In bodybuilding and sports, a frequently encountered word is "anabolic." The most common thought engendered when the word anabolic is mentioned is anabolic steroids. This use of anabolic provides a clear clue as to the meaning of the word. "Anabolic," is derived from two Greek words that roughly translate into "throw upward." This has nothing to do with vomiting but rather refers to the construction of larger units from smaller units. In short, anabolic means to build or increase something. In contrast, "catabolic" refers to a breakdown of something. Both words are commonly used in bodybuilding in reference to building muscle mass and strength. The usual goal is to maximize anabolic effects in muscle while reducing catabolic reactions. Indeed, muscle growth is marked by a dominance of the anabolic pathways in muscle over the catabolic pathways. But catabolism is necessary to promote anabolic effects. An example of this is the digestion of protein. Protein must first be gradually digested from a larger unit (whole protein) into gradually smaller units, culminating in the most elemental form of protein, amino acids. The amino acids are the form of protein that provides anabolic effects in muscle tissue and elsewhere in the body. But the initial digestion of protein; that is, the breakdown of larger proteins into smaller units, is a catabolic process that eventually produces an anabolic effect--the use of amino acids to promote muscle protein synthesis, which in turn results in upgraded muscular hypertrophy or growth.
The body's hormones also function in anabolic and catabolic pathways. For example, some hormones are noted for their potent anabolic effects on muscle. Such hormones include testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth hormone-1 (IGF-1). Insulin is a hormone that provides anabolic effects by producing anti-catabolic effects in muscle. Thus, it is not a direct anabolic hormone like the others mentioned here, but by blocking the breakdown of muscle protein, it tips the metabolic scale toward anabolic effects, thus allowing anabolic effects to dominate in muscle.
Nutrition is also known to promote either anabolic or catabolic effects, depending on what you eat. The dominant anabolic nutrient by far is protein since it provides the amino acids required to foster muscular growth. In relation to catabolic effects, no food is directly associated with catabolic effects in muscle, but rather it's a lack of sufficient food intake and particularly protein that results in muscle catabolic effects. Bodybuilders and athletes experience these catabolic effects when they diet too strictly and do not provide the necessary amount of daily calories and nutrients needed for either growth or maintenance of muscle tissue. Again, this can result from either eating too little food or not consuming sufficient protein to support muscle growth. Overtraining, which involves an excessive volume of exercise or training too frequently so as to prevent complete muscle recuperation between workouts, tends to veer the body towards a catabolic state. Using drugs, such as anabolic steroids . . .