metabolized to intro-
90 percent Vo2 max effort, subsequent FFA-SUp- duce acetyl-CoA (acetylcoenzyme A) to the cycle.
ported effort can only achieve 60 percent Vo2 max, The increase in the acetyl-CoA to CoA ratio in-
and then with a 45 percent reduction in time to hibits pyruvate dehydrogenase by converting it to
exhaustion. If nicotinic acid is now given, so that its inactive form. Furthermore, rising citrate levels
both glycogen and FFA utilization are blocked, the inhibit phosphofructokinase (PFKase). Fructose-
blood glucose is utilized until hypoglycemia re- 6-phosphate levels build up in the cell causinia
sults, and exercise stops in only half the time as glucose-6-phosphate levels to rise, and inhllibit
compared with the FFA-supported effort.';3 hexokinase. Thus, the glycolytic pathway is slowved
at several steps when fatty substrates are available.
At the time of glycogen depletion then, pace
must slow down to that effort which can be sup- Furthermore, FFA have a direct depressant action
on membrane glucose transport through unknown
ported by FFA metabolism. Protein is also used mechanisms.
increasingly as substrate when glycogen stores are
depleted.' As previously noted, the decrement in As previously described, however, increasing
pace occurs when glycogen content drops below intensity of exercise obligates glycogen breakdown
3 to 5 grams per kg of muscle.30 regardless of FFA levels. As pace increases, the
ATP to ADP ratio in the cell falls, as ATP iS dC-
The Fat-Carbohydrate Connection graded more rapidly by the contractile proteins
It is evident that FFA spare glycogen as shown (Figure 4). Creatine phosphate levels fall as hith-
by increased glycogen depletion when FFA mobi- energy phosphate is transferred to ADP. A small
lization is blocked with nicotinic acid. How does decrease in the ATP to ADP ratio causes large in-
FFA spare glycogen metabolism? Understanding creases in several metabolites, includinc adenosine
this requires a brief look at biochemistry.34'66 67 monophosphate (ANIP), inorganic phosphatc and

can consume up to 20 percent of the total glyco-

Glose- _Glucose I
"*.!-6.-P =F6 FDP gen stored, this may make a significant contribu-
tion to performance.
MUSCLE CEL ,-- In rats given a fatty meal and heparin to maxi-
Blood NH4- - ,,-- mize FFA levels, and then run on a treadmill for
AMP'-~ATPP---*ADP.-- C P Pyruvate 30 minutes, glycogen depletion was substantially
less than in control animals. Both skeletal muscle
C°2 T CAcycle ond electron ocetyl CoAPyruvoteL
cylCAPrve (type I fibers) and hepatic glycogen were spared,
H20 - ronsport chain
MITOCHONDRION with total glycogen depletion decreased by 40 per-
cent. Increased citrate levels were observed in both
Figure 4.-Regulation of glycolysis in muscle at the muscle and liver, consistent with increased FAA
glucose transport, hexokinase and phosphofructokinase metabolism.68 As predicted, time to exhaustion
reactions. (ADP=adenosine diphosphate; AMP=aden- was consistently prolonged in the animals with
osine monophosphate; ATP = adenosine triphosphate;
CP = creatine phosphate; FDP = fructose-1 ,6-diphos- initially elevated FFA.69
phate; F6P = fructose-6-phosphate; G6P = glucose-6- Results were similar in human subjects given a
phosphate; TCA=tricarboxylic acid.) (Reprinted by per- fatty meal five hours before exercise and heparin
mission from Newsholme,34 p 81.)
intravenously just before a 70 percent Vo2 max,
ammonium ion. These regulator molecules all 30-minute treadmill run.70 Muscle biopsy speci-
feedback on PFKase to relieve the citrate block mens showed a 40 percent decrease in glycogen
and accelerate glycolysis. Furthermore, pyruvate consumption. Total carbohydrate consumption
will be preferentially utilized over fatty acetyl- decreased 17 percent and fat consumption rose
CoA at entry into the electron transport chain as 32 percent more than in controls. Blood glucose
the ADP concentration rises. Therefore, the ratio levels were higher also, presumably reflecting FFA
of ATP to ADP, which reflects the intensity of effort, inhibition of glucose uptake by muscle.
or pace, precisely determines the ratio of carbohy- Caffeine will also raise FFA levels through its
drate to fat metabolism. At lower intensities, fat phosphodiesterase and catecholamine-releasing
metabolism spares glycogen, but as intensity in- activity.71 Runners were given 330 mg of caffeine
creases, more efficient high-energy phosphate gen- or placebo orally in a single-blind study, 60
eration is required, and fat metabolism is replaced minutes before an 80 percent Vo2 max run to
by glycogen. exhaustion. In all runners, caffeine increased time
Thus, we have seen that (1) free fatty acids to exhaustion by an average of 19.5 percent, from
are mobilized more rapidly than they are metabo- 75 to 90 minutes.72 The total carbohydrate con-
lized by the working muscle-this accounts for sumed (240 grams) was identical with and with-
the rising FFA levels as exercise continues; (2) out caffeine as expected, but fat metabolism rose
FFA uptake and utilization are not rate-limiting, from 57 to 118 grams after caffeine. This permits
and (3) the pace, by determining the cellular ATP glycogen spared from the original glycogen burst
to ADP ratio, will determine to what extent FFA to be utilized later, thereby increasing duration of
can be used to spare glycogen. Therefore, with exercise.
exercise, FFA are always available in excess of the Summary and Conclusions
needs of the working muscle, and raising levels
further would not be expected to enhance per- The following data summarize studies of fuel
formance. metabolism as applied to the marathon.
There is only one point during exercise when * The pre-exercise muscle glycogen content de-
FFA availability to muscle may not be optimal. termines the duration of performance.
This occurs at the beginning of exercise, when FFA * There is obligate glycogen utilization at the
levels fall slightly while mobilizing mechanisms pace of a competitive marathon, approaching 0.5
lag behind muscle uptake. This occurs at the same gram per kg of muscle per km.
time as the glycogen burst, and because FFA * When muscle glycogen falls below 3 to 5
spares glycogen breakdown, it follows that raising grams per kg of muscle, pace must decrease, as
the FFA levels at the onset of exercise may spare effort is sustained by fat metabolism.
glycogen for later use. Because the glycogen burst * The glycogen burst at the initiation of exer-
500 DECEMBER 1980 * 133 * 6

cise contributes a significant portion (approxi- can in no way approach the beneficial effects of
mately 20 percent) of total glycogen utilization. consistent training on performance.
* Dietary manipulation can double muscle gly-
cogen levels. 1. Williams RS, Logue EF, Lewis JL, et al: Physical condition-
* Free fatty acids spare glycogen to that re- ing augments the fibrinolytic response to venous occlusion in
healthy adults. N Engl J Med 302:987-991, 1980
quired for the obligate carbohydrate substrate as 2. Wood PD, Haskell WL: The effect of exercise on plasma high
density lipoproteins. Lipids 14:417-427, 1979
determined by the ATP to ADP ratio (pace). 3. Costill DL, Fox EL: Energetics of marathon running. Med
* The rate-limiting step in FFA metabolism is Sci Sports 1:81-86, 1969
4. Margaria R, Cerretelli P, Aghems P: Energy cost of running.
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5. Felig P: Amino acid metabolism in exercise. Ann NY Acad
* Mobilization lags behind utilization only at Sci 301:56-63, 1977
the onset of exercise, coincident with the glycogen 6. Essen B, Hagenfeldt L, Kaijser L: Utilization of blood-borne
and intramuscular substrates during continuous and intermittent
burst. Otherwise, FFA are available in excess of exercise in man. J Physiol 265:489-506, 1977
7. Havel RJ, Pernow B, Jones NL: Uptake and release of free
need. fatty acids and other metabolites in the legs of exercising men. J
Appl Physiol 23:90-99, 1967
* Raising levels of FFA at the onset of exercise 8. Saltin B, Henriksson J, Nygaard E, et al: Fiber types and
can substantially spare glycogen that would other- metabolic potentials of skeletal muscles in sedentary man and
endurance runners. Ann NY Acad Sci 301:3-29, 1977
wise be consumed in the glycogen burst and, 9. Komi PV, Viitasalo JHT, Havu M, et al: Skeletal muscle
fibres and muscle enzyme activities in monozygous and dizygous
hence, enhance performance. twins of both sexes. Acta Physiol Scand 100:385-392, 1977
10. Essen B, Janssen E, Henriksson J, et al: Metabolic char-
In practical terms, the following guidelines acteristics of fibre types in human skeletal muscle. Acta Physiol
Scand 95:153-165, 1975
should be useful to marathon athletes. 11. Gollnick PD, Piehl K, Saltin B: Selective glycogen depletion
* Optimal glycogen loading involves the three in human muscle fibres after exercise of varying intensity and at
varying pedalling rates. J Physiol 241:45-57, 1977
phases of depletion (exercise), a carbohydrate- 12. Gollnick PD, Karlson J, Piehl K, et al: Selective glycogen
depletion in skeletal muscle fibres of man following sustained
poor diet followed by a carbohydrate-rich diet. contractions. J Physiol 241:59-67, 1977
Depletion exercise must use the same muscles as 13. Bergh U, Thorstensson A, Sjodin B. et al: Maximal oxygen
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for two days will optimize subsequent glycogen position of human skeletal muscle. Acta Physiol Scand 98:318-
322, 1976
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percent carbohydrate) diet should be consumed tion and enzyme activities of elite distance runners. Med Sci
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502 DECEMBER 1980 * 133 * 6