Your ultimate science based guide to glycogen and weight loss

Written by , Published: Updated: October 26, 2017

Welcome to my science based guide to glycogen and weight loss.

Read this guide all the way through to find out what glycogen is, how much (water) weight it can help you lose, and what you need to do, to get rid of any glycogen-bound weight.

To keep things in proper perspective, I'll also tell you exactly what you can expect once you get rid of that extra glycogen-bound weight. You'll also discover one very attractive weight loss benefit you'll get to enjoy as soon as you rid your body of all glycogen.

Before we get started, here's a short overview of what you can expect to learn from my science based guide to glycogen and weight loss:

What is glycogen?

Your body stores most of the extra energy (calories) it gets from food in your body fat reserves. But it also stores away some of that energy as glycogen.

Some glycogen is stored in your liver, but most of it is stored directly in your muscles. Your body stores glycogen in your muscles so it can quickly use it for energy if you need to sprint to catch a bus or run up a flight of stairs, for example.

And while your body fat is a slow-burning energy source that can help you survive without food for days, your glycogen reserves are a fast-burning energy source used for intense activities.

Technically speaking, glycogen is a carbohydrate. And just like most other carbohydrates (sugars and starches), your body can use it for energy.

Now that you know what glycogen is, let's take a look at how glycogen can actually help you lose weight.

How glycogen can help you lose weight?

Like I said, your body stores away some energy as glycogen (and a lot more energy as body fat).

But just like your body fat, the weight of that stored glycogen will also add to your total weight.

How much weight are we talking about here?

One study[1] has shown that our bodies store about a pound of glycogen (400 grams) on average.

But the same study has shown that some people can store more than 2 pounds (1000 grams) of glycogen.

But there's a catch.

How much water weight will you lose if you get rid of all glycogen?

A pound or two of glycogen isn't the only weight you'll lose if you get rid of all glycogen in your body.

Science[2] has discovered that each gram of glycogen will also bind 3-4 times as much water weight to itself.

In other words, if you get rid of all glycogen in your body, you will also lose all the water weight that's bound to that stored glycogen.

So let's see how much total weight we're looking at here.

How much total weight will you lose if you get rid of all glycogen?

The best case scenario goes like this:

Your body is holding on to 2 pounds (1 kilogram) of glycogen and that glycogen binds another 8 pounds (4 kilograms) of water weight to it.

So, if you get rid of all glycogen in your body (I'll show you how in a bit), you could be losing as much as 10 pounds (5 kilograms) of glycogen-bound weight.

But on average, you can expect to lose 7 pounds (3.5 kilograms) of weight[1] if you totally wipe out the glycogen reserves in your body.

On to a couple of different ways of getting rid of all that glycogen-bound weight.

How to lose all the glycogen-bound weight?

If you wanted to lose all the glycogen-bound weight, you'd need to take care of two things:

So let's start with how to wipe out your current glycogen reserves.

Use exercise to wipe out your glycogen reserves

The fastest and most effective way of losing all glycogen-bound weight is exercise.

Science[3] has proven that trained athletes can wipe out their reserves of glycogen in a little more than an hour of intense exercise.

The only problem you'd run into (if you wanted to get rid of all glycogen this quickly) is that you'd have to exercise at a pretty insane pace.

So for most people, the more realistic option would be to exercise slower and keep wiping out their glycogen reserves for as long as they comfortably can.

This brings us right to the next option of getting rid of the glycogen-bound weight.

Eat a low-carb diet to block the production of glycogen

Science[4] says, that if eat a low-carb diet, you can naturally reduce the amount of glycogen your body stores.

Why does this happen?

Because, your body can only create glycogen from the carbohydrates you eat with your food (like I said, glycogen is a carbohydrate too).

So, if you start eating less (or no) carbohydrates, then your body won't be able to create much glycogen anymore.

If you keep eating no carbohydrates, your body will keep burning through your glycogen reserves until it eventually wipes them out.

But what happens then?

What happens after you wipe out your glycogen reserves?

After you clean out your glycogen reserves, your muscles won't be able to rely on this fast-burning energy source anymore.

Your muscles will still be able to function and you'll still be able to do most of the stuff you normally do.

You just won't have as much spring in your step, you'll feel a bit more tired overall, and you can basically forget about any hard work or intense exercise.

But if you have a desk job and don't lead an overly active lifestyle, you can pull this off.

Here's the single biggest benefit of living your life without any glycogen in your body:

The #1 benefit of living a glycogen-free life

Once all glycogen is gone from your body, you'll enter a state of super-high fat burn called ketosis.

Science[5] has proven that for as long as you stay in ketosis (by staying away from carbohydrates), you can burn off as much as 325 extra calories per day!

So that's your trade off:

You can either feel your normal, 100% self all the time (with enough glycogen in your body at all times) or you can feel a bit under the weather and burn off hundreds of extra calories day in and day out.

Time to wrap things up.

Actionable summary

Here's an actionable summary of this entire guide:


1. Kreitzman SN, Coxon AY, Szaz KF. Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;56:292S–3S.

2. Olsson K, Saltin B. Variation in total body water with muscle glycogen changes in man. Acta Physiol Scand 1970;80(1):11-8.

3. Hermansen LE, Hultman E, Saltin B. Muscle glycogen during prolonged severe exercise. Acta Physiol Scand 1967;71:129-139.

4. Astrup A, Meinert LT, Harper A. Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss? Lancet 2004;364:897-899.

5. Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, et al. Effects of dietary composition on energy expenditure during weight-loss maintenance. JAMA 2012;307(24):2627-2634.

David Brown

Hi, I'm David Brown.

I'm the guy who singlehandedly turned into a widely popular weight loss blog that gets visited by tens of thousands of people every month.

I reached this level of popularity because I invested thousands of hours into translating complicated science into highly actionable weight loss tips that ANYONE can start using in their lives right away.