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What Is Sugar Metabolism?

author image Allison Adams
Allison Adams has worked as a registered dietitian since 1996. She began writing professionally in 2000, with work featured in a variety of medical publications such as "Women's Health Magazine" and the "New England Journal of Medicine." Adams holds a Master of Science in nutrition and food sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sugar metabolism is a type of carbohydrate metabolism. Carbohydrates along with fats and proteins represent the three main types of foods that you eat. Sugar metabolism is an ongoing process that breaks down sugar, or glucose, into energy required by your body to function properly. Your body then stores excess levels of glucose for future energy needs. As your body later requires the stored glucose to meet its basic energy needs, the sugar metabolism process begins again.


Sugar metabolism is the biochemical process that allows your body to form, breakdown and convert glucose. Glucose is the most important carbohydrate metabolized by your body. Through this metabolism process, your body oxidizes the glucose converting it into energy. You cells temporarily store this energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate.

Metabolizing Carbs

Your body has an easier time metabolizing carbohydrates including sugars than fats. Your body also converts non-sugar carbohydrates into glucose. Therefore, consuming non-sugar carbohydrates can still raise the blood sugar levels in your body. After consuming carbohydrates, your body starts the sugar metabolism process.

A Complex Process

Sugar metabolism starts with digestion in your small intestine. After your small intestine processes glucose, your bloodstream absorbs the sugar molecules. Three main hormones in your body control your blood sugar concentrations: glucagon, insulin and epinephrine. When the concentration of glucose in your blood is too high, your pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin functions by stimulating the transfer of glucose in your cells.

Liver and Muscles

The process of glycogenesis, or anabolism, changes the glucose in your liver and muscles into glycogen. Your liver and muscles then store the glycogen. When your blood glucose levels are low, your body secretes the glucagon hormones. Your body secretes the glucagon hormones to stimulate the conversion of glycogen into glucose, a process called glycogenolysis, or catabolism. Your body can then use the glucose as a source of energy. At the same time, this restarts the sugar metabolism process and your body once again stores excess glucose as adenosine triphosphate.

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