Exercise metabolomics

The human metabolism can be strongly influenced by physical activity. In fact, acute and chronic exercise can have different effects on both performance- and health-promoting processes. The respective underlying metabolic pathways are investigated in this research project. In terms of methodology, focus is given to metabolomics analyses for the detection of a large number of low-molecular weight compounds in human biospecimen (e.g., blood or urine). In the framework of controlled interventional studies on either high-intensity interval training or acute endurance activity, exercise-induced metabolic alterations are systematically analyzed by metabolomics. Furthermore, metabolomics data from a large-scale cross-sectional study (KarMeN study) serve as a basis for the comprehensive examination of the relationship between the physical fitness and metabolic pattern in plasma or urine. Aim of this research project is to identify activity- or fitness-associated metabolite profiles that hint at metabolic pathways which are linked to the beneficial effects of physical activity.


KarMeN stands for "Karlsruhe Metabolomics and Nutrition" study. In this project of the Max-Rubner-Institut (MRI), associations between lifestyle factors diet and exercise with health status are examined. Here, the metabolites of the human body are the focus of research. All metabolites of an organism at a certain time is called the metabolome, which is affected by many factors. Among others, important factors are e.g. age, sex, hormone status, diet and physical activity. The aim of KarMeN is to characterize the metabolome of healthy men and women in order to identify metabolite patterns, that e.g. determine physical fitness. The KarMeN cohort includes more than 300 participants of whom anthropometric, genetic, functional, and clinical-chemistry related data were collected under standardized conditions. Food intake and physical activity have been examined by using questionnaires. The analysis of metabolites in plasma and urine was carried out by HPLC-MS, GC×GC-MS and NMR spectroscopy.

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Muscles in action do not only move our body but also release hormones into the circulation. These muscle derived mediators are called myokines and seem to communicate with other organs, e.g. brain, liver and fat tissue. Due to this inter-organ communication metabolism and health may be affected in many ways. The different conditions of physical activity (moderate or vigorous, short or long lasting) due to which myokines enter the blood, as well as their metabolic effects, are not entirely understood in humans. In order to answer these questions, controlled human intervention studies are performed, circulating myokines are determined and the resulting changes in metabolism are characterized by analysing the human metabolome.