Your body can access its glycogen storages when it needs energy. Your liver and muscles are the main storage locations for molecules made from glucose found in food. These storage areas allow your body to quickly mobilize glycogen whenever it is needed.
Your body’s ability to store and use glycogen is affected by what you eat and how often you eat. Strenuous exercise and low-carb diets can all reduce glycogen stores, which causes the body to burn fat for energy.
Glycogen Production and Storage
The majority of carbohydrates we eat can be converted into glucose, which is our main source of energy. The glucose molecules that are not used for fuel are linked in eight- to twelve glucose unit chains, which make a glycogen molecule.
Triggers to This Process
- Eating a carbohydrate-containing meal will raise your blood glucose level in response.
- An increase in glucose causes the pancreas to produce insulin. This hormone aids the body to take glucose from the bloodstream and store it for energy or as fuel.
- Insulin activation causes liver and muscle cells to produce glycogen synthase, an enzyme that links glucose chains together.
- Delivering glycogen molecules to the liver, muscles, and fat cells for storage of plenty of glucose and insulin.
The muscles and liver contain the majority of glycogen. The amount of glycogen in these cells will vary depending on how active and how much energy you use at rest. It also depends on the type of food you eat.
Glycogen in the muscle is used primarily by the muscles, while glycogen in the liver is distributed throughout the body to the brain and spinal cords. Glycogen is not to be confused with glucagon, which plays a vital role in carbohydrate metabolism as well as blood glucose control.
Glycogen and the Body
Through a process known as glycogenesis, your body converts glucose into glycogen. Your body then converts glucose to glycogen through a process called glycogenolysis. The body can then use glycogen. This process is assisted by a variety of enzymes.
There is a limit to how much glucose your blood can hold at any given moment. Insulin levels will drop if the glucose level starts to fall, whether it is due to a lack of food or exercise.
This is when an enzyme known as glycogen phosphorylase begins to break down glycogen and supply glucose to the body. The body’s primary source of energy is glucose derived from liver glycogen. Glycogen is used for short bursts, regardless of whether you are sprinting or lifting heavy weights.
Your brain also uses glucose to provide energy. Between 20 and 25% of glycogen goes toward your brain’s power. You may experience mental sluggishness and “brain fog” if you don’t eat enough carbohydrates.
Glycogen and Diet
Glycogen production is also affected by what you eat and how you move. The effects are especially acute if you’re following a low-carb diet, where the primary source of glucose synthesis (carbohydrate) is suddenly restricted.
Fatigue and Mental Dullness
Your body can experience severe glycogen depletion when you first start a low-carb diet. You may feel fatigued or dull headed. These symptoms will begin to disappear once your body has adjusted and started replenishing its glycogen reserves.
Any weight loss can also have the same effect as a drop in glycogen stores. Initial weight loss may be rapid. Over time, your weight will likely plateau or even increase.
This phenomenon can partly be attributed to glycogen’s water-soluble composition. Rapid depletion in glycogen can cause rapid weight loss. As glycogen stores replenish, water weight starts to return. Weight loss can stall or plateau when this happens. Water loss is the cause of gains in the beginning, but not fat loss. These gains are temporary. Even though the plateau effect is temporary, fat loss can be sustained.
Glycogen and Exercise
The amount of glucose stored can cause problems for endurance athletes who are able to burn a lot of calories within a short time. These athletes can experience a loss of performance when they run out of glycogen. This is often called “hitting the walls”.
There are many strategies endurance athletes use in order to prevent a decrease in performance when they do strenuous exercises.
- Carbo loading: A few athletes consume excessive amounts of carbs before endurance events. Although extra carbs can provide plenty of fuel, this method is now largely out of fashion as it can lead to digestive problems and excess weight.
- Consuming glucose gels: Glycogen-rich energy gels can be taken in advance or as needed during endurance events to raise blood glucose levels.
- Ketogenic Diets: A low-carb ketogenic diet can help you reach a keto-adaptive state. This state allows your body to use stored fat as energy and less on glucose for fuel.
Glycogen, which is found in carbohydrates, is needed to fuel your brain and other bodily functions. It is important to recover glycogen from exercise. It is crucial to eat enough carbohydrates to meet your goals and maintain your activity level.
Some Important Facts:
- Glycogen does not make you fat. Consuming more calories than you burn, while not using them for muscle building, is the only thing that can increase body weight. To build muscle mass, it is important to consume more calories than you burn.
- The liver stores excess glycogen. It can be used for energy later. Glycogen is also stored in your muscles. You can store triglycerides in your fat cells if you have excess glucose. Body fat can be caused by any excess calories, regardless of the macronutrient. You are not at risk of gaining body weight by eating carbs, glucose, and glycogen.
- Glycogen helps in making you happier. You may feel tired, sluggish, and moody if your glycogen stores become depleted by exercise or from not eating enough carbs.