Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition

Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Jul;56(1 Suppl):292S-293S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/56.1.292S.


Glycogen is stored in the liver, muscles, and fat cells in hydrated form (three to four parts water) associated with potassium (0.45 mmol K/g glycogen). Total body potassium (TBK) changes early in very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs) primarily reflect glycogen storage. Potassium released from glycogen can distort estimates of body composition during dieting. TBK changes due to glycogen mobilization were measured in 11 subjects after 4 d dieting with a VLCD. The influence of water-laden glycogen on weight fluctuations during the dieting process, the exaggerated regain if carbohydrate loading occurs, and the implications for weight control programs and overestimation of nitrogen losses with dieting are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition*
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Female
  • Glycogen / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Potassium / analysis
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Weight Gain / physiology
  • Weight Loss / physiology


  • Glycogen
  • Potassium