Researchers Examine Oral Acetate for Equine Exercise Recovery

An inaugural study has found that a sodium acetate electrolyte solution given orally with a typical hay and grain meal following exercise enhanced skeletal muscle metabolism to restore depleted glycogen (energy) sources.

"Glycogen stored in muscle is the primary energy source for horses undergoing either short-term, high intensity or prolonged submaximal exercise," explained Amanda P. Waller (who performed this study as part of her PhD thesis at the University of Guelph in Canada). "Glycogen stores can be depleted in horses that are exercised frequently or undergo several warm-ups that persist at the time of the next performance or athletic endeavor."

Previous studies have found that it can take between 48 and 72 hours after feeding a diet high in soluble carbohydrates to restore muscle glycogen stores following exercise. But since this type of meal can increase the potential risk for colic and laminitis, identifying alternate energy sources that can promote the resynthesis of muscle glycogen stores would be beneficial.

Waller and colleagues collected muscle biopsies and blood from nine exercise-conditioned horses both at rest and for 24 hours following an exercise test that simulated the speed and endurance of a three day event.

"We found that horses supplemented with 8 liters of a sodium acetate/acetic acid solution, in addition to their regular hay and grain meal, had a rapid and sustained increase in blood acetate levels and an enhanced rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis within the first 4 hours after supplementation compared to the control, non-supplemented horses," summarized Waller.

Together, these results suggested that oral acetate could prove to be a viable alternative energy source in horses that promotes restoration of glycogen stores in athletic horses.

Waller said further research is needed, particularly the formation of a more palatable formula, before this can be considered a feasible nutritional supplement.

The article, "Oral acetate supplementation after prolonged moderate intensity exercise enhances early muscle glycogen resynthesis in horses," is scheduled to be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Experimental Physiology. The abstract is currently available on PubMed.

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