Biochemists can be a funny lot. They love inventing new vocabulary – especially words that have little use in other areas. Let’s take the word “metabolism” for example. Instead of just saying all the chemical reactions that take place in your body, they had to coin the word “metabolic.” And guess what – it doesn’t end there. Nope, metabolic itself can be subdivided into two more words: anabolic and catabolic. Now you’ve probably heard of anabolic before, since it applies to “anabolic steroids.” The word itself means chemical reactions where small molecules are combined to create larger molecules. The best example of this occurs when amino acids are combined to form polypeptide chains, which in turn are combined to form protein strands and ultimately muscle tissue. The name “anabolic steroid” means exactly that – a steroid molecule that stimulates anabolic reactions in the body. Some compounds do just the opposite. They break down large molecules into smaller molecules. Such compounds are called catabolic steroids, and the best example is the hormone cortisol. During times of stress, the body releases large amounts of cortisol. On one hand cortisol will help you survive the stressful event, but on the other hand it causes the body to break muscle tissue down as an energy source. Not exactly what a hard-training bodybuilder wants.
“Cortisol’s major catabolic effect involves facilitating the conversion of protein in muscles and connective tissue into glucose and glycogen. Known as gluconeogenesis, this process involves both catabolizing protein already formed and discouraging the synthesis of new protein. Bottom line: Your growth potential is somewhere bound and gagged in the twilight zone.” – Dr. George Redmon, MuscleMag International contributor