How Does Your Body Store Excess Calories?

November 30, 2017

If you eat excess calories, your body stores the energy as glycogen or fat to use at a later time. These compounds get stored in your liver, muscles and fat cells.

Overtime, continually eating excess calories causes your body fat stores to expand, resulting in weight gain. You'll have to create a calorie deficit to lose the excess calories your body has stored.

Excess Calories

Consuming excess calories means you're eating more than your body burns off in a day. Some energy expenditure comes from body processes, such as your heart beating, breathing and digestion.

The remainder of the energy you expend daily is due to your N.E.A.T ( Non exercise activity thermogenesis or day to day physical activities, such as walking, cleaning the house, climbing stairs, biking or gardening. If you eat more than you burn in a day, your body stores the excess calories to use later when calories are scarce.

See my video on N.E.A.T

Carbohydrate Storage

Some excess calories you consume from carbohydrates are converted to and stored as glycogen, a complex carbohydrate, in your body. Your body stores glycogen primarily in your muscle and liver cells.

Every 1 gram of carbohydrate gets stored along with 3 grams of water. According to Iowa State University, a healthy adult body can store about 500 grams of carbohydrate. Skeletal muscles store about 400 grams or glycogen, the liver stores 90 to 110 grams of glycogen and your blood circulates roughly 25 grams as glucose.

This means your body is capable of storing about 2,000 calories of carbohydrates.

Fat Storage

Once your glycogen stores are full, your body stores excess calories from carbohydrate as fat. Excess calories from fat and protein intake get stored as fat in the body as well. Adipose cells, or fat cells, store the extra calories in the form of triglycerides, a type of fatty acid.

Most of these fat cells are found between your skin and muscle while others surround your organs, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Everyone has a different number of fat cells, but it's the size of the cells that matters more.

Weight Gain

Eating an excess of 3,500 calories contributes to a weight gain of roughly 1 pound of body weight, according to MayoClinic.com. As you eat excess calories, the fat accumulates inside your adipose cells causing the cells to expand and increase in size. After enough fat cells enlarge in an area, you begin to look fat.

In order to reduce the fat stored in cells and lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit by reducing food intake or increasing exercise. While few people want to have excess body fat, some fat storage is essential to allow your body to have energy reserves, protect internal organs, insulate the body and protect nerves.

Carb Loading

Carbohydrates (sugar, starch, and fiber) are one of the three main sources of calories; the other two are protein and fat. Carbohydrates play an important role in maintaining a healthy diet and fueling your rides. Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles as glycogen, which your body taps into during a workout/MOTO.

But not all carbohydrates are created equal. The more processed a carbohydrate is (like packaged foods and sweets) the more it becomes stripped of its nutrients, making its calories “empty.”

To fuel your body and your ride reach for complex carbohydrates like whole fruits and vegetables, dairy, whole grains, potatoes, and legumes. These foods provide a host of nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, and calcium, that will help (you the rider) feel full and perform your best. In addition to being better for your health than simple sugars, complex carbs are a better choice if you're interested in weight loss.

You can benefit from simple carbohydrates (like maltedextrose, glucose, maple syrup, or dextrose), which provide quick bursts of energy. This type of sugar (found in SGUT-MX Holeshot) is good for on-the-run fuel because it is quickly absorbed and can help replenish the glycogen stores you’re depleting on a tough session you'll want to refuel regularly this is why we recommend 300ml and half a banana straight after the MOTO to replenish the glycogen stores before your muscles become fully depleted.

Try to consume 30 to 60 grams every hour, depending on your intensity and also body size.

Carboloading should be the favourite part about Race day prep. But to do it properly, it’s important not to eat heaps of pasta for days on end—you’ll feel sluggish and it could lead to GI distress on race day. Instead, slowly increase your carbohydrate intake about three to seven days leading up to your race.

For example, have Oats and fruit for breakfast, add a Sourdough roll to your salad, have a handful of pretzels as a snack, and add rice or other whole grains to your dinner.

A small amount of carbs after a hard or long training session will help you to recover more quickly, because your muscles are especially good at absorbing carbs in the hour or so after a workout. Use the chart below to gauge your general daily carb needs. One gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories.

Activity Level

Recommended Intake
Light activity (less than 1 hour per day)
0.7 to 1.1 g/kg. body weight
Moderate activity (1 hour per day)
1.1 to 1.6 g/kg body weight
Extreme exercise program (4.5 to 6 hours per day)
2.2 to 2.7!+ g/kg . body weight

After a hard workout, you’ll deplete 50 percent or more of the glycogen in the affected muscles, and it will typically take 20 to 24 hours before you’re able to completely refill them. So the first important question is: How do you refill those stores as quickly and fully as possible?

A study back in the 1980s introduced the concept of a “window of opportunity” during which your muscles can store glycogen more quickly.

Eat carbs right after your workout, and you’ll restock glycogen 75 percent faster than if you eat the same carbs two hours later.

References Source: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada
The American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance