The relationship between substrate metabolism, exercise and appetite control: does glycogen availability influence the motivation to eat, energy intake or food choice?

Sports Med. 2011 Jun 1;41(6):507-21. doi: 10.2165/11588780-000000000-00000.


The way in which metabolic fuels are utilized can alter the expression of behaviour in the interests of regulating energy balance and fuel availability. This is consistent with the notion that the regulation of appetite is a psychobiological process, in which physiological mediators act as drivers of behaviour. The glycogenostatic theory suggests that glycogen availability is central in eliciting negative feedback signals to restore energy homeostasis. Due to its limited storage capacity, carbohydrate availability is tightly regulated and its restoration is a high metabolic priority following depletion. It has been proposed that such depletion may act as a biological cue to stimulate compensatory energy intake in an effort to restore availability. Due to the increased energy demand, aerobic exercise may act as a biological cue to trigger compensatory eating as a result of perturbations to muscle and liver glycogen stores. However, studies manipulating glycogen availability over short-term periods (1-3 days) using exercise, diet or both have often produced equivocal findings. There is limited but growing evidence to suggest that carbohydrate balance is involved in the short-term regulation of food intake, with a negative carbohydrate balance having been shown to predict greater ad libitum feeding. Furthermore, a negative carbohydrate balance has been shown to be predictive of weight gain. However, further research is needed to support these findings as the current research in this area is limited. In addition, the specific neural or hormonal signal through which carbohydrate availability could regulate energy intake is at present unknown. Identification of this signal or pathway is imperative if a casual relationship is to be established. Without this, the possibility remains that the associations found between carbohydrate balance and food intake are incidental.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Food
  • Glycogen / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology


  • Glycogen