Human skeletal muscle fatty acid and glycerol metabolism during rest, exercise and recovery

J Physiol. 2002 Sep 15;543(Pt 3):1047-58. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2002.023796.


This study was conducted to investigate skeletal muscle fatty acid (FA) and glycerol kinetics and to determine the contribution of skeletal muscle to whole body FA and glycerol turnover during rest, 2 h of one-leg knee-extensor exercise at 65 % of maximal leg power output, and 3 h of recovery. To this aim, the leg femoral arterial-venous difference technique was used in combination with a continuous infusion of [U-(13)C]palmitate and [(2)H(5)]glycerol in five post-absorptive healthy volunteers (22 +/- 3 years). The influence of contamination from non-skeletal muscle tissues, skin and subcutaneous adipose tissue, on FA and glycerol kinetics was studied by catheterization of the femoral vein in antegrade and retrograde directions. Substantially higher net leg FA and glycerol uptakes were observed with a retrograde compared to an antegrade catheter position, as a result of a much lower tracer-calculated leg FA and glycerol release. The whole body FA rate of appearance (R(a)) increased with exercise and decreased rapidly in recovery but stayed higher compared to pre-exercise. The leg net FA uptake decreased immediately on cessation of exercise to near pre-exercise level, but the tracer FA uptake and release decreased slowly and reached constant values after approximately 1.5 h of recovery similar to pre-exercise. Whole body FA reesterification (FA R(d) - FA oxidation; R(d), rate of disappearance) was approximately 400 micromol min(-1) at rest and during exercise, and increased during recovery to 495 micromol min(-1). Leg FA reesterification was 17 micromol min(-1) at rest and decreased to 9 micromol min(-1) during recovery, due to a larger fraction of leg FA uptake being directed to oxidation. A net glycerol exchange across the leg could not be detected under all conditions, but a substantial leg glycerol uptake was observed, which was substantially higher during exercise. Total body skeletal muscle FA and glycerol uptake/release was estimated to account for 18-25 % of whole body R(d) or R(a).

In conclusion: (1) skeletal muscle FA and glycerol metabolism, using the leg arterial-venous difference method, can only be studied if contamination from skin and subcutaneous adipose tissue is prevented; (2) whole body FA reesterification is unchanged when going from rest to exercise, but is increased during recovery; (3) in post-absorptive man total body skeletal muscle contributes 17-24 % to whole body FA and glycerol turnover and FA reesterification at rest; (4) glycerol is taken up by skeletal muscle and the uptake increases many fold during exercise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Deuterium
  • Esterification
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Femoral Vein
  • Glycerol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Palmitates / pharmacokinetics*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Rest / physiology*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Fatty Acids
  • Palmitates
  • Deuterium
  • Glycerol