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Catabolism: how do you prevent muscle breakdown?

A term not used very often in the fitness world is catabolism/being in a catabolic state. Quite remarkable, since this is quite important to know. Especially if your goal is to build muscle mass. Reason enough to write a blog about catabolism.

If you read on, we'll explain what it actually is, what it means for your goals if you were often catabolic and we give practical tips to prevent it.

What is catabolism?

Catabolism is part of our metabolism or our metabolism. Simply translated, catabolism means breaking down molecules in an organism. In this case, the breaking down of molecules in a human body. When such molecules are broken down, energy is released. This energy can then be used for all kinds of functions, such as moving our bodies.

Translated even more simply, this actually just means that you are very slowly breaking down the built-up muscle mass for energy. This happens when, for example, you consume insufficient nutrients for a longer period of time and thus provide your body with insufficient energy to maintain muscle mass. As a result, you will lose weight, and part of the weight that you lose is muscle mass. In most cases, this will not be what you want.

What is catabolism

Catabolism and your hormones

Hormones play a major role in our metabolism and therefore also whether your body is catabolic or not. Think of cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline, but also lesser-known hormones such as glucagon and cytokine. A change in these hormones can have consequences for your metabolism and therefore also have an effect on your muscle building and muscle breakdown.

How do you know when you are in a catabolic state?

It is often very difficult to determine in time whether a catabolic state is present. For example, you may notice when you lose weight without consciously trying to do so. Or when your performance during training decreases over time instead of staying the same or increasing. These could be signs of catabolism.

If you experience this, ask yourself if there have been any recent changes in your daily life that may be affecting your body. Think of your diet, sleep, stress, etc. Have there been recent changes in this? Then that could just be the cause. To give you a little more guidance, we have worked out tips below to prevent your body from reaching a catabolic state.

Preventing catabolism: 4 useful tips

Now that we know what it means when your body is catabolic, we want to know what we can do to prevent it. For this reason, we have worked out the 4 most effective tips. These tips can be applied in everyday life relatively easily by anyone. Apply them and try to avoid catabolism.

Provide your body with sufficient energy

This will be the most obvious tip, as your body can use the consumed food for energy. When sufficient food is consumed, no molecules in the body need to be broken down to provide the body with energy. Sufficient food is therefore very important if you want to prevent catabolism.

Of course, this does not mean that you should just eat everything you come across. A healthy balance is crucial to provide your body with energy in a responsible manner. Are you eating too little? Then you still remain in a catabolic state. Are you eating too much? Then you will probably also gain fat mass. Therefore calculate how many calories you need daily and try to consume this structurally.

Also make sure that you provide your body with sufficient building blocks around (heavy) training sessions. You do this by, for example, consuming complex carbohydrates in good time before a workout. Even after training, you need to provide your body with carbohydrates again, but also proteins for muscle recovery. For example, do you train late at night? Try to organize your nutrition plan in such a way that you still have to eat something after your training.

Try to avoid stress

Either way, stress is annoying and you normally want to avoid it as much as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and that has negative consequences on our bodies. Stress can also cause the body to enter a catabolic state. Stress triggers the hormone cortisol. And let this be a hormone that you prefer to have as little of in your body as possible. Cortisol can cause catabolism and you will lose muscle mass as a result.

As difficult as it may be, it's important to try not to experience too much stress. In some situations it is not possible, we understand that, but if you experience it often, it is advisable to do something about it. If it is something that you suffer from chronically, then it is not a bad idea to seek help from a specialist.

What is somewhat ironic is that strength training is a form of stress for your body. This causes you to produce cortisol to a certain extent, which puts you in a catabolic state (for a short time). Immediately after resistance training, the body is therefore catabolic. Of course, this by no means outweighs the muscle-building effect of the training.

Get enough sleep every night

A good night's rest does wonders for your health. For example, sufficient sleep can also contribute to the prevention of catabolism. Sleeping at night affects your hormones and so does the stress hormone cortisol. As you have just read, cortisol is one of the main reasons for catabolism. So try to prioritize your sleep in the evening. Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, then you will be fine in most cases. So not one more episode of your favorite series, but just go to bed.

Avoid (excessive) alcohol use

The last tip we cover to prevent your body from entering a catabolic state has to do with alcohol consumption. We now know that excessive use of alcohol can have very negative effects on our bodies. However, not everyone knows that alcohol can also make your body temporarily catabolic.

Consuming alcohol increases the amount of cortisol that is produced. Now it will all be okay if you sporadically consume a glass of alcohol, but regularly tapping away a few beers or wine can just have negative consequences. Something to think about next time you sit on the patio.

The opposite of catabolism

So when we talk about catabolism we are talking about the breakdown of molecules in an organism. In this case the breakdown of muscle mass in a human body. Of course, you can also experience the opposite, namely muscle building instead of muscle breakdown. This is also known as an anabolic state. So the opposite of catabolism is anabolism or catabolic to anabolic.

The anabolic state is also influenced by hormones, just like catabolism, and so can also be influenced by your daily actions.

catabolic? I'd rather not

Catabolism is therefore a state of your body in which you break down muscle mass for energy supply. This can be caused by eating too few nutrients or an increase in certain hormones that affect your metabolism. Do you want to build muscle mass? Try to avoid a catabolic state as much as possible.

TIP : You can find more such blogs in the muscle mass category .

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