Mixed meal and light exercise each recruit muscle capillaries in healthy humans

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Jun;290(6):E1191-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00497.2005.


Intense exercise and insulin each increases total limb blood flow and recruits muscle capillaries, presumably to facilitate nutrient exchange. Whether mixed meals or light exercise likewise recruits capillaries is unknown. We fed 18 (9 M, 9 F) healthy volunteers a 480-kcal liquid mixed meal. Plasma glucose, insulin, brachial artery flow, and forearm muscle microvascular blood volume were measured before and after the meal. Brachial artery flow and microvascular volume were also examined with light (25% max), moderate (50%), and heavy (80%) forearm contraction every 20 s in 5 (4 M, 1 F) healthy adults. After the meal, glucose and insulin rose modestly (to approximately 7 mM and approximately 270 pM) and peaked by 30 min, whereas brachial artery blood flow (P < 0.05) and the microvascular volume (P < 0.01) each increased significantly by 60 min, and microvascular flow velocity did not change. For exercise, both 50 and 80%, but not 25% maximal handgrip, increased average forearm and brachial artery blood flow (P < 0.01). Flow increased immediately after each contraction and declined toward basal over 15 s. Exercise at 25% max increased microvascular volume threefold (P < 0.01) without affecting microvascular flow velocity or total forearm blood flow. Forearm exercise at 80% maximal grip increased both microvascular volume and microvascular flow velocity (P < 0.05 each). We conclude that light exercise and simple meals each markedly increases muscle microvascular volume, thereby expanding the endothelial surface for nutrient exchange, and that capillary recruitment is an important physiological response to facilitate nutrient/hormone delivery in healthy humans.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Blood Volume
  • Brachial Artery / physiology
  • Capillaries / physiology*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Forearm / blood supply
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Microcirculation
  • Muscles / blood supply*
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin