Understanding the factors that effect maximal fat oxidation

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Jan 12:15:3. doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0207-1. eCollection 2018.


Lipids as a fuel source for energy supply during submaximal exercise originate from subcutaneous adipose tissue derived fatty acids (FA), intramuscular triacylglycerides (IMTG), cholesterol and dietary fat. These sources of fat contribute to fatty acid oxidation (FAox) in various ways. The regulation and utilization of FAs in a maximal capacity occur primarily at exercise intensities between 45 and 65% VO2max, is known as maximal fat oxidation (MFO), and is measured in g/min. Fatty acid oxidation occurs during submaximal exercise intensities, but is also complimentary to carbohydrate oxidation (CHOox). Due to limitations within FA transport across the cell and mitochondrial membranes, FAox is limited at higher exercise intensities. The point at which FAox reaches maximum and begins to decline is referred to as the crossover point. Exercise intensities that exceed the crossover point (~65% VO2max) utilize CHO as the predominant fuel source for energy supply. Training status, exercise intensity, exercise duration, sex differences, and nutrition have all been shown to affect cellular expression responsible for FAox rate. Each stimulus affects the process of FAox differently, resulting in specific adaptions that influence endurance exercise performance. Endurance training, specifically long duration (>2 h) facilitate adaptations that alter both the origin of FAs and FAox rate. Additionally, the influence of sex and nutrition on FAox are discussed. Finally, the role of FAox in the improvement of performance during endurance training is discussed.

Keywords: Carnitine; Cpt-1; Crossover concept; Dietary fat oxidation; Fat adaptation; Fat oxidation; Ketogenic diet; Maximal fat oxidation; PDH activity; Substrate oxidation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen Consumption


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids