Regulation of Muscle Glycogen Metabolism during Exercise: Implications for Endurance Performance and Training Adaptations

Nutrients. 2018 Mar 2;10(3):298. doi: 10.3390/nu10030298.


Since the introduction of the muscle biopsy technique in the late 1960s, our understanding of the regulation of muscle glycogen storage and metabolism has advanced considerably. Muscle glycogenolysis and rates of carbohydrate (CHO) oxidation are affected by factors such as exercise intensity, duration, training status and substrate availability. Such changes to the global exercise stimulus exert regulatory effects on key enzymes and transport proteins via both hormonal control and local allosteric regulation. Given the well-documented effects of high CHO availability on promoting exercise performance, elite endurance athletes are typically advised to ensure high CHO availability before, during and after high-intensity training sessions or competition. Nonetheless, in recognition that the glycogen granule is more than a simple fuel store, it is now also accepted that glycogen is a potent regulator of the molecular cell signaling pathways that regulate the oxidative phenotype. Accordingly, the concept of deliberately training with low CHO availability has now gained increased popularity amongst athletic circles. In this review, we present an overview of the regulatory control of CHO metabolism during exercise (with a specific emphasis on muscle glycogen utilization) in order to discuss the effects of both high and low CHO availability on modulating exercise performance and training adaptations, respectively.

Keywords: athletes; glucose; muscle glycogen; train-low.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Glycogen / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenotype
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Glycogen