Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans

Abstract

Purpose

It is usually stated that glycogen is stored in human muscle bound to water in a proportion of 1:3 g. We investigated this proportion in biopsy samples during recovery from prolonged exercise.

Methods

On two occasions, nine aerobically trained subjects (\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2\hbox{max} }\) = 54.4 ± 1.05 mL kg−1 min−1; mean ± SD) dehydrated 4.6 ± 0.2 % by cycling 150 min at 65 % \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2\hbox{max} }\) in a hot-dry environment (33 ± 4 °C). One hour after exercise subjects ingested 250 g of carbohydrates in 400 mL of water (REHLOW) or the same syrup plus water to match fluid losses (i.e., 3170 ± 190 mL; REHFULL). Muscle biopsies were obtained before, 1 and 4 h after exercise.

Results

In both trials muscle water decreased from pre-exercise similarly by 13 ± 6 % and muscle glycogen by 44 ± 10 % (P < 0.05). After recovery, glycogen levels were similar in both trials (79 ± 15 and 87 ± 18 g kg−1 dry muscle; P = 0.20) while muscle water content was higher in REHFULL than in REHLOW (3814 ± 222 vs. 3459 ± 324 g kg−1 dm, respectively; P < 0.05; ES = 1.06). Despite the insufficient water provided during REHLOW, per each gram of glycogen, 3 g of water was stored in muscle (recovery ratio 1:3) while during REHFULL this ratio was higher (1:17).

Conclusions

Our findings agree with the long held notion that each gram of glycogen is stored in human muscle with at least 3 g of water. Higher ratios are possible (e.g., during REHFULL) likely due to water storage not bound to glycogen.

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Abbreviations

\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2\hbox{max} }\) :

Maximal oxygen consumption

h:

Hours

yrs:

Years

Usg:

Urine specific gravity

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Acknowledgments

We truly thank the participants for their dedication and effort. We thank Rafael Urrialde health and nutrition director from Coca Cola Iberia for the gracious donation of the carbohydrate powder (Powerade®). We thank Dr. Jeffrey F. Horowitz from the University of Michigan for his advice and guidance during pilot data collection. V.E.F-E. was supported by a predoctoral fellowship from the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha. This study was partially supported by a grant from the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha (PEII-2014-004-A).

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Ricardo Mora-Rodriguez.

Additional information

Communicated by Michael Lindinger.

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Fernández-Elías, V.E., Ortega, J.F., Nelson, R.K. et al. Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 1919–1926 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3175-z

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Keywords

  • Sweating
  • Muscle water
  • Muscle glycogen storage
  • Oral rehydration
  • Carbohydrates