The Role of Muscle Glycogen Content and Localization in High-Intensity Exercise Performance: A Placebo-Controlled Trial

Jeppe F. Vigh‑Larsen, Niels Ørtenblad, Joachim Nielsen, Ole E. Andersen, Kristian Overgaard, Magni Mohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated the coupling between muscle glycogen content and localization and high-intensity exercise performance using a randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group design with emphasis on single-fiber subcellular glycogen concentrations and sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ kinetics.

Eighteen well-trained participants performed high-intensity intermittent glycogen-depleting exercise followed by randomization to a high- (CHO, ~1 g CHO·kg-1·h-1, n = 9) or low-carbohydrate placebo diet (PLA,
The exercise and carbohydrate manipulations led to distinct muscle glycogen concentrations in CHO and PLA at the whole-muscle (291 ± 78 vs 175 ± 100 mmol·kg-1 dw, P = 0.020) and subcellular level in each of three local regions (P = 0.001-0.046). This was coupled with near-depleted glycogen concentrations in single-fibers of both main fiber types in PLA, especially in the intramyofibrillar region (within the myofibrils). Furthermore, increased ratings of perceived exertion and impaired repeated sprint ability (~8% loss, P < 0.001) were present in PLA, the latter correlating moderately to very strongly (r = 0.47-0.71, P = 0.001-0.049) with whole-muscle glycogen and subcellular glycogen fractions. Finally, sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ uptake, but not release, was superior in CHO, whereas neuromuscular function, including prolonged low-frequency force depression, was unaffected by dietary manipulation.

Together, these results support an important role of muscle glycogen availability for high-intensity exercise performance, which may be mediated by reductions in single-fiber levels, particularly in distinct subcellular regions, despite only moderately lowered whole-muscle glycogen concentrations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2073-2086
Number of pages14
JournalMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2022


  • fatigue
  • intermittent exercise
  • metabolism
  • excitation-contract
  • carbohydrate


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