Long-term intake of a ketogenic diet enhances utilization of ketone bodies, a particularly energy-efficient substrate, during exercise. However, physiological adaptation to an extremely low-carbohydrate diet has been shown to upregulate pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4, a negative regulator of glycolytic flux) content in skeletal muscle, resulting in impaired high-intensity exercise capacity. This study aimed to examine the effects of a long-term ketogenic diet containing medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) on endurance training-induced adaptations in ketolytic and glycolytic enzymes of rat skeletal muscle. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were placed on either a standard diet (CON), a long-chain triglyceride-containing ketogenic diet (LKD), or an MCT-containing ketogenic diet (MKD). Half the rats in each group performed a 2-h swimming exercise, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks. Endurance training significantly increased 3-oxoacid CoA transferase (OXCT, a ketolytic enzyme) protein content in epitrochlearis muscle tissue, and MKD intake additively enhanced endurance training-induced increases in OXCT protein content. LKD consumption substantially increased muscle PDK4 protein level. However, such PDK4 increases were not observed in the MKD-fed rats. In conclusion, long-term intake of ketogenic diets containing MCTs may additively enhance endurance training-induced increases in ketolytic capacity in skeletal muscle without exerting inhibitory effects on carbohydrate metabolism.
Keywords: MCT; OXCT; PDK4; endurance training; ketogenic diet; β-hydroxybutyrate.