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Why glycogen is your muscles bestie (even as a beginner exerciser)

Beginner exercisers benefit by knowing about muscle glycogen, especially if lowering their carbohydrate intake.

Muscle glycogen is the main fuel source that powers your skeletal muscles during longer workouts. If you don’t have enough muscle glycogen to burn, then you’ll become more tired, consequently training below your potential. 

Simply put, muscle glycogen is often regarded as the preferred energy source of all our muscles. Without it our peak physical performance more than likely will be inhibited.

Mike Dewar, Barbend.com

Glycogen comes from the carbohydrates in our food. This study summarizes well. Carbs break down into glucose that is then released into the bloodstream. Your body will use this glucose if there’s an immediate need for energy.

What happens if I don’t use it?

Good question. For the first 2000 calories, it’ll store it in a place that’ll get used. Up to 400 calories in the liver, and up to 1600 calories in the skeletal muscle. Anything beyond this will be stored as fat. This is why you might see a lot of weight loss in your first week of weight loss camp. Stripping your bodies stored glycogen levels each day will see significant reduction in weight.

And here’s the interesting part; each gram of glycogen stored in your body is bound to 3 or 4 grams of water. … The reason you can lose 10 or more pounds of weight in the first week of a diet – especially a low carb one – is because you’re burning through your body’s glycogen stores and not replenishing them.


Fat is harder for the body to break down as its stored in the adipose tissue. It’s easier on the body to have less stored fat, so that your body can use muscle and liver glycogen predominantly for its energy source when you exercise. Typically this is used up in two hours, as there is only 2000 calories available. After that, you burn fat…until you eat again. If you eat in excess, it’ll go through the same storage system as explained above – making it easier to lose weight when you have more weight to lose.

Best foods with glycogen

Complex carbs are the healthiest way to boost your glycogen, whole grains especially. However, there are times when simple carbohydrates are ideal as they’re easily digested. Berries and bananas, for example. We have these twice a day as part of the weight loss meal plan in my program.

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