Utilisation of intramyocellular lipids (IMCLs) during exercise as assessed by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS)

Horm Metab Res. 2001 Feb;33(2):63-6. doi: 10.1055/s-2001-12407.


Recently, a 1H-MRS method became available to quantify intramyocellular lipids (IMCL) non-invasively. Currently, little is known about the regulation of this lipid pool. During prolonged exercise of moderate intensity, non-plasma-derived fatty acids play an important role as an energy source; lipids located within the skeletal muscle are considered to be a major source for these fatty acids. To see whether IMCL are reduced by exercise, 12 male runners were studied before and after exercising at different workloads and duration. Six subjects participated in a non-competitive run (NCR), three runners in a competitive half marathon (HM, 21 km) and another three in a competitive marathon (M, 42 km). Intra- and extramyocellular lipids were quantified by 1H-MR spectroscopy in the tibialis anterior (TA) and soleus (SOL) muscles prior to and after the exercise bout. Moderate intensity (MI; 60-70% VO2max in NCR) with a mean exercise time (MET) ranging between 105-110 min decreased IMCL by 10 - 36% in both muscles. Prolonged MI exercise (MET 210-240 min; 68-70% VO2max in M) reduced IMCL by 42-57% in TA and 27 - 56% in SOL. In contrast, high intensity exercise (HI; MET 80-120 min; 83-85% VO2max in HM) did not alter IMCL in either muscle. Extramyocellular lipids (EMCL) did not show any significant change in any group. The data show that one bout of moderate-intensity (60-70% VO2max) aerobic exercise markedly reduces the IMCL in TA and SOL muscles in a time-dependent fashion as assessed by 1H-MRS. However, exercise of similar duration but higher workload (> 80% VO2max) does not reduce IMCL. These data suggest that both exercise duration and workload are important factors in determining the reduction of IMCL.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Running


  • Fatty Acids