Carbohydrate utilization during exercise after high-altitude acclimation: A new perspective
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At high altitude (HA), carbohydrate (CHO) is thought to be the preferred fuel because of its higher yield of ATP per mole of O2. We used indirect calorimetry and D-[6-3H]glucose infusions to determine total CHO and circulatory glucose utilization during exercise in HA-acclimated and sea level (SL) rats. We hypothesized that the percent contribution of CHO to total metabolism (VO2) is determined by exercise intensity relative to an aerobic maximum (% VO2max). HA rats run under hypoxia (FIO2 = 0.12) showed a decrease in VO2max compared with SL (67.55 +/- 1.26 vs. 89.30 +/- 1.23 ml kg-1 min-1). When exercised at 60% of their respective VO2max, both groups showed the same relative use of CHO (38 +/- 3% and 38 +/- 5% of VO2, at the beginning of exercise, in HA and SL, respectively). In both HA and SL, circulatory glucose accounted for approximately 20% of VO2, the balance was provided by muscle glycogen (approximately 18% of VO2). After 20 min at a higher intensity of 80% VO2max, 54 +/- 5% (HA) and 59 +/- 4% (SL) of VO2 was accounted for by CHO. We conclude the following: (i) the relative contributions of total CHO, circulatory glucose, and muscle glycogen do not increase after HA acclimation because the O2-saving advantage of CHO is outweighed by limited CHO stores; and (ii) relative exercise intensity is the major determinant of metabolic fuel selection at HA, as well as at SL.
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