The Metabolic Flexibility equation has several different sides to it. One of these is Glycogen Flexibility, which relates to the flexibility of the muscles.
The term Metabolic Flexibility is often used in the context of only describing how fat can be burnt for fuel, or the ability to burn both fat and sugar and turn it into energy.
Glycogen Flexibility is one part of the Metabolic Flexibility model that is often overlooked and it originates in the muscles themselves. Glycogen Flexibility refers to muscles’ ability to store sugar as glycogen.
The body can draw on its glycogen stores when it needs energy. These molecules are made from the glucose in the food that is consumed and are mainly stored in the muscles and liver. When the body needs fuel, it is able to quickly mobilize glycogen from these storage sites.
An individual’s activity level, how often they eat, and what they eat all have an effect on how the body stores and uses glycogen. Strenuous exercise, as well as ketogenic and low-carb and diets all deplete glycogen stores, and this will result in the body burning fat for energy.
Our muscles’ ability to store sugar in the form of glycogen varies greatly between for example a competitive athlete and a sedentary individual. This difference between these individuals can in fact be as much as 4,000%. The difference in muscle glycogen storing capacity between someone doing intensity exercises regularly and a sedentary individual is typically around 2,000%.
Sugar that is stored in muscles plays a big role in preventing excess sugar from being converted to fat and stored and regulating blood sugar levels to stay within a healthy range.
The body is much more metabolically efficient due to this ability to store extra blood sugar in the muscles as and when required, and then releasing it from this large storehouse supply when needed. This ability also aids the body in warding off diabetes and insulin resistance.
Muscle tissue is however only metabolically active when it is used. In other words, to get the most benefit from this powerful metabolic tissue, you must use your muscles.
When muscles are at rest, their metabolic activity is not much more than that of fat. In this state, muscles compare dismally to other high output organs such as the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys.
This means that simply having more muscles does in itself not provide any Glycogen Flexibility whatsoever. To get all the health and metabolic advantages that our highly intelligent bodies have available, we not only need to have adequate muscles that work extremely efficiently, but we also need to actively use those muscles as much as possible.
It is not necessary to overthink this as your innate intelligence already knows what to do. Simply exercise more by using intensity training to reach whatever level your body is capable of, getting more physical activity such as walking, and doing plenty of stress relief cardio, which can include things such as dancing, gardening, doing yoga, or even just playing with your kids.
If you follow an insulin-friendly lifestyle and diet, and regularly flex this side of the metabolic flexibility equation, you will soon start experiencing ever-increasing success with any health efforts that you apply.