INSULIN: Bodybuilder Friend or Foe?
Muscular Development|January 2021
Insulin is an extremely anabolic hormone that has the ability to drastically increase muscle protein synthesis, enhancing muscle growth.
Michael J. Rudolph, Ph.D. Senior Science Editor

1 Insulin achieves this muscle-building effect by binding to the insulin receptor and setting off a cascade of signaling events that eventually activates the enzyme mTOR – which triggers muscle cell protein synthesis, generating muscle hypertrophy.2,3 Because of this extraordinary capability to build muscle, insulin has become a prominent tool within the bodybuilder’s arsenal for increasing muscle size. However, while insulin use can help a person bulk up, there are several adverse effects associated with insulin.

Low Blood Sugar, Muscle Breakdown

Although insulin may seem like an ideal muscle-building drug, it does more than simply increase protein synthesis within muscle cells. When insulin binds the insulin receptor, it also regulates carbohydrate metabolism in the body by causing cells in the liver, muscle and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood and store it as glycogen. While glucose uptake by muscle tissue could provide energy for muscle contraction and be very beneficial for muscle growth, too much glucose uptake stimulated by insulin could be very detrimental – leading to hypoglycemic effects ranging from seizures to unconsciousness.4

In addition, insulin use without a sufficient amount of carbohydrate intake can cause muscle tissue to breakdown, leading to loss of muscle mass. This loss of muscle mass will occur primarily because insulin prevents the use of stored fat as an energy source, increasing your body’s preference for glucose as an energy source. If you take insulin without sufficient amount of carbohydrate, your muscle cells will be unable to use either fat or glucose for energy – causing your body to obtain energy from an alternate source. When it can’t access fat and there is no glucose available, your body will begin to break down muscle tissue into amino acids for energy – ultimately causing a loss of muscle tissue and strength.

Increased Body Fat

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