Exogenous carbohydrate utilisation: effects on metabolism and exercise performance

Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol. 1997 Nov;118(3):789-803. doi: 10.1016/s0300-9629(97)00064-9.


It is generally recognized that a decrease in carbohydrate availability can lead to the development of fatigue during prolonged exercise in humans. Administration of glucose or other carbohydrates before or during exercise has been shown to postpone fatigue, conserve muscle glycogen and improve performance. Carbohydrates can be categorised according to their ability to increase blood glucose concentration (known as glycaemic index) and by the extent they stimulate the release of insulin. The glycaemic index is reflected in the rate at which consumed carbohydrate is made available in the blood. Glucose is the only type of carbohydrate that can readily be oxidised by skeletal muscle for energy production. Gastric emptying is the primary factor limiting the rate of carbohydrate delivery to the blood and therefore influences the utilisation of exogenous carbohydrate ingested before or during exercise. Various methods have been used to assess the oxidation of exogenous carbohydrates during exercise. Peak rates of CHO oxidation during exercise have been reported between 0.4 and 1.0 g/min, and the rates of oxidation do not appear to be influenced to a major extent by the use of multiple drinking schedule in comparison with a single bolus schedule. Previous studies also suggest that the ingestion of fructose during exercise does not offer any additional benefits over ingestion of glucose or glucose polymer solutions of similar concentration. The hormones insulin, glucagon and adrenaline together with cortisol and growth hormone play key roles in the regulation of carbohydrate metabolism during exercise. Ingestion of moderately concentrated carbohydrate solutions (4-8%) enhances prolonged exercise performance and is appropriate for optimising energy and fluid delivery without causing adverse effects. The ergogenic effects of carbohydrate ingestion on performance during intermittent exercise such as competitive sports are less well established, although the evidence to date suggests diminished performance when carbohydrate are limiting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Sucrose / metabolism*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fructose / metabolism
  • Gastric Emptying
  • Glucans / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Glucans
  • Insulin
  • Fructose
  • Glycogen
  • Glucose