The effect of low-carbohydrate diet on the pattern of hormonal changes during incremental, graded exercise in young men

Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001 Jun;11(2):248-57. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.11.2.248.


The purpose of this study was to discover whether severe dietary carbohydrate (CHO) restriction modifies the relationship between exercise intensity and hormonal responses to exercise. Changes in the plasma adrenaline (A), noradrenaline (NA), growth hormone (hGH), testosterone (T), and blood lactate (LA) during an incremental exercise performed until volitional exhaustion were determined in 8 physically active volunteers after 3 days on low CHO (< 5% of energy content; L-CHO) and isocaloric mixed (M) diets. Following L-CHO diet, the basal plasma A, NA, and hGH concentrations were increased, whilst T and LA levels were decreased. During exercise all the hormones increased exponentially, with thresholds close to that of LA. Neither the magnitude nor the pattern of the hormonal changes were affected by L-CHO diet except the NA threshold, which was lowered. Blood LA response to exercise was diminished and LA threshold was shifted towards higher loads by L-CHO diet. It is concluded that restriction of CHO intake (a) does not affect the pattern of changes in plasma A, hGH, and T concentrations during graded exercise but lowers NA threshold, indicating increased sensitivity of the sympathetic nervous system to exercise stimulus; (b) alters the basal and exercise levels of circulating hormones, which may have an impact on the balance between anabolic and catabolic processes and subsequently influence the effectiveness of training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anaerobic Threshold
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology
  • Epinephrine / blood*
  • Epinephrine / metabolism
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Human Growth Hormone / blood*
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood*
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / blood*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Testosterone / metabolism


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Lactic Acid
  • Testosterone
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine