Determinants of maximal whole-body fat oxidation in elite cross-country skiers: Role of skeletal muscle mitochondria

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Sune Dandanell, Anne-Kristine Meinild-Lundby, Andreas Breenfeldt Andersen, Paul F Lang, Laura Oberholzer, Stefanie Keiser, Paul Robach, Steen Larsen, Bent R Rønnestad, Carsten Lundby

Elite endurance athletes possess a high capacity for whole-body maximal fat oxidation (MFO). The aim was to investigate the determinants of a high MFO in endurance athletes. The hypotheses were that augmented MFO in endurance athletes is related to concomitantly increments of skeletal muscle mitochondrial volume density (MitoVD ) and mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation (FAOp ), that is, quantitative mitochondrial adaptations as well as intrinsic FAOp per mitochondria, that is, qualitative adaptations. Eight competitive male cross-country skiers and eight untrained controls were compared in the study. A graded exercise test was performed to determine MFO, the intensity where MFO occurs (FatMax ), and V˙O2Max . Skeletal muscle biopsies were obtained to determine MitoVD (electron microscopy), FAOp , and OXPHOSp (high-resolution respirometry). The following were higher (P < 0.05) in endurance athletes compared to controls: MFO (mean [95% confidence intervals]) (0.60 g/min [0.50-0.70] vs 0.32 [0.24-0.39]), FatMax (46% V˙O2Max [44-47] vs 35 [34-37]), V˙ O2Max (71 mL/min/kg [69-72] vs 48 [47-49]), MitoVD (7.8% [7.2-8.5] vs 6.0 [5.3-6.8]), FAOp (34 pmol/s/mg muscle ww [27-40] vs 21 [17-25]), and OXPHOSp (108 pmol/s/mg muscle ww [104-112] vs 69 [68-71]). Intrinsic FAOp (4.0 pmol/s/mg muscle w.w/MitoVD [2.7-5.3] vs 3.3 [2.7-3.9]) and OXPHOSp (14 pmol/s/mg muscle ww/MitoVD [13-15] vs 11 [10-13]) were, however, similar in the endurance athletes and untrained controls. MFO and MitoVD correlated (r2 = 0.504, P < 0.05) in the endurance athletes. A strong correlation between MitoVD and MFO suggests that expansion of MitoVD might be rate-limiting for MFO in the endurance athletes. In contrast, intrinsic mitochondrial changes were not associated with augmented MFO.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2494-2504
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • The Faculty of Science - Cross-country skiing, Endurance training, Intrinsic mitochondrial function, Mitochondrial fat oxidation, Mitochondrial volume density

ID: 203897022