This review addresses issues related to substrate metabolism in children and how this information compares and contrasts to that of adults. The relative percent of fat and carbohydrate (CHO) utilized by an individual can be estimated from respiratory exchange ratio (RER) values between 0.7 (100% fat, 0% CHO) and 1.0 (100% CHO, 0% fat). The rise in RER towards 1.0 in relation to increased exercise intensity demonstrates the augmented role of CHO as an energy source for muscle; however, fat oxidation also represents a major source of energy during exercise of moderate-to-heavy intensity. Preliminary reports suggest that children demonstrate patterns of fat and CHO use in response to exercise intensity similar to those of adults and also show a reduction in RER at submaximal exercise intensities after training. The use of the “crossover concept" may simplify the presentation of how metabolism is affected by exercise intensity and training.
G.E. Duncan is with the Health Science Center at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610. E.T. Howley is with the Exercise Science Unit at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996.