Effects of a low- or a high-carbohydrate diet on performance, energy system contribution, and metabolic responses during supramaximal exercise

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2013 Sep;38(9):928-34. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2012-0467. Epub 2013 Mar 26.


The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of a high- or low-carbohydrate (CHO) diet on performance, aerobic and anaerobic contribution, and metabolic responses during supramaximal exercise. Six physically-active men first performed a cycling exercise bout at 115% maximal oxygen uptake to exhaustion after following their normal diet for 48 h (∼50% of CHO, control test). Seventy-two hours after, participants performed a muscle glycogen depletion exercise protocol, followed by either a high- or low-CHO diet (∼70 and 25% of CHO, respectively) for 48 h, in a random, counterbalanced order. After the assigned diet period (48 h), the supramaximal cycling exercise bout (115% maximal oxygen consumption) to exhaustion was repeated. The low-CHO diet reduced time to exhaustion when compared with both the control and the high-CHO diet (-19 and -32%, respectively, p < 0.05). The reduced time to exhaustion following the low-CHO diet was accompanied by a lower total aerobic energy contribution (-39%) compared with the high-CHO diet (p < 0.05). However, the aerobic and anaerobic energy contribution at the shortest time to exhaustion (isotime) was similar among conditions (p > 0.05). The low-CHO diet was associated with a lower blood lactate concentration (p < 0.05), with no effect on the plasma concentration of insulin, glucose and K(+) (p > 0.05). In conclusion, a low-CHO diet reduces both performance and total aerobic energy provision during supramaximal exercise. As peak K(+) concentration was similar, but time to exhaustion shorter, the low-CHO diet was associated with an earlier attainment of peak plasma K(+) concentration.

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Dietary Carbohydrates* / metabolism
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Exertion*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates