Glycogen supercompensation is due to increased number, not size, of glycogen particles in human skeletal muscle

Rasmus Jensen*, Niels Ørtenblad, Marie-Louise Holleufer Stausholm, Mette Carina Skjærbæk, Daniel Nykvist Larsen, Mette Hansen, Hans-Christer Holmberg, Peter Plomgaard, Joachim Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

NEW FINDINGS: What is the central question of this study? Glycogen supercompensation after glycogen-depleting exercise can be achieved by consuming a carbohydrate-enriched diet, but the associated effects on the size, number and localization of intramuscular glycogen particles are unknown. What is the main finding and its importance? Using transmission electron microscopy to inspect individual glycogen particles visually, we show that glycogen supercompensation is achieved by increasing the number of particles while keeping them at submaximal sizes. This might be a strategy to ensure that glycogen particles can be used fast, because particles that are too large might impair utilization rate.

ABSTRACT: Glycogen supercompensation after glycogen-depleting exercise can be achieved by consuming a carbohydrate-enriched diet, but the associated effects on the size, number and localization of intramuscular glycogen particles are unknown. We investigated how a glycogen-loading protocol affects fibre type-specific glycogen volume density, particle diameter and numerical density in three subcellular pools: between (intermyofibrillar) or within (intramyofibrillar) the myofibrils or beneath the sarcolemma (subsarcolemmal). Resting muscle biopsies from 11 physically active men were analysed using transmission electron microscopy after mixed (MIX), LOW or HIGH carbohydrate consumption separated by glycogen-lowering cycling at 75% of maximal oxygen consumption until exhaustion. After HIGH, the total volumetric glycogen content was 40% [95% confidence interval 16, 68] higher than after MIX in type I fibres (P < 0.001), with little to no difference in type II fibres (9% [95% confidence interval -9, 27]). Median particle diameter was 22.5 (interquartile range 20.8-24.7) nm across glycogen pools and fibre types, and the numerical density was 61% [25, 107] and 40% [9, 80] higher in the subsarcolemmal (P < 0.001) and intermyofibrillar (P < 0.01) pools of type I fibres, respectively, with little to no difference in the intramyofibrillar pool (3% [-20, 32]). In LOW, total glycogen was in the range of 21-23% lower, relative to MIX, in both fibre types, reflected in a 21-46% lower numerical density across pools. In comparison to MIX, particle diameter was unaffected by other diets ([-1.4, 1.3] nm). In conclusion, glycogen supercompensation after prolonged cycling is exclusive to type I fibres, predominantly in the subsarcolemmal pool, and involves an increase in the numerical density rather than the size of existing glycogen particles.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental Physiology
Volume106
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1272-1284
ISSN0958-0670
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Experimental Physiology © 2021 The Physiological Society

Keywords

  • carbohydrate
  • compartmentalization
  • diet
  • glycogen loading
  • transmission electron microscopy

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