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Since the pioneering studies conducted in the 1960s in which glycogen status was investigated using the muscle biopsy technique, sports scientists have developed a sophisticated appreciation of the role of glycogen in cellular adaptation and exercise performance, as well as sites of storage of this important metabolic fuel. While sports nutrition guidelines have evolved during the past decade to incorporate sport-specific and periodized manipulation of carbohydrate (CHO) availability, athletes attempt to maximize muscle glycogen synthesis between important workouts or competitive events so that fuel stores closely match the demands of the prescribed exercise. Therefore, it is important to understand the factors that enhance or impair this biphasic process. In the early postexercise period (0–4 h), glycogen depletion provides a strong drive for its own resynthesis, with the provision of CHO (~1 g/kg body mass) optimizing this process. During the later phase of recovery (4–24 h), CHO intake should meet the anticipated fuel needs of the training/competition, with the type, form, and pattern of intake being less important than total intake. Dietary strategies that can enhance glycogen synthesis from suboptimal amounts of CHO or energy intake are of practical interest to many athletes; in this scenario, the coingestion of protein with CHO can assist glycogen storage. Future research should identify other factors that enhance the rate of synthesis of glycogen storage in a limited time frame, improve glycogen storage from a limited CHO intake, or increase muscle glycogen supercompensation.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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