Selective glycogen depletion pattern in human muscle fibres after exercise of varying intensity and at varying pedalling rates

J Physiol. 1974 Aug;241(1):45-57. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1974.sp010639.


1. Glycogen depletion pattern in human skeletal muscle fibres was studied after bicycle exercise of varying intensity performed at different pedalling rates. Work intensities studied were equivalent to 30-150% of V(O) (2) max. with pedalling rates of 30-120 rev/min.2. Glycogen depletion increased dramatically with increasing exercise intensity; depletion was 2.7 and 7.4 times greater respectively at workloads demanding 64 and 84% V(O) (2) max. than at workloads calling for 31% V(O) (2) max. Even greater rates of glycogen utilization occurred at supramaximal loads.3. Slow twitch, high oxidative (ST) fibres were the first to lose glycogen (reduced PAS staining) at all workloads below V(O) (2) max. Progressive glycogen depletion occurred in fast twitch (FT) fibres as work continued. Large quantities of glycogen remained in the muscle after 3 hr of exercise at low exercise intensity. This was almost exclusively found in FT fibres. At workloads exceeding maximal aerobic power, there was an initial depletion of glycogen in both fibre types. Varying the pedalling rate and, thus, the total force exerted in each pedal thrust had no effect on the pattern of glycogen depletion in the fibres.4. Results point to primary reliance upon ST fibres during submaximal endurance exercise, FT fibres being recruited after ST fibres are depleted of glycogen. During exertion requiring energy expenditure greater than the maximal aerobic power, both fibre types appeared to be continuously involved in carrying out the exercise.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Glycogen / metabolism*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Lactates / blood
  • Male
  • Muscles / enzymology
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Respiration
  • Spirometry


  • Lactates
  • Glycogen
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases