When training and competing, our metabolic machinery works in high gear to meet the energy demands of contracting muscles. Fuel sources include glycogen and fat droplets in muscle, fats from adipose tissue stored in places such as the waist and hips, and glucose that is either made in the liver from protein or obtained from glycogen stores in the liver. Behind the scenes, this energy-sustaining metabolic interplay is under the control of hormones, with insulin being a key one. It also promotes the storage of glycogen in the liver and inhibits the release of glucose from the liver. In addition, insulin inhibits the release of fats from your adipose tissue reserves and promotes the synthesis of proteins, including the proteins found in muscle. Insulin is in a tug-of-war relationship with other hormones that are catabolic, or act opposite to it. These counter-regulatory hormones stimulate the breakdown of glycogen in the muscle and liver into glucose that can be used as fuel. They also allow fats to be released from stored adipose tissue and glucose to be made in the liver from proteins, so they too can be used for fuel. The back and forth between the anabolic effects of insulin and the catabolic effects of these other hormones is what allows an athlete to run 10 miles in the morning, and then to recover afterwards so that he or she can do it again tomorrow. But diabetes throws a wrench into these metabolic machinations.
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