The effect of a high-carbohydrate meal 4 h before 105 min of exercise at 70% of maximal O2 uptake was determined in seven endurance-trained cyclists and compared with exercise following a 16-h fast. The preexercise meal produced a transient elevation of plasma insulin and blood glucose, which returned to fasting basal levels prior to the initiation of exercise. The meal also resulted in a 42% elevation (P less than 0.05) of glycogen within the vastus lateralis at the beginning of exercise. The 1st h of exercise when subjects were fed was characterized by a 13-25% decline (P less than 0.05) in blood glucose concentration, a suppression of the normal increase in plasma free fatty acids and blood glycerol, and a 45% (P less than 0.05) greater rate of carbohydrate oxidation compared with exercise when subjects were fasted. After 105 min of exercise, there were no significant differences when subjects were fed or fasted regarding blood glucose levels, rate of carbohydrate oxidation, or muscle glycogen concentration. The greater muscle glycogen utilization (97 +/- 18 vs. 64 +/- 8 mmol glucosyl units X kg-1; P less than 0.05) and carbohydrate oxidation when subjects were fed appeared to be derived from the glycogen synthesized following the meal. These results indicate that preexercise feedings alter substrate availability despite a return of plasma insulin to fasting levels prior to exercise and that these effects persist until the 2nd h of exercise.