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I'm thinking primarily in terms of the macronutrients, carbohydrates and proteins.

I know that fats are 9 calories per gram and both proteins and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram, which makes them less fattening to eat, but it also makes them less efficient methods of caloric storage.

I believe this would mean that body weight would fluctuate over twice as easily, but what other physiological changes would accompany something like this?

Would a body packed with carb-storage be more crystalline than squishy? Would a protein-storage body just be a big slab of flesh?

Thanks.

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  • $\begingroup$ Carb storage is actually a Glycogen storage. It's not a long stretch of imagination to see humanoids who store extra energy in glycogen rather than fat. However, this would be much less efficient, as you already mentioned. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 18 '17 at 21:32
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Carbohydrates are actually stored in our body as glycogen in the liver (mainly) and in muscles (much less and is generally not made available outside the muscle itself). This storage implies also storing a large quantity of water (3..4 times the amount of glycogen).

There is no storage for proteins beside the muscle themselves. Note that a certain amount of protein intake is required otherwise our body would start to "eat" (anabolyze) muscle tissue.

Note also that converting proteins in energy is much less efficient and thus using them to store energy is not advised.

Storing large quantities of glycogen in the liver has adverse effects to liver functionality, so you need to find some solution:

  • either to remove this problem and store glycogen in liver, but in this case "obese" individuals would have a very large liver leading to mechanical problems.
  • or store more in muscles (which will use most of it anyways) making them more turgid, but not stronger.
  • otherwise you can devise some specialized cells, mimicking the adipose cells, but storing sugar instead. In this case you could also think about some mechanism to do without the water part and get a more solid (and space/weight efficient) consistency.
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It is worth noting that bodybuilders are basically training themselves to store excess protein calories in the form of hypertrophied muscles. There are 'non-active' forms of protein in the body, collagen for instance, that could be expanded as a means of excess protein storage, I think this would basically replicate excess adipose tissue in that you could store large amounts of collagen in the same areas you do fat. It is important to realize that abnormal protein build-up can be fatal, like in the case of amyloidosis or kidney damage. Adipose tissue is accumulated in specialized adipocytes, so you would probably need "collagenocytes" or "proteinocytes" to store excess protein safely and start the metabolic breakdown (into glucose) when necessary. You can probably do the same thing with glucose.

As to why we don't already have this capability, there are probably advantages to just having large scale fat storage instead of protein (outside of muscle hypertrophy) and glucose/glycogen. Temperature regulation, vitamin storage, water requirements, dietary availability, and ease of utilization all probably contribute. The obesity we see today is probably unique to just the last few millennia with easy access to high carb diets provided by agriculture. Caloric excess from plant based sources was probably a rare thing with human cultures prior to that innovation (versus gorging on fat and protein from a large animal kill).

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You can store sugar in cells like what ZioByte said or you could somehow crystalize sugar (which maybe redunant Biology isn't my strong suit) and store them in the bones like how most of human vitamin reserves are stored. I learned that bones are somewhat crystals from a first grade biology book.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WB:SE! This is a good idea, but chemically sugar is soluble in water while vitamins, being minerals, can only be emulsified, which is why they can be bound to bone. Your answer would benefit from a bit of research demonstrating the ability to bond sugar. When it comes to OPs asking for advice, the details are often the muse for their imagination. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 24 '17 at 21:28

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