Lipid metabolism during endurance exercise

Jeffrey F. Horowitz, Samuel Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


Endogenous triacylglycerols represent an important source of fuel for endurance exercise. Triacylglycerol oxidation increases progressively during exercise; the specific rate is determined by energy requirements of working muscles, fatty acid delivery to muscle mitochondria, and the oxidation of other substrates. The catecholamine response to exercise increases lipolysis of adipose tissue triacylglycerols and, presumably, intramuscular triacylglycerols. In addition, increases in adipose tissue and muscle blood flow decrease fatty acid reesterification and facilitate the delivery of released fatty acids to skeletal muscle. Alterations in fatty acid mobilization and the relative use of adipose and intramuscular triacylglycerols during exercise depend, in large part, on degree of fitness and exercise intensity. Compared with untrained persons exercising at the same absolute intensity, persons who have undergone endurance training have greater fat oxidation during exercise without increased lipolysis. Available evidence suggests that the training-induced increase in fat oxidation is due primarily to increased oxidation of non-plasma-derived fatty acids, perhaps from intramuscular triacylglycerol stores. Fat oxidation is lower in high-intensity exercise than in moderate-intensity exercise, in part because of decreased fatty acid delivery to exercising muscles. Parenteral lipid supplementation during high-intensity exercise increases fat oxidation, but the effect of ingesting long-chain or medium-chain triacylglycerols on substrate metabolism during exercise is less clear. This review discusses the relation between fatty acid mobilization and oxidation during exercise and the effect of endurance training, exercise intensity, and lipid supplementation on these responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558S-563S
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 2000


  • Adipose tissue
  • Endurance training
  • Exercise
  • Fatty acids
  • Glycerol
  • Intramuscular triacylglycerol
  • Lipid supplementation
  • Lipolysis
  • Medium-chain triacylglycerol
  • Stable isotopes

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