The Ultimate Guide to Glycogen Metabolism in Humans

The Ultimate Guide to Glycogen Metabolism in Humans

Table of Contents

Glycogen Metabolism refers to the synthesis and breakdown of glycogen. Glycogen is a branched polymer that is the primary form of short-term storage for carbohydrates in animal cells.

The Ultimate Guide to Glycogen Metabolism in Humans

Did you know that your body can store around 18,000 calories of energy? This is known as your metabolic rate. It is the energy your body uses at rest (the amount of energy you use while sitting still). The metabolic rate is determined by the amount of muscle mass you have. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate will be. On the other hand, not eating enough can slow you down. It can also make losing weight more difficult. But what does this have to do with glycogen? When our bodies store extra carbohydrates in our muscles as glycogen, our metabolism speeds up. This makes losing weight easier. Below, we will explore everything about how our bodies use glycogen.

What is glycogen?

Glycogen is a carbohydrate that occurs in the body in limited quantities.

Glycogen is a carbohydrate that occurs in the body in limited quantities. It is the storage form of glucose, which is a simple sugar. Your body can convert glycogen into glucose only when you need it for energy.

Your muscles and liver store glycogen for energy during exercise and when your body needs extra fuel. Glycogen is a complex molecule made up of glucose molecules bonded. The process of converting glycogen into glucose is called glycogenesis.

Your body keeps around 1 pound (500 grams) of glycogen in the liver and the same amount in your muscles. When you eat more carbs than your body requires, the extra sugar in your blood turns into glycogen. This glycogen is then stored in your liver and muscles for when it’s needed. If your body needs energy, like when you’re exercising or fasting, glycogen is broken down into glucose. This happens when there is not enough insulin or when your body cannot use insulin properly to absorb sugar from your blood (insulin resistance).

How is Glycogen Metabolism Used in Weight Loss?

One of the ways that glycogen metabolism is used in weight loss is by increasing our metabolic rate. It does this by providing fuel for your muscles and body to use. Another way it is used in weight loss is that it lets us tell our brain we are full. When we eat, the stomach sends signals to our brain about what we ate and how much. When the stomach tells the brain there is enough food, it doesn’t signal us to stop eating.

This means we could overeat if we do not have enough glycogen stored in our muscles. Glycogen metabolism helps with weight loss by providing fuel for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Anaerobic exercise is training where you work at an extremely high intensity for a short period before returning.

How Does Glycogen Storage Affect the Metabolic Rate?

How Does Glycogen Storage Affect the Metabolic Rate?

When we save extra carbs as glycogen in our muscles, our bodies burn more energy. This helps us lose weight. Having more muscle makes your body burn even more energy. But how? It’s all about two hormones: glucagon and insulin. Glucagon helps store energy and boosts how fast your body uses energy when needed. Insulin stops the release of stored energy. If the body stores too much energy as fat, not carbs, it becomes less sensitive to insulin. This condition is called insulin resistance. People with more body fat have a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. This is because their bodies can’t use glucose, or sugar, efficiently.

What is glycogen used for?

Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles. It is the body’s primary energy source, providing glucose most needed, such as during exercise.

After you eat, your blood sugar goes up. To balance this, your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin helps glucose get into your muscles and fat, storing it as glycogen. Any extra sugar in your blood also turns into glycogen. This is useful for organs like your brain and kidneys when they need it.

During exercise, muscle tissue breaks down glycogen for energy. This allows muscles to work hard and keep moving. If you don’t have enough glycogen, you’ll get tired fast. After long workouts or intense short ones, athletes eat high-carb foods like bananas or pasta. This helps restock their glycogen, preventing them from running out of energy. This process stops them from “bonking,” which means they don’t run out of energy for their muscles to work.

How is glycogen broken down?

Glycogen is broken down into glucose. Glucose is broken down into pyruvate. Pyruvate is broken down into acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is broken down into acetyl-CoA, the first step of aerobic respiration (the breakdown of food to produce energy).

How exactly does a cell “know” when to break down glycogen stores?

Glycogen is a stored carbohydrate found in the liver and muscles. When these stores run low, your body uses glycogen for energy. This conversion of glycogen to glucose and ATP is called glycolysis. Glycolysis happens in the cell’s cytoplasm and involves several steps.

Carbohydrates are turned into energy through a series of steps, resulting in ATP as the final product.

First, glucose breaks down into two molecules. Each has three carbon atoms and three phosphate groups. This step creates two three-carbon triose phosphates, one two-carbon dihydroxyacetone phosphate, and one ATP molecule.

Then, the two triose phosphates react with NAD+/NADH. This reaction, an oxidation, produces a pyruvate molecule and another ADP molecule.

What is glycogenolysis and glycogen synthesis?

Glycogenesis is the conversion of glucose into glycogen. Glycogen is a storage form of glucose that your body can use. The liver and skeletal muscles store a majority of the body’s glycogen, but it is also present in the brain and other organs.

Glycogenolysis happens when hormones like epinephrine and glucagon are released or when blood glucose levels are low. The latter triggers the release of glucagon from the pancreas, which binds to liver cells and stimulates their glycogenolytic activity.

Glycogen synthesis is the process by which glucose molecules are added to chains of glycogen. The process involves several enzymes that catalyze reactions that convert individual glucose units into strands of glycogen.

The Benefits of a High-Glycogen Diet

Understanding that a high-glycogen diet can help you get into shape is important. Exercise can also help prevent illness and disease if you have a low metabolic rate. Both muscle-building and health benefits are associated with a high-glycogen diet. Scientific evidence also says a high-glycogen diet is linked to increased brain function. It improves memory and thinking skills. This is great for challenging jobs like sales or finance. Plus, a diet high in glycogen helps burn fat better than low-protein diets.

A 2006 study showed increasing protein from 12% to 20% raised glycogen by 35% and lowered fat by 30%. This means eating more protein helps burn more fat compared to just eating carbs.

Limitations of a High-Glycogen Diet

 The downside is that you could have serious health problems if your <a href=

Eating a diet high in glycogen can help you lose weight, but it has drawbacks. If you don’t get enough calories, you could face serious health issues. This is because your body needs calories to burn the carbs stored in your muscles. If your glycogen levels are too high, you might not get enough calories, vitamins, or minerals. Your metabolism could slow down, making it hard to keep a healthy calorie count.

If you try a high-glycogen diet, know that muscle glycogen won’t last forever. Without enough food, your body will break down muscle for energy, not carbs. So, when on a high-glycogen diet to lose weight, ensure your body gets enough calories.

Should You Eat a High-Glycogen Diet to Lose Weight?

No, there is no evidence to support that a high-glycogen diet will help you lose weight. You should eat a well-rounded diet that includes protein, fat, and carbs. Whether you have low or high levels of muscle mass, the most important thing for losing weight is to control your calorie intake. And don’t forget what Dr. Kaayla Daniel says: “There is no magic number for how many grams of carbs you want to eat daily.”

To lose weight, eat fewer calories than your body needs. This creates a deficit, leading to weight loss. To gain weight, eat more than your daily calorie needs. This means consuming more than your body requires.

Glycogen is a polysaccharide (chain of glucose molecules)

Glycogen is a polysaccharide (chain of glucose molecules) that stores energy in the liver and muscles in animals. It’s one of two types of carbohydrates stored as glycogen—the other being starch. In plants, it serves as long-term storage for carbon dioxide from photosynthesis.

Glycogen is made up of a single glucose molecule with branching chains resulting in long chains of glucose units.

Glycogen is a polymer of glucose residues. The chain is made of glucose molecules linked with alpha 1-4 glycosidic bonds, which means that each molecule has an end (C-1 carbon) that can attach to the next molecule’s C-4 carbon. This results in a branched structure wherein each branch comprises one glucose unit.

Insulin is needed for muscle cells to take up glucose from the blood and store it as glycogen.

Insulin is needed for muscle cells to take up glucose from the blood and store it as glycogen.

Perhaps you’ve heard of insulin before. It’s a hormone that helps regulate the storage and usage of glucose in the body. If you haven’t, here’s what you need to know about it:

  • Insulin is a storage hormone. When your body needs to store glucose, it releases insulin into your bloodstream. The purpose is for your muscles and liver cells—which have receptors for this hormone—to take up glucose from the blood and convert it into glycogen (a form of stored energy).
  • Insulin isn’t just important for storing glucose. It also helps store glycogen, formed when many individual carbohydrate units are joined together into one long chain. Glycogen is stored in muscles and the liver as an emergency energy source while waiting for more carbohydrates to be digested and absorbed from food.
Insulin is a storage hormone. When your body needs to store glucose, it releases insulin into your bloodstream.

In humans, the process starts with a series of reactions that occur primarily in the liver, kidneys, and intestines.

  • Glycogenolysis is when enzymes split glycogen into glucose, which is used as fuel in the cell. Glycogenesis is the process of creating new glycogen molecules from glucose through a series of reactions that occur primarily in the liver and kidneys, and intestines.

Glycogen metabolism can be controlled through dietary choices we make daily

As you learned in the previous section, glycogen is a polysaccharide, a chain of glucose molecules. It is mainly stored in the liver and muscles, serving as a storage form of energy. When your body needs extra energy to perform any task that requires greater physical effort than normal—such as exercise or just walking around all day—it breaks down glycogen into glucose which can then be used for energy.


Glycogen is mainly stored in the liver and muscles. It can also be found in a few red blood cells (RBCs). To turn into glycogen, glucose must first change into glucose-6-phosphate. This change is done by phosphoglucomutase. Then, glycogenesis starts. It encompasses numerous reactions. Glycogen synthase plays a key role. The process ends when glucose becomes glucose-1-phosphate.

When we digest food, amylases break down starch into maltose. Maltase then turns maltose into glucose. Besides these processes, many factors influence our glycogen needs. These include our lifestyle choices, like how we diet or if we exercise regularly.

FAQ about Glycogen Metabolism