You’ve hit the gym non-stop for the past month and fail to understand  why you aren’t seeing any improvements. You’ve increased your intensity of your workouts but it doesn’t seem to help. No matter what you try and do you just can’t get out of this funk. Unbeknownst to you, however, is that you’re body is over burdened because it is constantly in a state of canabolism, or “break down,” that prevents repair and recovery. I’m sure all of us have experienced a situation like this, especially if you workout consistently, but why does something like this happen?

Well first, let me start with some basic facts. For those of you who don’t know, our bodies have two main metabolic phases or processes that determine the way our body functions: anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism refers to “chemical reactions in which simpler substances are combined to form more complex molecules” through the use of energy (source). In other words, anabolism basically means “building up” in its simplest context. In contrast, catabolism refers to the “breaking down” or “chemical reactions that result in the breakdown of more complex organic molecules into simpler substances” (source). Both metabolic states serve different purposes and are necessary for life, but it seems far too often that many of us experience a state of catabolism more than we need to. Let me explain.

When you work out, especially with weights or resistance training, your body goes into a state of catabolism, or break down, in order to produce the energy (Adensoine Triphosphate or ATP) it needs to meet the demands of whatever exercises you’re doing. Hormones, such as cortisol (a.k.a the stress hormone caused by stress or anxiety), glucagon (tells the liver to breakdown its stored glycogen for energy), and adrenaline (a.k.a epinephrine released in “fight or flight” situations), are released when your body goes into a catabolic state (source). When this happen, hormones, such as those mentioned, rise to high levels to meet the needs of the situation at hand and perform their funciton. However, when you don’t allow your body to go into a state of anabolism, the processes that help build, repair, and restore cells, tissues, etc., then you may see that working out won’t solve anything, but often only make the situation worse.

People fail to realize that you don’t get big and strong during your workout, but only when you are resting in which your body goes into an anabolic state. Anabolism produces human growth hormone (HGH), IGF-1, insulin, and testosterone which are necessary for muscle growth and repair (source). Without these hormones that stimulate the growth of amino acids (protein), bone density, muscle size and density, you won’t become stronger. Remember, if you want to build muscle, cannibalizing your muscles is not going to help.

So what can I do so my body experiences and maintains a higher quality and more frequent anabolic state? The answer encompasses three main components: rest, good nutrition, and proper training.

  1. Rest is just what it says it is. This means not only resting when you sleep, but also through instances when you’re not doing much, such as reading a book or meditation. When you get good deep, quality sleep you naturally stimulate the body into an anabolic state because you’re not stressed, which prohibits the release of such necessary hormones, like HGH, for tissue repair, recovery, and growth. Rest also means not working yourself to exhaustion in work or school. The “western” attitude of go harder and harder is utter nonsense and completely destroys the concept of balance in one’s life. Life is a duality of balance and working harder only further distorts your body’s ability to be in homeostasis (balance) because of excessive canabolism.
  2. Good nutrition is the second main component because it allows the body everything it needs to support its ability to repair and recover by getting all the macro and micronutrients it needs. This includes drinking plenty of water and eating clean, wholesome food (if you need to ask if its junk food than it probably is junk food). Eating plenty of veggies and fruit, clean sources of protein, whole grains in moderation, and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, will support you in this. If your diet consists mainly of these types of foods, in addition to your limitation of sugary, salty, and fatty processed foods, then you will give your body all the fuel it needs to recover in the best way possible.
  3. The final component is proper training. Proper training includes being smart in the intensity and frequency of your workouts. If you max out in every lift every time you workout then you’re not being smart. Knowing when to push yourself and when not to is vital for your body to reach an anabolic state. If your legs are still sore from the previous workout then don’t do squats that day. Simple common sense like this goes a long way, but more of us, including myself, need to uphold this principle. From first hand experience, I know how hard it is not to work out, but that is only when have I achieved my biggest gains.

There is much more to be said here, but the main message I want to get across is that many of us have bodies that are imbalanced physiologically because the way we live our lives. This includes excessive training, stress, work, and other things that inhibit our bodies from recovering and functioning properly. I hope I inspired you to realize the importance of anabolic and catabolic phases and the need to have balance in both areas.

Thanks for reading, please comment, and I’ll talk to you next time!

(Photo Credit)


One thought on “Why You Can’t Get Stronger: The Anabolic vs. Catabolic Balance

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