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Access Type

Open Access

Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

January 2007

Month Degree Awarded



insulin action; stable isotope; glucose uptake; insulin resistance; carbohydrate replacement


INTRODUCTION: Exercise increases insulin stimulated glucose uptake (insulin action) if expended energy (kcal) is withheld following exercise, but the effect is blunted when expended energy is replaced as carbohydrate. Restricting carbohydrate and replacing expended energy as fat maintains increased insulin action in rodents; however, this effect has not been evaluated in humans. In humans, restricting carbohydrate intake following exercise may be a useful strategy to maximize the effect of individual exercise bouts on insulin action and promote gains in metabolic health over time. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if carbohydrate restriction following exercise (carbohydrate deficit) increased insulin action in sedentary, overweight adults as hypothesized. METHODS: Ten healthy, sedentary, men and women, aged 21±2 years, body fat 37.3±3.1%, and VO2peak 34.6±1.2ml×kg-1×min-1 completed three, two-day experimental conditions in random order: 1) a no-exercise baseline condition (BASE), 2) exercise followed by a high-carbohydrate meal (HIGH-CHO= 76.3±2.5% CHO), and 3) exercise followed by a low-carbohydrate meal (LOW-CHO=17.8±0.1% CHO). On DAY 1, subjects came to the laboratory (early evening) and expended 30% of total daily energy expenditure on a cycle ergometer at 70% of VO2peak. Following exercise, an isocaloric meal (HIGH-CHO or LOW-CHO) was consumed to refeed the expended energy during exercise and venous blood samples were taken to record the insulin and glucose responses to the meals. Twelve hours later (Day 2), whole-body insulin action (steady-state glucose uptake per unit insulin) was measured using a continuous infusion of glucose with stable isotope tracers. A paired t-test was used to detect differences between exercise bouts and the glucose and insulin responses to the post-exercise meals. A one-way repeated measures ANOVA was performed to evaluate the effect of experimental condition on insulin action (p<0.05, for all tests). RESULTS: Intensity (VO2peak), duration (minutes) and energy expenditure (kcal) were similar between exercise bouts. After exercise, plasma glucose and insulin concentrations were significantly higher following the HIGH-CHO meal compared to the LOW-CHO meal (p<0.001, respectively). The next morning, insulin action was similar between experimental conditions (p=0.30). Non-oxidative glucose disposal was increased during the glucose infusion in Low-CHO compared to BASE (27.2±3.2 vs. 16.9±3.5µM×kg-1×min-1, p<0.05). Carbohydrate oxidation was reduced in Low-CHO (8.6±1.3µM×kg-1×min-1) compared to High-CHO (12.2±1.2µM×kg-1×min-1), and to BASE (17.1 ± 2.2 µM×kg-1×min-1), p<0.05 respectively. Resting fat oxidation was increased in Low-CHO compared to BASE (109.8 ± 10.5 mg×min-1 vs. 80.7 ± 9.6 mg×min-1, p<0.05) and remained elevated during the glucose infusion. CONCLUSION: Limiting carbohydrate, but not energy intake after exercise (carbohydrate deficit) resulted in increased non-oxidative glucose disposal, decreased carbohydrate oxidation and increased fat oxidation during the glucose infusion, compared to baseline, indicating a favorable shift in energy metabolism. Creating a carbohydrate deficit, by withholding expended carbohydrate but not energy following exercise may be a sensible strategy to promote favorable gains in insulin action that requires further evaluation.

First Advisor

Barry Braun