Liver Glycogen Versus Muscle Glycogen – The Fine Balance

Under: Articles, Fat Loss Nutrition Tips, Muscle Building Nutrition Tips, Nutrition Tips for Men, Nutrition Tips for Women

One issue that relates to both fat loss food and muscle building food that anyone who’s interested in changing their body composition should know is the difference between liver glycogen and muscle glycogen.  Some people may not even know what the word ‘glycogen’ refers to so it’s important to get that figured out right off the bat before moving forward.


Glycogen is essentially the storage form of carbohydrates in the body.  Whether you’re taking in starchy carbohydrate molecules or simple sugar molecules, these will get broken down into glucose in the body and then sent to various tissues for storage.  When it’s in that storage form, it’s referred to as glycogen.

Now, let’s look at the differences between liver and muscle glycogen.

Muscle Glycogen

As the name suggests, muscle glycogen is going to be the storage place for carbohydrates in the muscle cells.  How much muscle glycogen storage you have is going to be in direct relationship with how much lean muscle tissue you have.

In addition to that, how quickly you deplete this muscle glycogen will be determined by the intensity, duration, and frequency of physical activity you perform, with those who are much more active depleting it much more quickly.

Essentially, the more storage of muscle glycogen you have and the faster you deplete it, the more carbohydrates you can eat without risking them begin converted into body fat.

Liver Glycogen

On the other hand, liver glycogen is going to be the storage form of carbohydrates in the liver.  Unfortunately unlike your muscle glycogen, its storage capacity is much more limited at about 50 grams per day for the average individual.

If more carbohydrates come into the body over and above this and they are not needed for direct energy, they will then get converted into body fat.

The Key Difference

Now, the key difference to remember is that the liver glycogen is made up of fructose molecules while the muscle glycogen is made up of glucose molecules.  This then can clearly illustrate to you what happens when you eat certain types of foods.

If you ate a bagel for instance, which is very high in glucose molecules (once it gets broken down), it will then move to get stored into the muscles providing there is enough storage capacity to hold it.

If you were to eat a piece of fruit however, which contains half fructose and half glucose, then half of those calories would go towards filling up the liver glycogen storage.


Eat too much fructose and then you run into a problem.

But this said, fruit generally tends not to be the problem.  The real problem is when you consume high-fructose corn syrup.  When that gets consumed, then you’re putting very large volumes of fructose into the body and the chances of body fat gain are going to be incredibly high.

For this reason, you really must monitor your fructose intake to a higher extent.

What are some sample foods of each?

Good examples of glucose-based carbohydrates would include rice, pasta, and oatmeal.

Examples of fructose based carbohydrates would include fruit, soda, and honey.  In addition to that, many candy varieties that you might purchase or other snack foods that do have that high fructose corn syrup in it will also be far too high in this nutrient to be included in a muscle building diet that promotes a lean body composition.

So be sure that you keep these differences in mind.  Regulating both the amount and the types of carbohydrates that you eat will be your best bet to building lean muscle mass.

Back when I was writing Anabolic Cooking, this question came up alot! :) Indirectly…basically people wanted to know how to build lean mass without gaining too much extra fat and to keep it simple, Anabolic Cooking lays out recipes that has the perfect balance without forcing any storage level to spill over…I made sure of that!

Anabolic Cooking lays out the recipes with the RIGHT foods, simlpe as that. If it is something that sounds interesting to you, check it out and get ready to benefit, learn and see GREAT results for it.



  1. Dave Ruel says:

    Hi Roan,

    Your body gets its energy primarily from tmuscle glycogen… then the amount of glycogen in “storage” will depend on the food you eat.

  2. Dave says:

    I work out early morning at 5am. Do you still recommend having the bulk of the carb intake at breakfast and lunch and does that change any diet recommendations? I have a protein shake after my workout, then an egg breakfast of some kind from your cookbook about an hour later. Thanks

  3. Dave Ruel says:

    Rocky, fructose is not mandatory in a diet, however it’s always good to have fruits in your diet :)

  4. Dave Ruel says:

    Hey George,

    I always recommend to get carbs at breakfast and lunch… To make it simple, your glycogen reserves will be full… then slowly being used as the day goes by. Then use some simple carbs during exercise for fuel (gatorade will do), and I also simple carbs post workout to restore your glycogen levels ( I usually use dextrose in my shake).

  5. Dave Ruel says:

    Hi Nelson,

    I’m not a big believer in pre-workout meals that much… See my my reply to George’s comment above.

    Break and milk are not the best option post workout. Protein powder and a simple carb source would be better.

  6. Dave Ruel says:

    Gatorade is good to fuel exercise. no prob there.

    I think that’s too much food prior to exercise…. keep your regular meal schedule and just add gatorade to fuel your training.

    Post workout, cut your dextrose to 1 scoop (30 grams)

  7. Dave Ruel says:

    Amen to that Paul!

  8. Dave Ruel says:

    Don’t worry too much, fruits are good :) The only thing to look at with carbs is fat gains. if you gain too much body fat, just cut a little bit on carbs… but don’t be scared of fruits, I personally eat tons of them :)

  9. Dave Ruel says:

    Awesome reply Jacod, couldn’t have said it better :) Thanks for helping Alexis!

  10. Dave Ruel says:

    I “like” :)

  11. Dave Ruel says:

    Not aure I understand your question Scott

  12. Dave Ruel says:

    go 50/50 dextrose/protein

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