What is Anabolism?

Anabolism (from the Greek αναβολισμός ) is the term used to describe metabolic reactions that serve to build up chemical compounds, by synthesis of complex molecules from simpler ones. For example, photosynthesis is an anabolic metabolic process in plants. Simple compounds such as water, carbon dioxide and minerals are converted into carbohydrates, proteins and fats using solar energy. However, not only in plants, but also in animal and human organisms anabolic metabolic processes take place constantly.

In the course of anabolic reactions, foreign substances ingested through food are broken down, and their components are used to build up the body’s own tissues (including muscles, tendons and ligaments), consuming energy — adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP serves as a direct source of energy in the energy-consuming build-up reactions.

The opposite of anabolism is catabolism, which is the degradation of the body’s own components for the purpose of metabolism or energy production. Catabolism and anabolism are both parts of metabolism.

These catabolic metabolic processes generate energy for the life processes and at the same time, in addition to water and carbon dioxide, simple organic degradation products, such as pyruvate, which can be used as starting materials for the formation of the body’s own substances. However, this requires energy which is obtained from the catabolic metabolic processes and transferred to the new compounds via the intermediate energy store ATP.

Anabolic metabolism (AKA constructive metabolism) is physiologically present during growth, but also after muscle build-up training.

So, there’s nothing illegal, or “unnatural” about Anabolism: it’s just a natural process your body uses everyday.

There’s no muscle build up without anabolism. Your strenght is… Anabolic Strength!!

People can use unhealthy, risky products, to stimulate this anabolism (anabolic steroids), or they can use healthy, safe alternatives — supplements that help your body’s anabolic processes, and supply it with the needed raw materials for this increase to happen.

Anabolism and muscles image

Anabolic substances are used both by man and women

Structure of molecules

The simplest molecules produced by the anabolic process of photosynthesis are monosaccharides. These sugar molecules are converted by further anabolic processes, resulting in amino acids, isoprenoids and nucleotides. Complex molecules such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, genetic material or lignin can then be formed from these precursors.

Let’s see some examples:

1 – Fat anabolism

Acetyl-CoA, which was obtained mitochondrially from the pyruvate dehydrogenase reaction, is transported into the cytosol using the citrate shuttle. Here it can be used for fatty acid synthesis or cholesterol synthesis.

2 – Carbohydrate anabolism

Pyruvate can be rebuilt to glucose under the action of glucagon via the metabolic pathway of gluconeogenesis.

3 – Ketone body anabolism

Ketone bodies can be used as energy carriers in hunger situations or in untreated diabetes mellitus. They are synthesized mitochondrially from acetyl-CoA, which comes from beta-oxidation.

Functions & Tasks

Anabolism is indispensable for the organism. In the most common sense, specially in sports, when people say anabolism they refer to the build-up of muscle proteins. However, it refers to all the building processes that produce the body’s own proteins, fats and carbohydrates. These do not always have to be complex compounds. The new synthesis of a glucose molecule from the intermediate pyruvate is already an anabolic process. This requires energy.

The formation of the body’s own substances is to serve, on one hand, for the structure and growth of the body and on the other hand, for the storage of energy. To build the body, mainly proteins and their basic building blocks, the amino acids, are needed. The amino acids originate from the degradation processes of the proteins ingested with food.

The individual amino acids are reassembled into the body’s own proteins as part of an anabolic process. Amino acids that are not needed are further converted into simple compounds such as carbon dioxide, water, urea or metabolites such as pyruvate. Pyruvate can be further degraded or used as a starting compound to form glucose, amino acids or fatty acids. In this way, amino acids can be converted into glucose. Catabolic and anabolic processes are linked.

The glucose can be stored in the polymeric storage form glucogen in the liver and muscles. Glucogen serves as a potential energy store when needed. The newly formed fatty acids can be converted into fat by esterification with glycerine, which is stored in the adipocytes as an energy reserve.

All anabolic processes require energy, which is provided by the intermediate energy storage ATP. ATP is always produced from ADP by a further binding of a phosphate group. This energy comes from catabolic metabolic processes.

The complex metabolic processes in the body are controlled by hormones. There are hormones that promote catabolism, such as thyroid hormones, or hormones that promote anabolism. These include insulin, growth hormones and sex hormones. Anabolic processes can also cause catabolic processes and vice versa. For example, muscle build-up promotes fat loss. On the other hand, muscle breakdown is often associated with fat build-up.

Diseases & Disturbances

Diseases associated with anabolism are often caused by hormonal disorders. Hormone disorders can be caused by both internal and external causes. A well-known example of an external cause is the abuse of anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are often used by performance athletes and strength athletes to promote muscle build-up. They are hormone-like substances or even hormones.

A frequently used anabolic drug is the male sex hormone testosterone. Testosterone promotes muscle building in men and women. However, many consequential damages have become known. In men, the constant administration of hormones reduces the production of the body’s own testosterone. After discontinuation of the anabolic steroid there is a rapid drop in performance and muscle loss.

The body’s own hormone synthesis is no longer stimulated. This results in testosterone deficiency with poor performance, breast enlargement in men, psychological problems, reduction of the skeletal and musculoskeletal system, increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, liver damage and shrinking testicles with the development of infertility.

In women, the menstrual cycle may be disturbed. In addition, the clitoris enlarges.

If the anabolism is disturbed by internal causes, hormonal imbalances often play a role. These can be hereditary.