Muscle Glycogen Content Modifies SR Ca2+ Release Rate in Elite Endurance Athletes


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 3 - p 496–505
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000132
Basic Sciences

Purpose: The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of muscle glycogen content on sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) function and peak power output (Wpeak) in elite endurance athletes.

Methods: Fourteen highly trained male triathletes (V˙O2max = 66.5 ± 1.3 mL O2·kg−1·min−1), performed 4 h of glycogen-depleting cycling exercise (HRmean = 73% ± 1% of maximum). During the first 4 h of recovery, athletes received either water (H2O) or carbohydrate (CHO), separating alterations in muscle glycogen content from acute changes affecting SR function and performance. Thereafter, all subjects received CHO-enriched food for the remaining 20-h recovery period.

Results: Immediately after exercise, muscle glycogen content and SR Ca2+ release rate was reduced to 32% ± 4% (225 ± 28 mmol·kg−1 dw) and 86% ± 2% of initial levels, respectively (P < 0.01). Glycogen markedly recovered after 4 h of recovery with CHO (61% ± 2% of preexercise) and SR Ca2+ release rate returned to preexercise level. However, in the absence of CHO during the first 4 h of recovery, glycogen and SR Ca2+ release rate remained depressed, with the normalization of both parameters at the end of the 24 h of recovery after receiving a CHO-enriched diet. Linear regression demonstrated a significant correlation between SR Ca2+ release rate and muscle glycogen content (P < 0.01, r2 = 0.30). The 4 h of cycling exercise reduced Wpeak by 5.5%–8.9% at different cadences (P < 0.05), and Wpeak was normalized after 4 h of recovery with CHO, whereas Wpeak remained depressed (P < 0.05) after water provision. Wpeak was fully recovered after 24 h in both the H2O and the CHO group.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the present results suggest that low muscle glycogen depresses muscle SR Ca2+ release rate, which may contribute to fatigue and delayed recovery of Wpeak 4 h postexercise.

1Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, SDU Muscle Research Cluster (SMRC), University of Southern Denmark, Odense, DENMARK; 2Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre, Department of Health Sciences, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, SWEDEN; and 3The Åstrand Laboratory, Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Stockholm, SWEDEN

Address for correspondence: Niels Ørtenblad, Ph.D., Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark; E-mail:

Submitted for publication March 2013.

Accepted for publication July 2013.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine