Local depletion of glycogen with supramaximal exercise in human skeletal muscle fibres

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Skeletal muscle glycogen is heterogeneously distributed in three separated compartments (intramyofibrillar, intermyofibrillar and subsarcolemmal). Although only constituting 3–13% of the total glycogen volume, the availability of intramyofibrillar glycogen is of particular importance to muscle function. The present study aimed to investigate the depletion of these three subcellular glycogen compartments during repeated supramaximal exercise in elite athletes. Ten elite cross-country skiers (aged 25 ± 4 years, Symbol: 65 ± 4 ml kg−1 min−1; mean ± SD) performed four ∼4 min supramaximal sprint time trials (STT 1–4) with 45 min of recovery. The subcellular glycogen volumes in musculus triceps brachii were quantified from electron microscopy images before and after both STT 1 and 4. During STT 1, the depletion of intramyofibrillar glycogen was higher in type 1 fibres [−52%; (−89:−15%)] than type 2 fibres [−15% (−52:22%)] (P = 0.02), whereas the depletion of intermyofibrillar glycogen [main effect: −19% (−33:0%), P = 0.006] and subsarcolemmal glycogen [main effect: −35% (−66:0%), P = 0.03] was similar between fibre types. By contrast, only intermyofibrillar glycogen volume was significantly reduced during STT 4, in both fibre types [main effect: −31% (−50:−11%), P = 0.002]. Furthermore, for each of the subcellular compartments, the depletion of glycogen during STT 1 was associated with the volumes of glycogen before STT 1. In conclusion, the depletion of spatially distinct glycogen compartments differs during supramaximal exercise. Furthermore, the depletion changes with repeated exercise and is fibre type-dependent.

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