Glycogen is the fuel the body stores in some of its different parts to allow muscles to function during sustained exercise sessions. It is stored in many parts of the body – but, for the purpose of this discussion, we look only at storage inside the muscles themselves and the liver, which together store a large reserve (approximately 450-550 grams for an average-sized adult) that is readily available during exercise, but which can be fully depleted during long and sustained exercise sessions.
Research on glycogen muscle and liver replenishment indicates that, for both, the use a combination of roughly 3:1 carbs to protein for replenishment maximizes the speed of glycogen replenishment, as compared to pure carbs and to pure proteins (when tested for plasma insulin response).
The 60-120 minutes immediately following exercise are particularly suited to glycogen replenishment, with accelerated storage during that period.
Full replenishment for glycogen can be reached, with favorable nutrition (high carb diet and frequent ingestions), in 20 to 24 hours. In the first 5 hours, glycogen replenishment may reach up to 5% of total storage per hour, slowing down later.
As a note, a high-carb diet for three days prior to a long exercise session may allow for higher glycogen storage during the sports event.
- Bergström et al., 1967, Diet, Muscle Glycogen and Physical Performance
- Ivy, 1991, Muscle Glycogen Synthesis Before and After Exercise
- Piehl, 1974, Time Course for Refilling of Glycogen Stores in Human Muscle Fibres Following Exercise-Induced Glycogen Depletion
- Tardy, 2008, Glycogen replenishment after exercise
- van Loon et al, 2000, Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis
- Williams et al, 2003, Effects of Recovery Beverages on Glycogen Restoration and Endurance Exercise Performance
- Zawadzki et al, 1992, Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise
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