If your goal is to build muscle, you will want to spend as much time as possible in an anabolic state. Anabolism is the opposite of catabolism. Knowing what causes them both, and how you can avoid a catabolic state and optimize your metabolism, will be a huge key to your physical progress.
Metabolism refers to all of the chemical processes that must occur in the body to keep it working. Things like breathing, digesting, circulating blood, and maintaining homeostasis are all metabolic activities. However, the metabolism is much broader than that. All of the chemicals activities in the body fall under two narrow categories: catabolism and anabolism.
At its most simple, catabolism comprises all of the chemical processes that tear down biomolecules in the body. When you eat, your body can’t do much with the food until it is broken down. Your body must create chemicals that will then release the nutrients that the food contains so that your body can use it. Catabolism works similarly to chewing food in preparation for swallowing, except a catabolic process breaks down biomolecules in preparation to use them for energy. The reason why a catabolic state is something that bodybuilders must avoid because, during catabolism, muscle fibers are being broken down for use by the body as energy.
Anabolism involves all of the metabolic processes that build biomolecules, something that is advantageous to an anabolic state. During anabolism, the body is repairing or building muscles fibers, rather than breaking them down. As long as you are in an anabolic state, your muscles will not be the primary energy source. Rather, the energy you consume through food will then be used by the body to build muscle. Here are some ways to remain in an anabolic state.
Anabolism requires that lifters eat enough protein to promote muscle building. A 2013 study in the Journal of Pure Power provided different recommendations for lifters and bodybuilders at different ages, but each range recommended that each lifter get a minimum of .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. The general recommendation is typically between 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Some studies have suggested that more is required, but the data is inconclusive at this stage.
Get Enough Carbs
Low carb diets can work well for fat loss, but go too low for too long and your body will leave the anabolic state. Carbs provide energy. If you don’t get enough carbs but you are still trying to work out at high intensities, your body will have to get that energy from somewhere, and that leads you to the catabolic state discussed above. Once you know your daily caloric requirements, make sure that you are getting between 40-50% of those calories from healthy, unprocessed carbs.
Remember, an anabolic state is when the body is either building or repairing muscle tissue, namely, the repair that is required after a hard workout. Perhaps you’ve heard that you grow when you’re recovering from a workout, not while you’re performing it. Sleep is when the greatest amount of growth hormone is released into your system. Provided that you’re training hard and eating right, the more sleep you can get, the more time you can spend in an anabolic state.
Big Weights, Big Lifts
Lifting heavy weights—weights within 80-90% of your one rep maximum—with compounds lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, barbell rows, and overhead presses, will promote the biggest anabolic response. However, lifting weights that you can only perform 8-10 reps per set with at best, will release huge amounts of growth hormone into the system.
Staying in an anabolic state doesn’t have to be rocket science. It comes down to minding the fundamentals: proper lifting, proper nutrition, and proper recovery. If you are doing all three of them, it is almost impossible to fall out of an anabolic state. If you aren’t solid on any of these foundations, get them dialed in and you’ll know that you are giving yourself the best chance at building more muscle and power.