Glycogen has a great relationship with our sports performance. In the guide that every athlete should know, we explained how it affects our performance and the different systems that are involved in energy. Then we tell you what are the best foods to increase glycogen levels, in case you have a deficit.
For athletes, it is interesting to know if they have low levels of glycogen. Sometimes, there are two very clear symptoms that alert us that we should pay attention to our muscles:
The workouts are uphill
Suppose you rest correctly and have a training routine adapted to your physical abilities. If you suddenly feel that your training is too hard or that it costs you more than normal, you are likely to have glycogen deficiency.
Think that glycogen is the main source of fuel in your workouts, so if you do not have the right amount you will feel like you want to die. And the last thing we want is for you to feel worse going to the gym.
You feel like you lose weight at night
In each gram of muscle glycogen, between 3 and 4 grams of water are stored. If you eat 110 grams of carbohydrates, we could say that you will increase your weight by half a kilo.
On the other hand, if there is a deficit of glycogen reserves, it is possible that you can lose several kilos in a matter of hours. Although that may be rewarding in the short term (and many people’s dreams), we should take it as an alert that we need to replenish muscle glycogen.
How to increase glycogen levels?
Although glycogen comes from carbohydrates to a greater extent, it will not be enough to get enough of this nutrient to maintain high glycogen levels. Glycogen is continuously breaking down and regenerating, so you must maintain a relatively high daily carbohydrate intake.
But how high?
If you are looking to strengthen and develop muscle, you will need to eat between 1 and 3 grams of carbohydrates per kilo of body weight per day.
To lose fat, hydrate intake will depend to a large extent on the number of calories you get after setting your protein and fat targets. Most people take between 1 and 1.5 grams per kilo of body weight.
If you are a resistance athlete, your glycogen burning will be much greater than that of a gym athlete. You may need about 5 grams of carbohydrates per kilo of body weight.
In fact, there are studies that recommend taking carbohydrates every hour, if your training lasts several hours in a row.
If you are not a person too athletic, your glycogen levels will remain high with a much lower intake.
What are the best foods to increase muscle glycogen?
Glycogen is composed of glucose, which is a type of carbohydrate; so the best foods to increase levels are those that have a high hydrate content.
The worst way (and more common) is to resort to refined carbohydrates, such as white breads, breakfast cereals, pastries or desserts. I repeat: it is the worst idea to increase glycogen levels. It is true that any food with a high carbohydrate content may increase the values, but the healthy thing is to bet on whole cereals, almost unprocessed and with high nutritional content.
The best foods, with a high content of carbohydrates and totally healthy, are: