Effects of exercise and food restriction on rat skeletal muscles

L. C. Maxwell, C. S. Enwemeka, G. Fernandes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Studies were undertaken to compare the effects of exercise and food restriction on body weight (BW), muscle weight (MW), muscle fiber size, and proportion of muscle fiber types. 20 male Fischer 344 rats were randomly assigned to four equal groups: ad libitum-fed control (AC), ad libitum-fed exercise (AE), food restricted control (RC) and food restricted exercise (RE). From 6 weeks of age, RC and RE rats received 60% of the daily food intake of AC and AE rats, respectively. At 7 months of age, AE and RE rats began 40-50 min of daily treadmill exercise. Running speed increased from 1.2 to 1.6 miles/hour and the grade increased to 15% during the first 2 weeks of training. After 10 weeks of training, rats were weighed, sacrificed, and the soleus (SOL), plantaris (PLN) and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles were removed at in situ rest length, weighed, and quick-frozen. Standard histochemical assays were performed, and muscle fiber cross-sectional area was determined planimetrically. Training had little effect on MW or BW, but food restriction greatly reduced BW. This resulted in greater MW BW ratio in RC and RE than AC and AE rats, respectively. Exercise also increased SOL muscle fiber area in ad libitum-fed but not food restricted rats resulting in smaller fibers in SOL of RE than AE. No changes in percentage of SOL fiber types occurred with food restriction or exercise. In PLN, the percentage of fast-twitch oxidative fibers of AE and RE was greater than in AC and RC, but there was no effect of food restriction or exercise on fiber area. Neither food restriction nor exercise altered the percentages of fiber types in EDL, but fast-twitch fibers in RE were smaller than in AE. We conclude that food restriction does not alter fiber type percentages or reduce fiber area in sedentary rats; nor does it prevent fiber type conversion in response to endurance training. However, fibers in SOL and EDL muscles of RE were smaller than AE, indicating that food restriction prevents exercise induced muscle hypertrophy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-498
Number of pages8
JournalTissue and Cell
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Muscle
  • exercise
  • fiber type
  • food restriction
  • rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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