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27> Glycogen – When is Your Tank Full?


I know – or at least assume – that I am usually operating within a glycogen depleted condition.  This conclusion is based upon the amount of carbohydrates that I ingest from all sources.

Then comes a Plan C/D/E Re-Load meal or day such as Thanksgiving.  I began to wonder, how many grams of carbs can I eat before I start storing fat?

The following comes from Wikipedia – not the most reliable source – but a starting point:

Glycogen can compose up to 8% of the fresh weight (100–120 g in an adult) soon after a meal. Only the glycogen stored in the liver can be made accessible to other organs. In the muscles, glycogen is found in a low concentration (1% to 2% of the muscle mass). However, the amount of glycogen stored in the body, especially within the red blood cells, liver & muscles, mostly depends on physical training, basal metabolic rate and eating habits such as intermittent fasting. Small amounts of glycogen are found in the kidneys, and even smaller amounts in certain glial cells in the brain and white blood cells. The uterus also stores glycogen during pregnancy to nourish the embryo

I posed the following question to other Forum members: Does anyone have the necessary science/nutrition background to translate this into a more practical operationally defined statement?

Basically – how many grams of carbs can someone – who is in a carb depleted – Plan A adherent condition – eat to fill up their “glycogen storage tank?”

I got the following responses:

dave14, Posted Nov 28, 9:45 AM:

Originally posted by TNT Man: “In the muscles, glycogen is found in a low concentration (1% to 2% of the muscle mass).”

I am not sure this is accurate. I think the muscles hold the largest portion of glycogen capacity. I may be wrong, but Wikipedia could be wrong too. In fact the University I attend does not allow Wikipedia as a reference on academic papers.

I think the amount of glycogen needed to fill a person’s tank depends on the person. How much the person uses, muscle capacity, etc. I don’t think you can put an exact number on it.

Chilean Posted Dec 1, 12:03 PM:  From The Ultimate Diet 2.0 (Lyle McDonald): “Assuming full glycogen depletion… somewhere between 12 and 16 g/kg of lean body mass is the magic number here. That works out to approximately 7-8 grams of carbs/lb of lean body mass for the metric impaired. This is over a 24 hour feed.

JMC1077 Posted Dec 1, 1:50 PM:  “This ….. is the amount of carbs you can eat before any noticeable “spillover” is huge. Just keep fat way low. The key I’ve found was to push it as high as you can go while continuing to get leaner.

You want to be over maintainance but in a depleted state it all goes to the muscles. So there will be [a different] threshold for everyone. Find it.

Also – You will store 3-4g of water per g of CHO [carbohydrate]. This is why your muscle seem so flat when depleted and so full when you re-feed.

This is mentioned briefly in the [TNT Diet] book.

According to Lyle McDonald’s Body Recomposition web site: “A normal non-carb loaded person may store 300-400 grams of muscle glycogen, another 50 or so of liver glyogen and 10 or so in the bloodstream as free glucose.  So let’s say 350-450 grams of carbohydrate as a rough average. ”  This is the amount necessary to eat to go from zero to full.

EDIT 12/23/11:  “Even if you’re adept at storing carbs, there’s only so much glycogen that your muscles and liver can store – somewhere between 1000 and 2000 Calories in an adult, depending on how big your muscles are and your training status (exercise training can increase the amount of stored glycogen.”  The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, Volek & Phinney, page 58.

And the Answer is:  A moving target.  If you assume that to fill your Tank you need to ingest 7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of lean body mass – then – 150 x 7 = 1,050 grams in a 24 hour period – or approximately 4,200 calories of Carbohydates.   This produces all of the stored and immediate use glycogen throughout the body.  Doesn’t really matter since the goal is to keep the tank empty or depleted so that the body turns its focus to buring fat.

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