Glycerol

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Glycerol increases hydration within cells, allowing tissues to remain hydrated during prolonged endurance exercise, when taken in combination with ample amounts of water. It’s also been shown to reveal (or give the illusion of) greater muscle definition and a more vascular appearance.

Other names for Glycerol

glycerine, glycerin


Where to find Glycerol

Glycerol is found in some foods and pharmaceuticals as a sweetening agent, but the amounts are so small they aren’t beneficial.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Glycerol

Endurance athletes, especially marathoners and triathletes, have found glycerol beneficial during long-term strenuous activities by preventing dehydration — a major cause of fatigue. As a “last-minute prep” before photo shoots and such, some bodybuilders and models claim it helps reduce water retention, giving the illusion of increased muscle definition and vascularity.

Ways that Glycerol can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Give the illusion of enhanced muscle definition and vascularity
Ways that Glycerol can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Replace lost fluids, hydrating muscle tissues to reduce fatigue and enhance performance
  • Lower heart rate and body temperature to support the body during endurance activities

HEALTH BENEFITS


Signs of Glycerol deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Glycerol

Research indicates that Glycerol may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Dehydration
  • Glaucoma

DISCUSSION

More about Glycerol

Glycerol is the backbone of triglycerides and phospholipids and is naturally produced in our bodies. It has become a popular supplement among endurance athletes because it appears to help prevent dehydration during long-term exercise. More recently, people more interested in showing off their physiques, such as bodybuilders and models, have found that glycerol may help make their muscles look more defined.


How it works

Preliminary studies indicate glycerol draws water into the bloodstream and holds it there, somewhat like a sponge. This can be an enormous advantage for endurance athletes because as much as three to four pounds of fluid can be lost during strenuous exercise. By replacing this fluid during exercise, we may delay fatigue and significantly boost performance levels. Recent studies also suggest glycerol may prevent the breakdown of muscle through its protein-sparing action.

Stay cool during hot competition

Staying properly hydrated can also prevent more serious conditions, such as heat exhaustion and even stroke. And it can prevent a drop in your blood plasma levels. Sufficient blood plasma levels are needed to carry vital nutrients and oxygen to muscle cells. A drop in blood plasma levels can increase the time it takes for muscles to recover after exercise, and it may make it more difficult for your skin to cool down quickly.

Studies show that athletes training for more than one hour can exercise longer and maintain a cooler body temperature longer when they supplement with a water-glycerol mixture. Drinking glycerol before exercise may reduce the amount of water lost and protect against dangerous dehydration. Drinking glycerol after exercise may help rehydrate your body more quickly for a faster recovery.

In conclusion

Glycerol’s hydrating benefits and potential muscle-definition-enhancing properties may make it a powerful tool for the hard-training athlete. Especially useful when training for long periods of time in hot weather, glycerol may be a potent weapon in the fight against fatigue and dehydration.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

The amount of glycerol used depends more on bodyweight than anything else. Note, water intake with glycerol is also very important.

  • For people who weigh less than 125 lbs, 25 ml is recommended with at least 8 oz of water.
  • For those who weigh 125 to 200, 50 ml with at least 16 oz of water is recommended.
  • And those over 200 lbs may need up to 75 ml with at least 24 oz of water.

Some experts suggest even more specific amounts with greater amounts of water: about half a milliliter for every pound of bodyweight with 20 times more water than glycerol. For example, a 150-lb person would use 75 ml of glycerol with 1,500 ml of water (that is, a little over 6 cups or 100 oz).

Timing

Experts recommend taking glycerol over a period of a few hours during strenuous exercise or a half hour before exercise and again immediately after.


Synergists of Glycerol

Glycerol attracts water like a magnet and thus helps carry water throughout the body with it. Without sufficient water intake, glycerol may actually dehydrate the body, so water and glycerol must be used together.


Safety of Glycerol

Some people report bloating, nausea, and lightheadedness, so you may want to give glycerol a test run several days before competition to see how your body responds.

Toxicity of Glycerol

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Bahr, R., et al., “Effect of Exercise on Recovery Changes in Plasma Levels of FFA, Glycerol, Glucose and Catecholamines,” Acta Physiol Scand 143.1 (1991) : 105-15.
  • Gleeson, M., et al., “Comparison of the Effects of Pre-Exercise Feeding of Glucose, Glycerol and Placebo on Endurance and Fuel Homeostasis in Man,” Eur J Appl Physiol 55.6 (1986) : 645-53.
  • Inder, W.J., et al., “The Effect of Glycerol and Desmopressin on Exercise Performance and Hydration in Triathletes,” Med Sci Sports Exerc 30.8 (1998) : 1263-9.
  • Klein, S., et al., “Effect of Endurance Training on Glycerol Kinetics During Strenuous Exercise in Humans,” Metabolism 45.3 (1996) : 357-61.
  • Lyons, T.P., and Riedesel, M.L., “Effects of Glycerol-Induced Hyperhydration Prior to Exercise in the Heat on Sweating and Core Temperature,” Med Sci Sports Exerc 53.23 (1990) : 1779-87.
  • Maughan, R.J., and Gleeson, M., “Influence of a 36 h Fast Followed by Refeeding with Glucose, Glycerol or Placebo on Metabolism and Performance During Prolonged Exercise in Man,” Eur J Appl Physiol 57.5 (1988) : 570-6.
  • Montner, P., et al., “Pre-Exercise Glycerol Hydration Improves Cycling Endurance Time,” Int J Sports Med 17.1 (1996) : 27-33.