You may have heard of insulin when the topic of diabetes is talked about, and assume that it is merely a medication used by diabetics. True, insulin injections are used by diabetics. But, insulin is actually a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pancreas (that is, in non-diabetics) which has anabolic properties, so it’s important that you understand a little about it.
The function of insulin is to regulate the blood sugar levels. In English: it helps the body make use of the energy you feed it with.
When you eat a sugary food or drink a sugary beverage, this causes an insulin spike when a sizable surge of insulin is released, to deal with a huge surge of blood sugar.
Makes sense, right?
So, rather than have a lot of blood sugar floating around, insulin is released and ushers it into muscle cells and other organs for use as energy. This is why diabetics who lack insulin or are insulin resistant – more on this soon – are often tired and suffer from ill health and have high blood sugar levels. The energy they take in from food isn’t being used by the body in the way it should, so they become tired, and their organs don’t function optimally, and a multitude of other persistent high blood sugar side effects occur.
Insulin resistance is when the insulin receptors of the muscles become less and less receptive to letting insulin in, resulting in less nutrients (blood sugar) being let into the muscles and other organs. Insulin resistance can spark the onset of diabetes type 2.
How insulin relates to bodybuilding…
For muscle building, the key is to keep the body in a state of harmony by avoiding simple carbs (sugars) and regulating usage of complex carbs. Because complex carbs release their energy more slowly, you don’t have the same insulin spike but a slower release.
I recommend eating most of your daily carbs after a workout, when you need them the most to repair and refuel the muscles. Beforehand is also important, as it gives you energy to work out properly.
Insulin also helps put amino acids (proteins) in to the muscles which makes it a very important hormone for growth. That’s why it’s recommended you take in a good mix of carbs and protein an hour or so before a workout, and the same again immediately after a workout. You take before because once you start working out the muscles have enough protein free in the system to prevent catabolism, and after, to prevent catabolism, and begin repairing and growing the muscles right from the off.
Some bodybuilders foolishly risk their health for a few more pounds of muscle, and begin injecting insulin for its anabolic properties. For a time, increased insulin may allow them to gain extra muscle, but, this is a very dangerous act which has resulted in many deaths… and undoubtedly caused countless more cases of diabetes and other serious illnesses. No amount of extra muscle is worth ruining your health for.