British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Effect of high and low glycaemic index recovery diets on intramuscular lipid oxidation during aerobic exercise

Michael I. Trenella1 c1, Emma Stevensona2, Karola Stockmanna3 and Jennie Brand-Millera3

a1 Diabetes Research Group & Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre, School of Clinical Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

a2 School of Psychology and Sports Science, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

a3 Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


Intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) and plasma NEFA are important skeletal muscle fuel sources. By raising blood insulin concentrations, carbohydrate ingestion inhibits lypolysis and reduces circulating NEFA. We hypothesised that differences in the postprandial glycaemic and insulin response to carbohydrates (i.e. glycaemic index; GI) could alter NEFA availability and IMCL use during subsequent exercise. Endurance-trained individuals (n 7) cycled for 90 min at 70 % V˙O2peak and then consumed either high GI (HGI) or low GI (LGI) meals over the following 12 h. The following day after an overnight fast, the 90 min cycle was repeated. IMCL content of the vastus lateralis was quantified using magnetic resonance spectroscopy before and after exercise. Blood samples were collected at 15 min intervals throughout exercise and analysed for NEFA, glycerol, glucose, insulin, and lactate. Substrate oxidation was calculated from expired air samples. The 90 min cycle resulted in >2-fold greater reduction in IMCL in the HGI trial (3·5 (sem 1·0) mm/kg wet weight) than the LGI trial (1·6 (sem 0·3) mm/kg wet weight, P < 0·05). During exercise, NEFA availability was reduced in the HGI trial compared to the LGI trial (area under curve 2·36 (sem 0·14) mEq/l per h v. 3·14 (sem 0·28) mEq/l per h, P < 0·05 respectively). No other differences were significant. The findings suggest that HGI carbohydrates reduce NEFA availability during exercise and increase reliance on IMCL as a substrate source during moderate intensity exercise.

(Received February 28 2007)

(Revised May 22 2007)

(Accepted June 22 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Mike Trenell, fax +44 191 256 3692, email


Abbreviations: FFA, free fatty acids; GI, glycaemic index; HGI, high GI; LGI, low GI; IMCL, intramyocellular lipid; MRS, magnetic resonance spectroscopy; V˙O2peak, peak V˙O2