Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Anabolism and Catabolism

Hi guys, firstly my apologies for not writing earlier. My grandmother just passed away last Monday and it was rather sudden, so everything has been a bit chaotic. Getting back some resemblance of normalcy now so i thought i better post something before i get whisked up in other things again.

Over the past few weeks, i have been writing on tips about how to stay at optimal health during the month of Ramadhan. I used the word anabolism and catabolism a lot and i have received quite a few emails asking me to explain what this means. One email sender said "from what i gather, anabolism is good and catabolism is bad, but what are these 2 actually?" So i thought for this weeks post it would be best to address these terms so everyone has a clearer picture.

Before we jump into anabolism and catabolism, there is another "lism" word that we need to understand first. And that word is Metabolism. Now i know most people know what this is and use it quite frequently, but here is the actual definition from Medical News Today -Metabolism refers to biochemical processes that occur with any living organism - including humans - to maintain life. These biochemical processes allow us to grow, reproduce, repair damage, and respond to our environment. In short, metabolism is a process that allows us to utilize what we consume to fuel our day to day functions.

Now there is anabolism, also known as constructive metabolism and catabolism which is destructive metabolism. Let me explain further.

Anabolism is called constructive because it involves the building up of things - a series of chemical reactions that constructs or synthesizes molecules from smaller components, which usually requires energy in the process. The body uses simple molecules to create complex ones. In the same way a builder will use small bricks, to create a house, Anabolic reactions utilizes a few simple chemicals / molecules to manufacture (synthesize) a vast array of finished products such as muscle growth increasing bone mineralization.

Anabolism uses monomers (simple molecules such as amino acids) to build polymers (large complex molecules such as protein). So many monomers put together form a polymers and this process is known as anabolism.

Catabolism is known as destructive because it involves the breaking down of things - a series of degradative chemical reactions that break down complex molecules into smaller units, and in most cases releasing energy in the process. Catabolism provides us with energy so our bodies are able to perform physical activity. Now this activity includes everything, from the most minute activity at the cellular level all the way up to whole body movements. So in other words, catabolism breaks down complex stuff to release energy which allows us to live and move. But for our purpose in fitness, lets concentrate on how catabolism helps to provide us with energy so we are able to complete movements and exercise.

Another important point to note is that anabolism requires energy where else catabolism releases energy.

So now lets put all that together in terms of fitness. When we exercise, we force our body into a catabolic state ie breaking down our stored energy to allow us to perform our activities. We need to do this so that our body has the energy it needs to perform the exercises that we want. When we are done exercising, we need to re-fuel our body. Hence drinking a protein shake or eating anything after that, will help our body to switch from a catabolic state to an anabolic state. As the popular saying goes, "You don't grow in the gym, you grow when you are resting", and this is so true. In the gym, you are breaking down the muscles and when you are resting - you are rebuilding everything. The process of rebuilding everything is the anabolic process. The process that helps your body get the energy it needs is called catabolism. In short, that what they are.

So, now the big question.... Is a catabolic response bad for you? No its Not. You need it to live. Without it you won't be able to live and move around. So it is a necessary process. But staying in a prolonged state of catabolism is bad, because it will begin to break down your muscles as well, and you don't want that to happen as muscle is healthy weight which you want to always preserve. Hence why you want to stop the catabolic process as soon as you can after you are done with your workout, so your body can begin repairing itself.

Workouts and exercise are strenuous activities that causes damage to the body. Once you are done, its important to help fix it up, or else it will just get more and more damaged. The way to fix it, is to shift our body into an anabolic state which allows it to begin repairs. Repairs cannot begin while your body stays in a catabolic phase.

So there you have it... a simple definition of what anabolism and catabolism is and why the both are so important to us. Now that you know, you will have a better appreciation for what happens inside our complex body. Hope this helps to answer all the questions i have been receiving. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.


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