BACKGROUND Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) occurs after unaccustomed exercise and has been suggested to be attributable to reactive oxygen species (ROS). Previous studies have shown increased ROS after lengthening contractions, attributable to invading phagocytes. Plasma glucose is a vital fuel for phagocytes, therefore carbohydrate (CHO) status before exercise may influence ROS production and DOMS. OBJECTIVE To examine the effect of pre-exercise CHO status on DOMS, ROS production, and muscle function after contraction induced muscle damage. METHOD Twelve subjects performed two downhill runs, one after a high CHO diet and one after a low CHO diet. Blood samples were drawn for analysis of malondialdehyde, total glutathione, creatine kinase, non-esterified fatty acids, lactate, glucose, and leucocytes. DOMS and muscle function were assessed daily. RESULTS The high CHO diet resulted in higher respiratory exchange ratio and lactate concentrations than the low CHO diet before exercise. The low CHO diet resulted in higher non-esterified fatty acid concentrations before exercise. DOMS developed after exercise and remained for up to 96 hours, after both diets. A biphasic response in creatine kinase occurred after both diets at 24 and 96 hours after exercise. Malondialdehyde had increased 72 hours after exercise after both diets, and muscle function was attenuated up to this time. CONCLUSIONS Downhill running resulted in increased ROS production and ratings of DOMS and secondary increases in muscle damage. CHO status before exercise had no effect.