Greater Reliance on Carbohydrates during Single Leg Versus Double Leg Cycling

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Shane N. Draper
Sarah G. Kearney
John McDaniel


Exercise, Metabolism, Skeletal muscle.


Introduction: Small muscle mass exercises, such as single leg cycling, allow for greater muscle specific workload which should result in greater reliance on carbohydrate oxidation (CarbOx). However, the metabolic consequences to smaller muscle mass exercise have not been fully elucidated.

Purpose: To determine differences in CarbOx and fat oxidation (FatOx) between single-leg (SL) and double-leg (DL) cycling when performed at similar VO2. Methods: Ten healthy college students completed two separate 30-minute bouts of SL and DL cycling at 45% of VO2peak. Oxygen consumption, respiratory exchange ratio (RER), CarbOx, FatOx, HR and power were recorded throughout the exercise. Paired samples t-tests were utilized to identify differences in all dependent variables between cycling conditions.

Results: Matching oxygen consumption required a slightly lower power output for the SL condition (86±25 W) compared to DL (94±30 W). Despite similar kcal expenditure between the two cycling modalities, participants had 7% greater RER (0.92±0.03 versus 0.86±0.05; p=0.001), 45% greater CarbOx (p<0.001) and 37% reduced FatOx (p<0.001) during SL compared to DL cycling.

Conclusion: Thus, inclusion of smaller muscle mass activities into exercise training may enhance skeletal muscle glucose uptake kinetics, which would benefit athletes, and help with blood glucose control for those with diabetes.

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