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Dietary sugars, exercise and hepatic carbohydrate metabolism

  • Javier T. Gonzalez (a1) and James A. Betts (a1)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Abstract

The present paper reviews the physiological responses of human liver carbohydrate metabolism to physical activity and ingestion of dietary sugars. The liver represents a central link in human carbohydrate metabolism and a mechanistic crux point for the effects of dietary sugars on athletic performance and metabolic health. As a corollary, knowledge regarding physiological responses to sugar ingestion has potential application to either improve endurance performance in athletes, or target metabolic diseases in people who are overweight, obese and/or sedentary. For example, exercise increases whole-body glycogen utilisation, and the breakdown of liver glycogen to maintain blood glucose concentrations becomes increasingly important as exercise intensity increases. Accordingly, prolonged exercise at moderate-to-high exercise intensity results in depletion of liver glycogen stores unless carbohydrate is ingested during exercise. The exercise-induced glycogen deficit can increase insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control, and may result in less hepatic lipid synthesis. Therefore, the induction and maintenance of a glycogen deficit with exercise could be a specific target to improve metabolic health and could be achieved by carbohydrate (sugar) restriction before, during and/or after exercise. Conversely, for athletes, maintaining and restoring these glycogen stores is a priority when competing in events requiring repeated exertion with limited recovery. With this in mind, evidence consistently demonstrates that fructose-containing sugars accelerate post-exercise liver glycogen repletion and could reduce recovery time by as much as half that seen with ingestion of glucose (polymers)-only. Therefore, athletes aiming for rapid recovery in multi-stage events should consider ingesting fructose-containing sugars to accelerate recovery.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Javier T. Gonzalez, email J.T.Gonzalez@bath.ac.uk

References

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Keywords

Dietary sugars, exercise and hepatic carbohydrate metabolism

  • Javier T. Gonzalez (a1) and James A. Betts (a1)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

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