Is Glycogen A Fatty Acid? Exploring The Science Behind It

When we eat, the food is broken down by substances in the body to release energy needed for various activities. With this energy, we can perform physical activities and exercises. Most people are confused as to whether Glycogen is actually the same as fatty acids because both substances generate energy for bodily functions and as well stored in the liver. This article will elaborate on the comparison, and differences and clearly state their meaning.

What Is Glycogen?

Glycogen is a molecule that stores energy in the liver and muscle in the form of glucose for the body to use when performing tasks. Without energy, the body can not function properly.

Fatty Acids

So every day, as food rich in carbohydrates is eaten, it is broken down and the body stores the essentials as glycogen.  Carbohydrates contain sugar, starch, and cellulose.

The major source of energy in the human body is glucose and other carbohydrates. When sugars and carbs are consumed more frequently, the energy used for the production of cellular respiration and adenosine triphosphate will rapidly increase.

You might be curious to know what will happen if these sugars become excess at any given time in the body. Well, to accommodate excess sugar, the human body stores excess sugar as glycogen. Once glycogen is formed, it automatically gets stored in the liver or muscles.

Glycogen is stored in skeletal muscles and used during exercise or sports which are high-energy physical activities. It is also stored in cardiac muscles to aid the constant pumping of blood. So when the muscles are in need of energy, immediately through the process of glycogenolysis, glycogen will be broken down and used.

What Is Fatty Acid?

Fatty acid is mainly composed of lipids which are fats and oils. They are energy sources and membrane constituents. Fat is another form of energy, stored in the body through adipose tissues. Fatty acid comprises three main forms of esters namely; phospholipids, triglycerides, and cholesteryl esters.

Fatty acids are classified as: (even and odd chain) and (saturated and unsaturated). These classifications are based on their number of carbons, length, and saturation.

The properties of fatty acid Include acidity, hydrogenation, autoxidation, and ozonolysis.

Fatty acid is stored in adipocytes as triacylglycerol. Adipocytes are mostly found in the abdominal cavity and subcutaneous tissues. Fatty acids are also stored in the liver as triglycerides but in small amounts.

Are There Similarities Between Glycogen And Fatty Acids?

Glycogen and fatty acids both are a source of energy. They can be broken down into smaller units. Fatty acids can be broken down through a process known as beta-oxidation to produce ATP, the energy required by the body.

So, the relationship that exists between glycogen and fatty acids is that they fuel up metabolic processes. The glucose-fatty acid cycle has been described to be one set of mechanisms by which carbohydrates and fat metabolism interact.

Interestingly, glucose which is formed through glycogen can easily be converted into fatty acids when it is excess in the body but scientific facts have shown that fatty acids can not by any means be converted into glucose in a process called lipogenesis. 

What Are The Differences Between Glycogen And Fatty Acids?

A clear observance and conclusion have been made regarding the differences between glycogen and fatty acids which are:

  • Fatty acids have more calorific value while glycogen has less.
  • Glycogen is heavier and has more weight while fatty acids have less weight. 
  • Glycogen is the body’s first source of energy during exercise while fatty acid is the secondary.
  • Glycogen has a more dense form of energy than fatty acids.

Clearly, glycogen gives a ready source of energy while fatty acids primarily function as energy reservoirs. The body cannot store too much glycogen because it is bulky and has heavy water content, unlike fatty acids which are otherwise.


Glycogen is not a fatty acid. They are both different forms of molecules but share a similarity in storing and generating energy for use during physical activities and exercises. Glycogen is primarily used in the process of sport or exercise. 

Fatty acids cannot be converted into glycogen. Glycogen on the other hand can be converted into fatty acid when excess in the body. 

About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

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