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  • Trying to understand carbs -> glycogen -> fat

    hey guys, I am trying to wrap my head around ingestion of carbs, insulin response, glycogen storage, and then fat storage.

    How does the glycemic index play in all of this? How is this cycle different if the GI is low vs when GI is high?

    Thanks.

  • #2
    From my understanding, our bodies only hold a limited amount of glycogen and it varies from person to person dependent on their muscle mass. Our livers hold a set amount (around 70 grams of glycogen), and the muscles hold the rest. The grand total (liver + muslces) ranges anywhere from about 200-300 (300 being what a jacked up body builder might store).

    Where carbs come into play is they are basically what gets converted into glycogen. This is where the "spillover" effect comes in (and probably where one of the problems of the Standard American Diet come in), the over-consumption of carbs greater than what your body can store. Excess carbs/glycogen get stored as fat. Obviously the more active someone is the more glycogen they burn, making way for more carb consumption. The problem is though, someone not paying attention to their food choices can easily go well over what they body is capable of storing creating the spillover effect.

    Where the GI comes into play, the higher the GI is the greater it jacks up your blood sugar. Insulin's response to this is to flood the system to clear out the glucose. Depending on where the food (or drink) is on the GI scale, is dependent on how quickly and how high the blood sugar will rise. Insulin is an anabolic hormone and blocks the ability for the body to burn fat, this is why sugar crashes occur. Eating say a chocolate bar will cause the blood sugar to rise quickly then in turn causing insulin to clear the glucose from the blood quickly. The insulin still remains in the system afterwords so your body has no way to break down any fat for energy, this is where people crash. Bodybuilders manipulate their insulin to get big, while people who want to lose fat need to learn to manipulate it to their advantage. The more saturated someone's body is with glycogen, the less insulin sensitive they are. As the glycogen depletes out of their system, they become more insulin sensitive.

    With that said, insulin sensitivity also plays a roll in this, but lets assume someone has normal insulin sensitivity. If someone eats something with a low GI like broccoli, it doesn't cause much of a rise in blood sugar and thus the body doesn't need to produce much insulin to clear out the glucose. If that same person eats a couple of pieces toast (higher GI), that will create a greater rise in blood sugar and thus more insulin needs to be secreted to clear out the glucose. Insulin stays in the system longer. For someone wanting to lose fat, that is not ideal. Insulin sensitivity plays a big roll in this because when your in an insulin sensitive state, your body will basically just vacuum up all the carbs with not too big of an insulin response. If a person is insulin resistant like say a Type 2 diabetic, your cells are basically resistant to the insulin driving in all the nutrients. Your body's reaction to this is to just continue producing insulin until it's successful.

    Insulin isn't a bad thing, we would die with out it, but dependent on someone's goals, a person should learn how to utilize it to their advantage. For somebody with glucose issues or is a more on the insulin resistant side (like me when I used to drink a lot of energy drinks), will have greater insulin responses with whatever they eat or drink. This is where primal/paleo comes in. Most of the whole foods we eat tend to be lower on the GI scale and thus the glucose / insulin resistance issue improve over time. Other things improve insulin sensitivity too like exercise and intermittent fasting.

    Long winded I know lol, but I hope this helps.

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    • #3
      One place where the body will not tolerate glucose is blood. Very little will be able to circulate at any given time as the body will clear it from the blood quickly. Insulin will send it to the cells to be converted to energy, but if there is more than the cells can accept, it will convert to glycogen. But if the liver and muscles are already filled with glycogen, the excess will convert to fat to be stored. Glucose is toxic in the blood and will not stay, unless there's a problem with insulin. Then you will be ill.

      This is why quick intake of carbs that quickly convert to glucose is unhealthy. The glycemic index is imperfect, as someone here is bound to point out if I dont, but it provides a general guide to how quickly foods convert to glucose. Obviously, the slower the coversion, the
      less glucose there is in the blood. But, even with a low GI, a large quantity of carbs will eventually convert to glucose with the same response, just delayed. Sugar is an example of the first scenario and starch is an example of the second. Many low GI foods are indexed that way because their carb content never converts to glucose. Fiber is an example. Fructose is another, although fructose can also convert to fat, without converting to glucose. GI is a general guide, better than none if someone insists on high carb intake.

      A better option is to limit carbs altogether. Not to 0 as some glycogen store is beneficial. Look at the Carb Curve on this site, if you haven't already and you'll see a simple guide for healthy carb intake, depending on your personal goals. It will eliminate any confusion you have.
      Last edited by John Caton; 08-14-2015, 10:40 AM.
      Stop by to visit at http://primalways.net
      Old Paths ... New Journeys

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      • #4
        Originally posted by dinesh75 View Post
        hey guys, I am trying to wrap my head around ingestion of carbs, insulin response, glycogen storage, and then fat storage.

        How does the glycemic index play in all of this? How is this cycle different if the GI is low vs when GI is high?

        Thanks.
        Hey dinesh75,

        For a slightly different narrative, you can start by reading some of my quick replies here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread115086.html

        Then, you can always read some of the articles posted by Evelyn Kocur on her blog carbsanity.blogspot.com

        Finally, when someone talks about insulin, he/she most likely fails to talk about glucagon (opposite hormone) and the fact that insulin is not really needed for fat and glucose uptake by our body cells (for glucose, only a gradient is needed, while fat is transported in chylomicrons to adipose tissue where ASP - acylation stimulating protein - will make sure the fat is stored, but insulin is definitely boosting all this). So what is insulin doing really ? Apart from shuttling nutrients where they should go (and that includes amino acids a well), insulin makes sure that free fatty acids in circulation (the fat stuff that fuels you when you are not oxidizing anything else to stay alive) get back to storage while nutrients are transported during and after a meal. Insulin will also have a paracrine action in the pancreas, i.e shut down glucagon production while dealing with the blood glucose (glucagon is the hormone that makes sure your liver manufactures glucose out of glycogen for the brain needs, etc - and you can deduce from this that someone without much insulin is deeply screwed because glucagon is left unchecked even after a meal, in which case you have both dietary glucose and endogenous glucose in circulation + free fatty acids which should have been kicked back to adipose tissue ... bad ...).

        As to the glycemic index, it is basically irrelevant. A normal metabolism will deal with rapidly or slowly ingested carbs in a proper fashion by using the appropriate amount of insulin.

        Now when it comes to carbs -> fat: that is so insignificant as to effectively be irrelevant. You need to eat truck loads of carbs for many days before this process is increased (note that this is not exactly unseen in the US of A ...). if you eat normally, you can simply ignore it. it is not carbs that lead to fat accumulation, it is excess eating no matter what. It is however quite hard if your diet is composed of real foods and is naturally moderate in fats.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Man View Post
          insulin is not really needed for fat and glucose uptake by our body cells (for glucose, only a gradient is needed, while fat is transported in chylomicrons to adipose tissue where ASP - acylation stimulating protein - will make sure the fat is stored, but insulin is definitely boosting all this).
          If only a gradient were needed for glucose transport into cells a lot of Type 1 diabetics probably wouldn't have died back in the early 1900s... Last I checked there was one way for glucose to enter a cell - via GLUT4 transporters which migrate to the cell membrane via the insulin signaling pathway or via exercise which also triggers migration of the GLUT4 transporter. I do believe with a transport protein in the membrane glucose moves via concentration gradient but I'm not aware of glucose uptake without GLUT4 (except in the brain).

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          • #6
            Why does insulin in the system prevent fat from getting used.

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            • #7
              People that are not diabetic should really stop worrying and planning their diet out from hormonal responses, fat will be stored no matter what if you are in a calorie surplus and vice versa for a calorie deficit. Making weight loss into complicated hormonal “rocket science” will just make you stumble in irrelevant minutia while losing the view of the forest because of all the trees…
              "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

              - Schopenhauer

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              • #8
                I want to know more about lipid uptake, particularly with respect to adipose tissue and Acetyl CoA and their amino acid displacation to the liver.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
                  People that are not diabetic should really stop worrying and planning their diet out from hormonal responses, fat will be stored no matter what if you are in a calorie surplus and vice versa for a calorie deficit. Making weight loss into complicated hormonal “rocket science” will just make you stumble in irrelevant minutia while losing the view of the forest because of all the trees…
                  No, it absolutely is not that simple. Hormones have a huge effect on both intake and activity and determine whether or not you have a deficit or a surplus.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by NewOldGuy View Post
                    No, it absolutely is not that simple. Hormones have a huge effect on both intake and activity and determine whether or not you have a deficit or a surplus.
                    In my world it’s the opposite; its intake and activity that determine hormonal patterns since the latter just respond to what we eat or do! You are in a calorie surplus or deficit due to amount of food compared to what the body need; hormonal patterns are secondary and irrelevant to that. Also for bodycomposition its right balance between calories, macros, rest and training that matters, nobody needs to go into the science of hormonal response to all that, because its secondary knowlegde and will probably just mislead most people anyway. So you NewOldguy and all those that agree with your view have reality upside down on this issue…
                    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                    - Schopenhauer

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                    • #11
                      My friend, Gorbag. I think you're not serious about the role hormones play. For example, if you did not have the hormone Glucagon, you couldn't burn an ounce of fat no matter how few calories you consumed. And if you lacked insulin you couldn't utilize your glucose properly.

                      Now, I will agree with you that diet also affects hormones. For example, eating higher fat to become a genetically-expressed fat burner does allow us low carbers to derive up to 6X the energy (as ATP) from our fats as you do from your carbs.

                      Oops, can that be right? Fats only have 2X the calories as carbs so how can we get 6X the energy? Hormones, my friend. Hormones. Be a fat burner and see for yourself.
                      Stop by to visit at http://primalways.net
                      Old Paths ... New Journeys

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by John Caton View Post
                        My friend, Gorbag. I think you're not serious about the role hormones play. For example, if you did not have the hormone Glucagon, you couldn't burn an ounce of fat no matter how few calories you consumed. And if you lacked insulin you couldn't utilize your glucose properly.
                        You know the consequences of that statement, that without enough glucagon you would die on a high fat low protein and low carb diet since the body according to you cannot burn fat without this hormone. The heart and cardiovascular system utilize fat for fuel, so bad luck if the only option is carbs in form of glucose, it must be a very hard competition with the brain if that was the case(!) Anyway, that’s a very hypothetical and pathological condition and not what I am talking about here. The point is that hormones changes and adjust to activities, stress and food etc. If I diet too hard for a long period then my hormonal pattern will be very different from if I have been overeating for years. Its overeating and lack of activities that causes a person to be fat and insulin resistant not the other way around, unless for a few people with a real pathological condition…
                        Last edited by Gorbag; 08-18-2015, 07:44 PM.
                        "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                        - Schopenhauer

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
                          The point is that hormones changes and adjust to activities, stress and food etc.
                          You are absolutely correct. Hormones change in response to current and past diet and activity, and then dictate what happens with your next meals and activity. That's how we adapt to dietary changes and activity and why we we have varying n=1's. That is the point of when Mark says "we can reprogram our genes". With sustained low carb, high fat and moderate protein intake, along with moderate strength training, gene-expression of hormones changes to efficiently burn dietary or body fat with up to 6X more efficiency than if our hormones are produced to primarily burn glucose.

                          I know and acknowledge that what I say next makes little sense to you; based on your calorie based assumptions, fat should only deliver 2X the energy as carbs and it is slower to be mustered for quick energy like you'd derive from glycogen, but when at its full potential, driven by proper hormonal signals, high saturated fat will deliver 6X the energy of glucose, not the 2X you'd expect from its calorie count. That's why I continue to harp that calorie counting is meaningless, unless you do the comparisons within the same macro.

                          I don't know how close you are to the volcano down there but hope you're safe. Peace.
                          Last edited by John Caton; 08-19-2015, 02:46 AM.
                          Stop by to visit at http://primalways.net
                          Old Paths ... New Journeys

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
                            You know the consequences of that statement, that without enough glucagon you would die on a high fat low protein and low carb diet since the body according to you cannot burn fat without this hormone. The heart and cardiovascular system utilize fat for fuel, so bad luck if the only option is carbs in form of glucose, it must be a very hard competition with the brain if that was the case(!) Anyway, that’s a very hypothetical and pathological condition and not what I am talking about here. The point is that hormones changes and adjust to activities, stress and food etc. If I diet too hard for a long period then my hormonal pattern will be very different from if I have been overeating for years. Its overeating and lack of activities that causes a person to be fat and insulin resistant not the other way around, unless for a few people with a real pathological condition…
                            I tend to agree with Gorbag. I just would like to point out that glucagon is not a hormone promoting "fat burning", its role (and it is a very complex topic) is at least to ensure that glucose levels are always within a good range in the absence of elevated insulin levels (the liver will deliver glucose from glycogen stores - glucagon promotes adequate endogenous glucose levels). So a normal healthy person eating carbs will have its glucagon levels dropping due to the paracrine action of insulin on pancreatic alpha-cells (the ones secreting glucagon). That is also why, when ingesting proteins (without carbs), glucagon will rise because some amino acids are very efficient at triggering an insulin response. In the presence of insulin, glucagon will shut down so before this happens, it will be made to increase its action so that you don't turn hypoglycemic every time you eat proteins! Glucagon has more roles but as I alluded to, it is a very complex topic. Note that type 2 diabetic people will have a problem with _endogenous_ glucose levels because their glucagon levels are not shut down in the presence of insulin (or let's say that this paracrine effect is not effective, can't remember the exact mechanism). This is a real problem.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by John Caton View Post
                              I know and acknowledge that what I say next makes little sense to you; based on your calorie based assumptions, fat should only deliver 2X the energy as carbs and it is slower to be mustered for quick energy like you'd derive from glycogen, but when at its full potential, driven by proper hormonal signals, high saturated fat will deliver 6X the energy of glucose, not the 2X you'd expect from its calorie count.
                              This is a very misleading statement, because you are changing units. Fat has about twice the energy per mass, but about six times the energy per molecule, if you only count energy produced in the mitochondria and you only consider fatty acids of about 27 carbons. But I don't see why you think this is so significant. Larger molecules should produce more energy. They are larger. If you want to derive an equal amount of energy from carbs, you could simply burn more of them.
                              Last edited by Elliot; 03-07-2016, 04:57 PM. Reason: oops lol
                              My opinions and some justification

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