1. Substrate movements in forearm muscle and subcutaneous adipose tissue were studied, by measurement of arteriovenous differences and blood flow, in seven normal subjects after an overnight fast and then for 6 h after ingestion of a mixed meal. Overall substrate balances were examined in terms of the flux of gram-atoms of carbon.
2. As found previously, the forearm was approximately in carbon balance (import equal to export) after the overnight fast, whereas adipose tissue was a net exporter of carbon, mainly in the form of non-esterified fatty acids.
3. After the meal, arterialized plasma concentrations of glucose and lactate rose sharply (peak at 60 min), whereas those of non-esterified fatty acids and glycerol fell (nadir at 60–120 min). Plasma triacylglycerol concentrations rose slowly to peak at 240 min; much of this rise was accounted for by a rise in the chylomicron fraction.
4. Both tissues took up glucose at an increased rate after the meal. Release of non-esterified fatty acids and glycerol from adipose tissue was suppressed. Clearance of triacylglycerol by both tissues increased after the meal, but was more marked in adipose tissue, where the fractional extraction of chylomicron-triacylglycerol reached 44% at 240 min.
5. The forearm rapidly became a considerable net importer of carbon, and remained so until 6 h after the meal when it was again in approximate carbon balance. Glucose uptake dominated the forearm carbon balance. Adipose tissue was a net importer of carbon from 30 min until 5 h after the meal and then reverted to net export. Clearance of triacylglycerol carbon made the largest contribution to this positive balance, but towards the end of the study this was increasingly counterbalanced by simultaneous non-esterified fatty acid release.
6. Skeletal muscle plays a major role, and adipose tissue a minor one, in the disposal of ingested carbohydrate; adipose tissue plays a major role and skeletal muscle a minor one in clearance of dietary-derived triacylglycerol. The role of adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase is not, however, simply the uptake of triacylglycerol for storage within the tissue; rather, it appears to play a central role in the distribution of dietary-derived lipid energy.