Would you like to sleep through the night, train hard without bonking, and go multiple hours between meals?
The ability to do so depends on glycogen.
The body has two main ways of storing energy. Glucose as glycogen and fat in the adipose tissue. Glycogen can rapidly provide energy in the form of glucose to keep blood sugar stable, help you sleep through the night, enable you to go hard during exercise, etc.
If the body’s ability to store glycogen correctly is hampered, you can expect to suffer from blood sugar dysregulation, which leads to mood swings, poor energy, inability to sleep through the night, anxiety from exercise (even walking), etc.
Glycogen can be stored in the liver, muscle, brain and kidney, but primarily in the muscle and liver. The average liver stores about 100-120g of glucose (in the form of glycogen) and the muscle roughly 400-500g. It can be more depending on how much muscle mass someone has.
Glucose is transported into the cell via GLUT transports and is then converted to glucose-6-phosphate (G6P) by hexokinase.
From G6P it can be converted to glycogen.
Glucose/glycogen homeostasis is mainly regulated by two enzymes: glycogen phosphorylase (GP) and glycogen synthase (GS). Glucose molecules are added to the chains of glycogen by GS as long as both insulin and glucose remain plentiful.
In the fasted state glycogen phosphorylase breaks glycogen down in glucose-1-phosphate, which is then converted to G6P by phosphoglucomutase. G6P can then be used in glycolysis to produce energy, or in the pentose phosphate pathway to produce NADPH.
Glycogen consists of many glucose units, which are linked together linearly by α(1→4) glycosidic bonds from one glucose to the next.
In glycogen, you get 2 types of particles; namely β particles (∼20 nm in size), which can link together into larger (>40 nm) α particles.
β particles, being small, are enzymatically degraded into glucose more quickly than α particles.
Liver glycogen comprises small β particles which can bind to and form large agglomerates (α particles) which slowly degrade to β particles over time as needed to stabilize blood sugar. Muscle glycogen has only β particles, optimal for quick energy release.
Differences in glycogen with healthy and diabetic individuals
#1 Healthy individuals have more liver glycogen compared to type 2 diabetic subjects, which appears to be more conducive to blood sugar stabilization.
#2 Type 2 diabetic have approximately 54% lower net liver glycogen synthesis as well as higher GP (which breaks down glycogen) (R).
#3 Diabetics have fragile liver glycogen (large α particles breaking down into smaller β particles more readily in diabetic compared to healthy individuals), thus resulting in poor blood-glucose control (R). This fragility may contribute to diabetic hyper and hypoglycemia (R).
There is one main reason for this.
Insulin resistance leads to less glycogen being created and more glycogen being broken down (higher glycogen phosphorylase (GP), a rate-limiting enzyme in glycogen degradation) (R).
How to fix this
#1 Eat a nutrient-dense diet
- Zinc deficiency leads to low glycogen and high blood sugar and impaired glucose oxidation (excessive lactate production) (R).
- Best zinc foods: oysters, organ meat, meat and milk.
- Selenium supplementation to the diabetic rats normalized the enzyme activities of glucose-6-phosphatase, lactate dehydrogenase and glycogen phosphorylase as well as restored the glycogen levels to within the normal limits which were altered during diabetes (R). Insulin secreted by pancreatic β-cells stimulates glycogen synthesis and decreases glucose production in the liver, and increases glucose uptake, utilization and storage in fat and muscle. Pancreatic atrophy caused by dietary selenium deficiency induces hypoinsulinemic hyperglycemia, and insulin is crucial glycogen synthesis (R).
- Best selenium foods: Liver and kidney, milk, shellfish, eggs, milk and meat.
- Rats fed a copper-poor diet were found to have a reduced plasma insulin response to an oral glucose load in comparison with rats fed a copper-supplemented diet. Also, reduced glycogen synthesis (R).
- Best high copper foods: Oysters and beef/lamb liver.
- Low B6 can enhance glycogen phosphorylase (glycogen breakdown) (R)
- Biotin enhances glycogen synthesis in the presence of high plasma glucose level (R)
- Potassium with glucose helps inhibit glycogen phosphorylase and boost glycogen synthase (R).
- Magnesium boosts glycogen synthesis, by increasing ATP, and inhibiting GP.
- Manganese enhances glycogen content and lowers glycogen phosphorylase, whereas excessive manganese lowers glycogen (R, R). Excessive manganese is usually caused by glyphosate (due to impaired detoxification).
- Uridine stimulates glycogen synthesis. Via uridine triphosphate, uridine promotes the formation of uridine diphosphate glucose (UDPG) and uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc), which are substrates for glycogen biosynthesis and protein O-linked glycosylation, respectively. Insulin significantly increased the synthesis of UTP from extracellular uridine (R). Interestingly, uridine can promote sleep quality, so it might be best to take it before bed (R). A lot of people report that 300-500mg doses are enough to make them sleepy.
- Best uridine sources: Dairy and organ meat.
#2 Consume these foods/supps
Various plant compounds have been shown to improve glycogen stability, likely by inhibiting GP.
A few of the good ones are:
- cyanidin (found in most berries) > quercetin (found in grass fed milk and meat, red onions, etc) > epigallocatechin-3-gallate (green tea) > baicalein (skullcap) > epicatechin gallate (green tea) > luteolin (common food sources are celery, chili peppers, sweet pepper, lettuce and spinach) (R).
- Caffeine (great for exercise, but terrible for sleep. From my experience, drinking too many coffees actually makes my hunger worse.)
- Peony and baicalein are very good at inhibiting AMP-stimulated GP (R).
- Fisetin inhibits glycogen breakdown and gluconeogenesis (R)
- Mulberry leaf extract. In this study, liver glycogen was restored from a fragile state to a stable state through administration of ethanol extract of mulberry leaves (R).
- Astragalus polysaccharide, berberine and pueraria flavonoid (kudzu) can stabilize fragile glycogen (R).
#3 Check your heavy metals
Last but not least we have heavy metals. Lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, manganese (excess), molybdenum (excess) and cobalt can drastically lower liver glycogen (R).
If you really struggle with blood sugar regulation. Do a nail and/or hair mineral analysis for heavy metals.
Eat a good diet consisting of the foods on the testosterone food pyramid and supplement mulberry leaf extract.
Before bed, try cottage cheese mixed with honey and berries (whole or powder) to improve glycogen stores.
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Need help stabilizing your blood sugar to optimize energy, sleep through the night, manage your mood, etc? Book a free call with me so that we can discuss diet and supps.