Comparable Exogenous Carbohydrate Oxidation from Lactose or Sucrose during Exercise

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Ingesting readily oxidized carbohydrates (CHO) such as sucrose during exercise can improve endurance performance. Whether lactose can be utilized as a fuel source during exercise is unknown. The purpose of this study was to investigate the metabolic response to lactose ingestion during exercise, compared with sucrose or water.

Eleven participants (age, 22 ± 4 yr; V̇O2peak, 50.9 ± 4.7 mL·min−1·kg−1) cycled at 50% Wmax for 150 min on five occasions. Participants ingested CHO beverages (lactose or sucrose; 48 g·h−1, 0.8 g·min−1) or water throughout exercise. Total substrate and exogenous CHO oxidation was estimated using indirect calorimetry and stable isotope techniques (naturally high 13C-abundance CHO ingestion). Naturally low 13C-abundance CHO trials were conducted to correct background shifts in breath 13CO2 production. Venous blood samples were taken to determine plasma glucose, lactate, and nonesterified fatty acid concentrations.

Mean exogenous CHO oxidation rates were comparable with lactose (0.56 ± 0.19 g·min−1) and sucrose (0.61 ± 0.10 g·min−1; P = 0.49) ingestion. Endogenous CHO oxidation contributed less to energy expenditure in lactose (38% ± 14%) versus water (50% ± 11%, P = 0.01) and sucrose (50% ± 7%, P ≤ 0.05). Fat oxidation was higher in lactose (42% ± 8%) than in sucrose (28% ± 6%; P ≤ 0.01); CHO conditions were lower than water (50% ± 11%; P ≤ 0.05). Plasma glucose was higher in lactose and sucrose than in water (P ≤ 0.01); plasma lactate was higher in sucrose than in water (P ≤ 0.01); plasma nonesterified fatty acids were higher in water than in sucrose (P ≤ 0.01).

Lactose and sucrose exhibited similar exogenous CHO oxidation rates during exercise at moderate ingestion rates. Compared with sucrose ingestion, lactose resulted in higher fat and lower endogenous CHO oxidation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2663–2672
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number12
Early online date19 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Physical Activity
  • metabolism
  • nutrition
  • substrate oxidation
  • sugars


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