Glucose Tolerance is Linked to Postprandial Fuel Use Independent of Exercise Dose

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018 Oct;50(10):2058-2066. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001667.


Purpose: The optimal short-term exercise dose to improve glucose tolerance in relation to metabolic flexibility and/or insulin resistance is unknown. Therefore, we tested if short-term, work-matched continuous (CONT) versus interval (INT) exercise training improves glucose tolerance in part by reducing insulin resistance and increasing metabolic flexibility independent of clinically meaningful fat loss in adults with prediabetes.

Methods: Subjects (age = 60.9 ± 1.4 yr, body mass index = 33.5 ± 1.1 kg·m) were screened for prediabetes using the American Diabetes Association criteria (75 g oral glucose tolerance test [OGTT] and/or HbA1c) and were randomized to 60 min·d of supervised CONT (n = 17, 70% HRpeak) or work-matched INT (n = 14; 90% HRpeak for 3 min and 50% HRpeak for 3 min) exercise for 12 bouts. Fitness (V˙O2peak) and body composition were assessed pre- and postintervention. A 180-min 75-g OGTT was performed, and glucose, insulin, and free fatty acids were collected to calculate glucose tolerance (tAUC180min) and whole-body as well as adipose tissue insulin resistance pre- and postintervention. RER (indirect calorimetry) was also measured at 0, 60, 120, and 180 min of the OGTT to assess fasting and postprandial metabolic flexibility.

Results: CONT and INT training improved V˙O2peak (L·min; P = 0.001) and glucose tolerance (P = 0.01) and reduced fasting RER (P = 0.006), as well as whole-body and adipose insulin resistance (both P = 0.02) with no effect on body fat (P = 0.18). Increased postprandial RER was correlated with reduced glucose tAUC180min (r = -0.38, P = 0.05) and increased 180-min RER related to decreased whole-body insulin resistance (r = -0.42, P = 0.03).

Conclusion: Independent of exercise dose and fat loss, short-term training improves glucose tolerance in relation to enhanced postprandial fuel use.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Body Composition
  • Exercise*
  • Fasting
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Postprandial Period*
  • Prediabetic State / metabolism*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin