Glycogen is a “spare” carbohydrate in the human body, belonging to the class of polysaccharides. Sometimes it is mistakenly called the term “glucogen”. It is important not to confuse both names, because the second term is a protein hormone-antagonist of insulin, produced in the pancreas.
What is glycogen?
With almost every meal, the body receives carbohydrates, which enter the blood in the form of glucose. But sometimes its amount exceeds the needs of the body and then glucose surpluses accumulate in the form of glycogen, which, if necessary, is broken down and enriches the body with additional energy.
Where are stocks stored
The glycogen reserves in the form of the smallest granules are stored in the liver and muscle tissue. Also, this polysaccharide is in the cells of the nervous system, kidney, aorta, epithelium, brain, in embryonic tissues and in the mucous membrane of the uterus. In the body of a healthy adult, there are usually about 400 g substances. But, by the way, with increased physical exertion, the body mainly uses muscle glycogen. Therefore, bodybuilders about 2 hours before a workout should additionally saturate themselves with high-carb foods in order to restore their reserves.
A polysaccharide with the formula (C6H10O5) n chemists call glycogen. Another name for this substance is animal starch. And although glycogen is stored in animal cells, but this name is not entirely correct. The substance was discovered by the French physiologist Bernard. Almost 160 years ago, a scientist first found “spare” carbohydrates in liver cells.
A “spare” carbohydrate is stored in the cytoplasm of cells. But if the body feels a sudden lack of glucose, glycogen is released and enters the bloodstream. But, interestingly, only the polysaccharide accumulated in the liver (hepatocide) is capable of transforming into glucose, which can saturate a “hungry” organism. Glycogen reserves in iron can reach 5 percent of its mass, and in an adult body it can be about 100-120 g. Hepatocides reach their maximum concentration about one and a half hours after a meal saturated with carbohydrates (confectionery, flour, starchy foods).
As part of the muscle, the polysaccharide takes no more than 1-2 percent of the mass of the tissue. But, given the total muscle area, it becomes clear that glycogen “deposits” in the muscles exceed the reserves of the substance in the liver. Also, small amounts of carbohydrate are found in the kidneys, glial cells of the brain and in leukocytes (white blood cells). Thus, the total reserves of glycogen in the adult body can be almost half a kilogram.
Interestingly, the “spare” saccharide is found in the cells of some plants, in fungi (yeast) and bacteria.
The role of glycogen
Mostly glycogen is concentrated in the cells of the liver and muscles. And it should be understood that these two sources of reserve energy have different functions. A polysaccharide from the liver supplies glucose to the body as a whole. That is responsible for the stability of blood sugar levels. With excessive activity or between meals, plasma glucose levels decrease. And in order to avoid hypoglycemia, the glycogen contained in liver cells splits and enters the bloodstream, leveling the glucose index. Regulatory function of the liver in this regard should not be underestimated, since a change in the level of sugar in any direction is fraught with serious problems, including death.
Muscle stores are needed to maintain the functioning of the musculoskeletal system. The heart is also a muscle with glycogen stores. Knowing this, it becomes clear why most people have long-term starvation or anorexia and heart problems.
But if excess glucose can be deposited in the form of glycogen, then the question arises: “Why is the carbohydrate food deposited on the body by the fat layer?”. This is also an explanation. Stocks of glycogen in the body are not dimensionless. With low physical activity, animal starch stocks do not have time to spend, so glucose accumulates in another form – in the form of lipids under the skin.
In addition, glycogen is necessary for the catabolism of complex carbohydrates, is involved in metabolic processes in the body.
Glycogen is a strategic energy reserve that is synthesized in the body from carbohydrates.
First, the body uses the carbohydrates obtained for strategic purposes, and lays the rest “for a rainy day”. Lack of energy is the reason for the breakdown of glycogen to the state of glucose.
Synthesis of a substance is regulated by hormones and the nervous system. This process, in particular in the muscles, “starts” adrenaline. And the splitting of animal starch in the liver activates the hormone glucagon (produced by the pancreas during fasting). Insulin hormone is responsible for synthesizing the “spare” carbohydrate. The process consists of several stages and occurs exclusively during the meal.
Glycogenosis and other disorders
But in some cases, the splitting of glycogen does not occur. As a result, glycogen accumulates in the cells of all organs and tissues. Usually such a violation is observed in people with genetic disorders (dysfunction of enzymes necessary for the breakdown of the substance). This condition is called the term glycogenosis and refers it to the list of autosomal recessive pathologies. Today, 12 types of this disease are known in medicine, but so far only half of them have been sufficiently studied.
But this is not the only pathology associated with animal starch. Glycogen diseases also include glycogenosis, a disorder accompanied by the complete absence of the enzyme responsible for the synthesis of glycogen. Symptoms of the disease – pronounced hypoglycemia and convulsions. The presence of glycogenosis is determined by liver biopsy.
The body’s need for glycogen
Glycogen, as a reserve source of energy, it is important to regularly restore. So, at least, scientists say. Increased physical activity can lead to a total depletion of carbohydrate reserves in the liver and muscles, which as a result will affect the vital activity and human performance. As a result of a long carbohydrate-free diet, glycogen stores in the liver decrease to almost zero. Muscle reserves are depleted during intense strength training.
The minimum daily dose of glycogen is 100 g and above. But this figure is important to increase when:
- intense physical exertion;
- enhanced mental activity;
- after the “hungry” diets.
On the contrary, caution in foods rich in glycogen should be taken by persons with liver dysfunction, lack of enzymes. In addition, a diet high in glucose provides a reduction in the use of glycogen.
Food for glycogen accumulation
According to researchers, for an adequate accumulation of glycogen approximately 65 percent of calories the body should receive from carbohydrate foods. In particular, to restore the stock of animal starch, it is important to introduce into the diet bakery products, cereals, cereals, various fruits and vegetables.
The best sources of glycogen: sugar, honey, chocolate, marmalade, jam, dates, raisins, figs, bananas, watermelon, persimmon, sweet pastries, fruit juices.
The effect of glycogen on body weight
Scientists have determined that about 400 grams of glycogen can accumulate in an adult organism. But scientists also determined that each gram of backup glucose binds about 4 gram of water. So it turns out that 400 g of polysaccharide is about 2 kg of glycogenic aqueous solution. This explains excessive sweating during exercise: the body consumes glycogen while losing 4 times more fluid.
This property of glycogen also explains the quick result of express diets for weight loss. Carbohydrate-free diets provoke an intensive consumption of glycogen, and with it – fluids from the body. One liter of water, as you know, is 1 kg of weight. But as soon as a person returns to a normal diet containing carbohydrates, the reserves of animal starch are restored, and with them the fluid lost during the diet period. This is the reason for the short-term results of express weight loss.
For a truly effective weight loss, doctors advise not only to revise the diet (to give preference to protein), but also to increase physical exertion, which leads to the rapid consumption of glycogen. By the way, the researchers calculated that 2-8 minutes of intense cardio training are enough to use glycogen stores and lose weight. But this formula is suitable only for persons who do not have cardiac problems.
Deficit and surplus: how to determine
An organism in which excess glycogen contents are contained is most likely to report this by blood clotting and impaired liver function. People with excessive stocks of this polysaccharide also have a malfunction in the intestines, and their body weight increases.
But the lack of glycogen does not pass for the body without a trace. The lack of animal starch can cause emotional and mental disorders. Appear apathy, depressive state. You can also suspect the depletion of energy reserves in people with weakened immunity, poor memory and after a sharp loss of muscle mass.
Glycogen is an important reserve source of energy for the body. Its disadvantage is not only a decrease in tonus and a decline in vital forces. Deficiency of the substance will affect the quality of hair, skin. And even the loss of shine in the eyes is also the result of a lack of glycogen. If you have noticed the symptoms of a lack of polysaccharide, it’s time to think about improving your diet.