Metabolic responses to exercise after fasting

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1986 Oct;61(4):1363-8. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1986.61.4.1363.


Fasting before exercise increases fat utilization and lowers the rate of muscle glycogen depletion. Since a 24-h fast also depletes liver glycogen, we were interested in blood glucose homeostasis during exercise after fasting. An experiment was conducted with human subjects to determine the effect of fasting on blood metabolite concentrations during exercise. Nine male subjects ran (70% maximum O2 consumption) two counterbalanced trials, once fed and once after a 23-h fast. Plasma glucose was elevated by exercise in the fasted trial but there was no difference between fed and fasted during exercise. Lactate was significantly higher (P less than 0.05) in fasted than fed throughout the exercise bout. Fat mobilization and utilization appeared to be greater in the fasted trial as evidenced by higher plasma concentrations of free fatty acids, glycerol, and beta-hydroxybutyrate as well as lower respiratory exchange ratio in the fasted trial during the first 30 min of exercise. These results demonstrate that in humans blood glucose concentration is maintained at normal levels during exercise after fasting despite the depletion of liver glycogen. Homeostasis is probably maintained as a result of increased gluconeogenesis and decreased utilization of glucose in the muscle as a result of lowered pyruvate dehydrogenase activity.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Fasting*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Glycerol / blood
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hydroxybutyrates / blood
  • Insulin / blood
  • Lactates / blood
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Running


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Hydroxybutyrates
  • Insulin
  • Lactates
  • Glycerol
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid