Glycogen depletion – worth it for fat loss?

Posted: June 20, 2011 in fitness

Nope, this
is not alien talk, it is basically how to use your meals and your training
sessions for optimal fat loss. Yes, this is something we are all striving for
and we need all the help we can get to get that golden glint in the eye when we
look at ourselves in the mirror.

things first, what is muscle glycogen anyway and why is it so important?
Glycogen is a molecule in your body and its main function is long term energy
storage. The primary energy stores are in the adipose tissue (fat). You know,
we eat too much calories, via long processes it then gets stored in the body as
energy and when that energy is not used, it is stored as fat, in all the
unwanted places on our bodies.

Glycogen is
primarily made by the liver and the muscles. Glycogen basically serves as your
energy reservoir for sudden need for glucose. Glycogen is also found in the
muscles but in very low concentrations (about 1 – 2%) Now the interesting thing
is that the amount of glycogen that is stored in the body, especially in the
liver and muscles, will mostly depend on your training and the amount of
training you do, your baseline metabolic rate (the minimum amount of energy you
need to survive) and of course your eating habits

important part of glycogen is the part that is stored in the muscles. This is
the energy that is immediately available as glucose for the muscle cells. When
you look at marathon runners or any other long distance athlete going well in a
race and then all of a sudden they just can’t carry on anymore. This is called
“hitting the wall” and this happens when they just do not have anymore glycogen
in their muscles and it is a struggle to walk up a hill.

But what
does this have to do with us and our run of the mill “I only want to burn off
the unwanted fat and look fabulous?” They whole idea is to work your body very
hard to bring it in a state of glycogen depletion so that you can use fat
stores for energy instead of the glycogen in your system. Make sense? We hope
so. You can do various workouts to achieve this goal. The big thing to remember
is that high intensity workouts = glycogen depletion. So any metabolic
conditioning workout (raising the heart rate by doing circuit style training
with weights), tabata workouts (interval where you work 20 seconds, rest 10
seconds for 8 rounds – yeah, a 4 minute workout, but give it a try and get back
to us) and of course the good old HIIT (high intensity interval training) that
you can do anyway you like, you can alternate your intervals with longer work
and less rest or the other way around, as long as your work period is an all-out
effort you are reaching for the stars.

the more you deplete the glycogen stores in your body, the harder the metabolic
rate is working and that only means one thing – FAT BURNING!

onwards to our little example workouts:


Choose any
means of cardio equipment that you like, rower, running, cycling, swimming, it doesn’t
matter. Now you are going to choose a timed interval, like 30 seconds. Go like
hell for 30 seconds on your chosen discipline and slow down and recover for 30
seconds. It is your choice how long you want to do this for, but make sure you
warm up properly before you go all out.

It is also
very important to remember that you record the effort level or even the amount
of calories that you burn during this workout because next time you want to
beat it. This way you will never hit a plateau.

Metabolic resistance

workouts will take the age old slow, boring, long cardio sessions out of your
regime for good and good riddance for it as well. The amount of research studies
that have been done on the results of this type of training are endless and the
outcome for not favourable for it anyway so stop doing it, please!  You basically have an all in one where you
burn fat and build muscle at the same time. Now that is what we call a score!
So, anytime that you use a superset, triset, or circuit training you are doing
your body a favour and don’t think that you have to spend hours in the gym
either, you are going to work up such a sweat in no time you will not be able
to handle long sessions. You also do not even need the gym for this. Your own
body is amazing in creating these tough little sessions for yourself.


6 Rounds of
25 seconds of work/25 seconds of rest of:

Rocca press



Push ups

Wall sit

Tabata workouts:

We have
Izumi Tabata to thank for this little protocol, but don’t look at it with any
respect. This little protocol packs a huge punch. It is also called “the world’s
greatest fat burning workout protocol.” This protocol is key to depleting the
glycogen levels due to oxygen depletion (in other words panting harder than a
Jack Russel chasing after…..anything actually)

The original
tabata protocol looks like this:

5 Minutes
of warming up.

8 Intervals
of all-out effort for 20 seconds, 10 seconds of rest.

2 Minutes
cool down.


With all of
this in mind, don’t you think it is time to kick your training up a gear and
start seeing some serious results?



  1. Paul says:

    A twist on fasted exercise for maximizing fat loss and minimizing workout time
    how to burn more fat while you sleep

    Exercising on an empty stomach is a great way to force your body to burn its own stored energy. I like the stubborn fat protocol in which about a ten minute high intensity interval segment is done in order to use up glycogen and thus release fatty acids from the fat cells. The high intensity intervals are then followed by a slower paced segment of anywhere from thirty to sixty minute in order to burn some of those fatty acids. I usually do these kinds of workouts first thing in the morning before eating anything. I may drink a mug of plain black coffee for a little caffeine boost. Of course I will drink plenty of water.

    The main drawback to this kind of workout is that it takes a long time. Another drawback is that many people may not have the time or the inclination to workout first thing in the morning. There is a way around these drawbacks.

    Fasting provokes the same hormonal response that exercising of the correct duration and intensity does. Namely, insulin levels drop and growth hormone levels rise. That is the required state for fat burning. My protocol for people who want to maximize fat burning while minimizing time spent exercising is the following:

    1) Eat a nice big lunch.
    2) After work, do a HIGH intensity interval workout. Ten to twenty minutes will suffice. I usually go until my pace during the intense efforts drops through a floor.
    3) After the workout, take a shower, drink some water and go to bed. Do not eat anything. This is the early part of the fasting period. You will sleep through most of the fast and your hormonal state will be primed for maximum fat burning while you sleep.
    4) In the morning eat breakfast or not. It depends on how long you want your fast to go. Definitely eat lunch. A twenty four hour fast is plenty long enough.

    In essence, the fasted evening HII workout makes you release stored fat for supper. Then you eat the released fat for supper all night long while you sleep. And the night’s sleep becomes the long slower paced workout segment of the aforementioned stubborn fat protocol. How cool is that?

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