The benefits of exercise reach deep within our brains. Exercise can promote the growth of new brain cells to assist with energy demands and new circulation. Smart Nutrientology readers know that muscles store glycogen as an energy reserve, but many are not aware that certain brain cells, called astrocytes, store sugar in the same way holding glycogen stores for brain energy.
During exercise, your brain is responsible for triggering and directing your movements. During this activity your brain uses up tremendous amounts of glucose sugar in the process of orchestrating this movement.
Studies have shown that certain cells in the brain can grow and develop as a result of exercise. I have posted on researchers looking at the growth of new brain cells as part of the reason why exercise seems to produce improved mood as well as the positive effects of exercise on the brain’s energy “power plants” known as mitochondria. Another brain and exercise study done in lab rats has shown that exercise promotes the proliferation of brain cells called astrocytes. It is known that exercise is associated with the growth of new blood circulation in certain parts of the brain, and astrocytes play a supportive role in this process.
The researchers looked at the amount of astrocytes in rats that exercised and in rats without exercise. Guess what, the rats that exercised had more astrocytes in their brains. Furthermore, astrocyte proliferation continued for a while even after the exercise was stopped. Exercise-movement provides for healthier brain tissue with better circulation.
NOT ONLY THAT, but astrocytes are known to actually store glycogen much like your muscle cells do. Readers of Nutrientology know that glycogen is the storage form of the body’s blood sugar known as glucose. It is taken out of storage when your muscles need energy. Once again, lab rats were used to study the effect of exhaustive exercise on the ability of astrocytes to store glycogen. It is known that muscle cells can super-compensate for glycogen depletion in the face of exhaustive exercise, and it appears that astrocytes can super-compensate as well.
In other words, when exhaustive exercise uses up existing glycogen, the body will actually start to store up more than it typically does, apparently in preparation for the anticipated continued energy demands produced by this exercise.
The researchers conclude:
These results support the hypothesis that, like the effect in skeletal muscles, glycogen super-compensation also occurs in the brain following exhaustive exercise, and the extent of super-compensation is dependent on that of glycogen decrease during exercise across brain regions.
Could glycogen depletion in muscle, as well as in the brain, be a health promoting endeavor?