What Is Glycogen? – Everything you need to know

It’s a term you’ll hear a lot when you’re reading about athletic performance, but what is glycogen and how does it help us?

Working-out and staying healthy is a world packed with technical terms, most of which you don’t need to know. But one question you should be asking is: what is glycogen?

When it comes to improving your endurance and ensuring proper recovery – it’s all about the replenishment of glycogen, the main storage form of glucose in the body.

Having high levels of glycogen in both the muscles and the liver is essential for optimal athletic performance, as glycogen is your body’s most readily available energy source.

When you’re doing an intense workout, your body demands a lot of energy, and it will get this from your glycogen stores. What is glycogen doing when you exercise? The longer and harder you exercise, the more glycogen is used. And what happens when we run out completely? We hit a wall, and our bodies experience fatigue.

Quite incredibly (and annoyingly), our bodies glycogen levels can reduce by as much as 50% after just 10-20 minutes of exhaustive exercise, and it can only be restored at 5% per hour (typical, ay?) This means that it can take up to a whole day or longer for glycogen levels to be fully replenished.

To efficiently replenish glycogen you have a two-hour window after an intense workout. During this time you’ll want to feed your body simple carbohydrates that it can easily break down such as milk, fruit and vegetables. Research suggests that consuming 50g of carbohydrates every two hours increases the rate of restoring the depleted glycogen stores.


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