Carbohydrate ingestion and muscle glycogen depletion during marathon and ultramarathon racing

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1988;57(4):482-9. doi: 10.1007/BF00417997.


Two studies were undertaken to characterize the effects of carbohydrate ingestion on fuel/hormone response to exercise and muscle glycogen utilization during prolonged competitive exercise. In study 1, eighteen subjects were divided into three groups, matched for maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max) and blood lactate turnpoint. All subjects underwent a 3-day carbohydrate (CHO) depletion phase, followed by 3 days of CHO loading (500-600 During the race, the groups drank either 2% glucose (G), 8% glucose polymer (GP), or 8% fructose (F). Muscle biopsies were performed before and after the race and venous blood was sampled before and at regular intervals during the race. In study 2, eighteen subjects divided into 2 matched groups ingested either a 4% G or 10% GP solution during a 56 km race. Despite significantly greater CHO ingestion by GP and F in study 1 and by GP in study 2, blood glucose, free fatty acids and insulin concentrations, muscle glycogen utilization and running performance were not different between groups. These studies show (i) that hypoglycaemia is uncommon in athletes competing in races of up to 56 km provided they CHO-load before and ingest a minimum of 10 g CHO.h-1 during competition; (ii) that neither the amount (10 g vs 40 g.h-1) nor the type of carbohydrate (G vs GP vs F) has any effect on the extent of muscle glycogen depletion or running performance in matched subjects racing over distances up to 56 km.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology*
  • Drinking
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Glycogen / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Running*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Glycogen