Influence of age and pubertal status on substrate utilization during exercise with and without carbohydrate intake in healthy boys

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Jun;32(3):416-25. doi: 10.1139/H07-004.


Substrate utilization during exercise is known to differ between children and adults, but whether these differences are related to pubertal status is unclear. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of pubertal status on endogenous (CHOendo) and orally ingested exogenous (CHOexo) carbohydrate and fat oxidation rates during exercise. Twenty boys at the same chronological age (12 y) were divided into three pubertal groups (pre-pubertal, PP: n=7; early-pubertal, EP: n=7; mid- to late-pubertal, M-LP: n=6) and consumed either a placebo or 13C-enriched 6% CHO drink while cycling for 60 min at approximately 70% of their maximal aerobic power (VO2 max). Another group of 14-year-old boys (pubertal, n=9) completed all procedures. Substrate utilization was calculated for the final 15 min of exercise using indirect calorimetry and stable isotope methodology. CHOexo decreased fat (p<0.001) and increased total CHO (p<0.001) oxidation, irrespective of group. Fat oxidation was higher (p=0.01) in younger boys than in older boys, but similar (p>or=0.33) among PP, EP, and M-LP boys. CHOexo contributed to approximately 30% of energy expenditure (EE) in PP and EP, but to only 24% in M-LP (p=0.02), which was identical to the older boys (24%). CHOexo oxidation rate as a percentage of EE was inversely related to testosterone levels (r=-0.51, p=0.005, n=29). It was concluded that reliance on CHOexo during exercise is particularly sensitive to pubertal status, with the highest oxidation rates observed in pre- and early-pubertal boys, independent of chronological age.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Beverages
  • Bicycling
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Child
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Male
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Placebos
  • Puberty*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Placebos
  • Lactic Acid