The carbohydrate deficit induced by exercise is thought to play a key role in increased post-exercise insulin action. However, the effects of replacing carbohydrate utilized during exercise on postprandial glycaemia and insulin sensitivity are yet to be determined. This study therefore isolated the extent to which the insulin-sensitizing effects of exercise are dependent on the carbohydrate deficit induced by exercise, relative to other exercise-mediated mechanisms. Fourteen healthy adults performed a 90-min run at 70%
max starting at 1600–1700 h before ingesting either a non-caloric artificially-sweetened placebo solution (CHO-DEFICIT) or a 15% carbohydrate solution (CHO-REPLACE; 221.4 ± 59.3 g maltodextrin) to precisely replace the measured quantity of carbohydrate oxidized during exercise. The alternate treatment was then applied one week later in a randomized, placebo-controlled, and double-blinded crossover design. A standardized low-carbohydrate evening meal was consumed in both trials before overnight recovery ahead of a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) the following morning to assess glycemic and insulinemic responses to feeding. Compared to the CHO-DEFICIT condition, CHO-REPLACE increased the incremental area under the plasma glucose curve by a mean difference of 68 mmol·L−1
(95% CI: 4 to 132 mmol·L−1
= 0.040) and decreased the Matsuda insulin sensitivity index by a mean difference of −2 au (95% CI: −1 to −3 au; p
= 0.001). This is the first study to demonstrate that post-exercise feeding to replaceme the carbohydrate expended during exercise can attenuate glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity the following morning. The mechanism through which exercise improves insulin sensitivity is therefore (at least in part) dependent on carbohydrate availability and so the day-to-day metabolic health benefits of exercise might be best attained by maintaining a carbohydrate deficit overnight.
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