The breakdown of fuels such as carbohydrates and fats for energy involves a complex series of metabolic reactions. Precise regulation of these various metabolic pathways is vital to the integrity of the cell and organism.
A major focus of the Human Performance Research Lab is the regulation of skeletal muscle energy metabolism and in particular the mechanisms that coordinate “remodeling” of this tissue in response to various stimuli.
Skeletal muscle is a very interesting tissue to study since it can change its metabolic rate quite dramatically. For example, during strenuous exercise the rate of energy demand can increase by over a hundred-fold compared to rest, which forces the muscle to rapidly adjust its rate of energy supply in order to maintain proper function. The way in which we study skeletal muscle in humans is to produce distinct “metabolic challenges” by asking people to exercise at different workloads for varying periods of time. We can further investigate metabolic processes by altering substrate availability (e.g., using dietary manipulations) or by studying subjects with special characteristics (e.g., highly trained individuals or people with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes). We investigate the muscle response by obtaining small samples of tissue using the needle biopsy technique. The tissue is then analyzed for compounds such as enzymes and other proteins that are involved in regulating cellular energy metabolism. The major goal of this research is to provide basic scientific information about metabolic regulation, but the results may have practical implications for people who are interested in the body’s response to exercise. In addition to basic mechanistic studies, we also conduct applied research in the Lab that examines the impact of physical training and dietary manipulation on exercise or sport performance.