Utilization of blood-borne and intramuscular substrates during continuous and intermittent exercise in man

J Physiol. 1977 Feb;265(2):489-506. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1977.sp011726.


1. Substrate utilization in the legs during bicycle exercise was studied in five subjects when performing intermittent intense exercise (15 sec work--15 sec rest) as well as continuous exercise during 60 min, with an almost identical average power output and oxygen uptake in both situations. 2. Muscle biopsies were obtained from vastus lateralis at rest, during, and after exercise in order to determine intramuscular lipid and carbohydrate utilization. The contribution from blood-borne substrates to total oxidative metabolism was determined by arterial-femoral venous (a-fv) differences for oxygen, FFA, glucose, and lactate and leg blood flow. 3. Intermittent and continuous exercise revealed a similar glycogen depletion and the intramuscular lactate accumulation was rather small. A similar uptake of blood-borne substrate (FFA, glucose) was found in both situations whereas a release of lactate only was observed in intermittent exercise. 4. ATP and CP levels oscillated between work and rest periods in intermittent exercise but were not resynthesized to resting levels at the end of the rest periods. The mainly aerobic energy release during each work period in intermittent exercise is partly caused by myoglobin functioning as an oxygen store; this factor was calculated to be more important than ATP and CP or lactate level oscillations. 5. The metabolic response to intermittent exercise was found to be similar to that found in continuous exercise with approximately the same average power output and oxygen uptake. This indicates that some factor in the intermediary metabolism, for instance citrate, functions as a regulator retarding glycolysis and favouring lipid utilization and an aerobic energy release in intermittent exercise.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycerol / metabolism
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Lactates / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Myoglobin / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Phosphocreatine / metabolism
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Pyruvates / metabolism
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Respiration
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Lactates
  • Myoglobin
  • Pyruvates
  • Triglycerides
  • Phosphocreatine
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glucose
  • Glycerol