Post-exercise muscle glycogen repletion in the extreme: Effect of food absence and active recovery

Paul Fournier, T.J. Fairchild, Luis Ferreira, L. Brau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


Glycogen plays a major role in supporting the energy demands of skeletal muscles during high intensity exercise. Despite its importance, the amount of glycogen stored in skeletal muscles is so small that a large fraction of it can be depleted in response to a single bout of high intensity exercise. For this reason, it is generally recommended to ingest food after exercise to replenish rapidly muscle glycogen stores, otherwise one's ability to engage in high intensity activity might be compromised. But what if food is not available? It is now well established that, even in the absence of food intake, skeletal muscles have the capacity to replenish some of their glycogen at the expense of endogenous carbon sources such as lactate. This is facilitated, in part, by the transient dephosphorylation-mediated activation of glycogen synthase and inhibition of glycogen phosphorylase. There is also evidence that muscle glycogen synthesis occurs even under conditions conducive to an increased oxidation of lactate post-exercise, such as during active recovery from high intensity exercise. Indeed, although during active recovery glycogen resynthesis is impaired in skeletal muscle as a whole because of increased lactate oxidation, muscle glycogen stores are replenished in Type IIa and IIb fibers while being broken down in Type I fibers of active muscles. This unique ability of Type II fibers to replenish their glycogen stores during exercise should not come as a surprise given the advantages in maintaining adequate muscle glycogen stores in those fibers that play a major role in fight or flight responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-146
JournalJournal of Sports Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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