Carbohydrate, what is it and how does it affect me?

13 June 2024


Glycogen is a complex carbohydrate that serves as a form of stored energy in animals, including humans. It is primarily stored in the liver and muscles, and it acts as a readily available source of glucose when the body needs energy.

Here’s how glycogen works in the body:

  1. Glycogen Storage: After consuming carbohydrates, such as glucose, through diet, excess glucose is converted into glycogen through a process called glycogenesis. Glycogen is stored mainly in the liver and muscles, where it forms granules.

  2. Energy Release: When the body needs energy, such as during exercise or between meals, glycogen is broken down through a process called glycogenolysis. This process involves the breakdown of glycogen into glucose molecules, which can then be released into the bloodstream.

  3. Glucose Utilization: The glucose released from glycogenolysis is used by cells throughout the body as a primary source of energy. Glucose is particularly important for fuelling the brain, red blood cells, and muscles during activity.

  4. Regulation: Glycogen levels are tightly regulated by hormones such as insulin and glucagon. Insulin, released by the pancreas, stimulates glycogenesis, promoting the storage of glucose as glycogen when blood glucose levels are high, such as after a meal. Glucagon, on the other hand, stimulates glycogenolysis, causing the release of glucose from glycogen when blood glucose levels are low, such as between meals or during exercise.

  5. Replenishment: After glycogen stores have been used, such as during prolonged exercise, glycogen stores need to be replenished. This occurs during the recovery period, particularly with the intake of carbohydrates in the diet. Carbohydrates consumed are converted into glucose and stored as glycogen to replenish depleted stores.

Overall, glycogen serves as a critical energy reserve in the body, providing a quick and readily available source of glucose for energy production during times of increased demand or when blood glucose levels are low. Proper regulation of glycogen metabolism is essential for maintaining energy balance and overall metabolic health.