Marked circadian fluctuations in skeletal muscle glycogen concentrations have previously been reported. The purpose of the present study was to estimate the influence of these rhythms on muscle glycogen metabolism during and after high-intensity treadmill exercise. Male Sprague-Dawley rats ran five 1-min sprints at 75 m min-1 interspersed by 1–3 min rest intervals either at 08.00 h (morning) or at 20.00 h (night). All muscles sampled lost significant amounts of glycogen during exercise at both time periods. There were no differences in rates of loss between morning and night, even though glycogen levels in several muscles (high-oxidative muscles) were significantly higher before exercise in the morning. Following exercise, glycogen restoration in muscle samples primarily composed of fast-twitch fibres was more rapid in the morning than at night. There was no difference in glycogen restoration rates between the two time periods in the muscle primarily composed of slow-twitch fibres. Although liver glycogen was lower after exercise at night than in the morning, there were no differences in post-exercise blood glucose levels between the two time periods. In conclusion, circadian rhythms do not appear to influence rates of glycogen loss during high-speed running. However, since glycogen loss is the same at all times of day, one would predict that circadian changes in pre-exercise muscle glycogen concentrations would affect muscular endurance. Muscle glycogen restoration after exercise does appear to be affected by circadian rhythms, although interpretation of these data is complicated by possible changes in patterns of muscle fibre contraction at different times of the day. These circadian influences should be considered in the design of exercise studies using laboratory rodents.

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