Why Insulin works. Steroid Insulin Synergy
Should anabolic steroids be used with insulin or is it best to use insulin while off
steroids in order to hold onto muscle mass?
We are going to demonstrate that they have to be used together. We will also try
to provide some clues about their respective contribution to the synergy both
hormones create. This will help us to handle both drugs better.
Here are some general observations:
It is safe to conclude something else is needed to uncover the full anabolic
effect of steroids. The hormone which is the most affected by a high calorie or
by a low calorie diet is insulin. Also, heavy steroid users know that past a
certain amount of steroids, adding insulin will make a big difference as far as
muscle gains are concerned. Insulin is thus a strong candidate as a potentiator
of anabolic steroids (which we will indiscriminately refer to as androgens,
steroids or anabolics). Furthermore, studies performed in trained dogs have
shown a lack of insulin completely negates the anabolic effects of steroids on
protein synthesis. There are some easy hypotheses such as a possible androgen
receptor up regulation, a stimulation of androgen secretion, an antiaromatase
effect arising from insulin. But, there is still something missing.
Using anabolics plus insulin will not make you much bigger unless you weight
train. The synergy can only be realized if insulin + steroids + training are
present. What is the link between those three factors? A very likely candidate
is an enzyme called insulinase. As its name implies, it is an enzyme responsible
for the destruction of insulin. But we are going to see it does much more than
that. It is found inside many tissues of the body, particularly in muscle. What
science is telling us is that insulinase is essential for insulin to provide its
anti-catabolic effect on our muscles. It is also likely that insulinase is able
to multiply the anabolic effects of androgens. It's worth repeating: insulin
cannot stop protein catabolism without insulinase and the effects of steroids
are potentiated by insulinase. It sure looks good.
Androgens are very powerful stimulators of the muscle protein synthesis rate. On
the other hand, the muscle gains provided by androgens do not match this
elevation in synthesis. Steroids promote anabolism to a much higher rate than
they make our muscles grow. The reason for this discrepancy is that they also
stimulate protein degradation. I know many people think they are anti-catabolic,
but it is not the case. Anabolics stimulate protein turnover. This means they
increase both synthesis and degradation of proteins. They are simply more
effective at stimulating synthesis than degradation, which is why they make our
muscles grow but not at a super fast rate. Look at how long it takes to grow
huge muscles. If androgens were stimulating synthesis while inhibiting
degradation, one would grow very, very quickly.
This is where insulin comes in. As we said, it mostly reduces protein
degradation rate. It might stimulate protein synthesis right after training, but
this effect is very limited in duration. Ideally, using insulin along with
steroids would allow us to accelerate synthesis (thanks to anabolics) and reduce
degradation (thanks to insulin). This is the best way to grow muscle fast.
Unfortunately, as both insulin and anabolics need insulinase to work better,
they will compete against each other for this enzyme. For natural athletes, the
supply of muscle insulinase should roughly meet the demand. Now if you add
anabolics, there will be less insulinase for insulin. If you do not take too
high a dose of steroids, the level of insulinase should still be sufficient to
allow a fair insulin-induced anti-catabolism.
But as you take more steroids, the insulinase available for insulin will be
lower and lower.
Insulin will lose its anti-catabolic effect. As it will still bind some
insulinase, the enzyme availability for steroids will not be optimal either.
Anabolics will lose some of their potency.
What is important to understand is that past a certain dose, anabolics will
provide their own antidote against muscle growth. The only solution (besides
using fewer steroids) is to increase insulinase level.
At least two factors can accomplish this feat:
The first one is insulin itself. The higher the insulin level is in a target
organ (muscle for example) the higher the insulinase level will be. You would
expect that the body would detect the shortage of insulinase for insulin and so
produce more insulin (or more insulinase).
Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. While insulinase is crucial
for the anti-catabolic effect of insulin, it does not seem as important for
Insulin's main function is not to assist in muscle growth but to control glucose
homeostasis. As a result, it is likely our body does not really care about a
relative shortage of insulinase. In any case, we are left with a less than
optimal equilibrium. It is up to the bodybuilder to react to this imbalance.
One way of increasing insulin secretion is to eat more, but you can only do so
up to a point. You cannot increase your carb intake in parallel with the amount
of steroids without getting too fat. Another solution is to use drugs to add or
to stimulate insulin secretion. This way you get the insulin without the excess
In any case you now understand why steroids work better while on a high calorie
diet while they lose their potency during a diet or a shortage of insulin.
Here is a way of "artificially increasing insulin level": One dose of long
acting insulin first thing in the morning (this is the only injection). Before
each meal (except the pre-workout one), take a sulfonylurea (an oral
anti-diabetic drug which will boost food induced insulin secretion). I like
Glipizide because of its short half-life. In case you experience hypoglycaemia,
you know it will not last. This is the main problem with the long acting
sulfonylurea. When you are hypoglycaemic, you try to compensate by absorbing
carbs. But the drug will make your pancreas secrete even more insulin before the
carbs can hit the blood. It makes the hypoglycaemia worse - not better.
In case of problems, make sure you get some ready-to-inject Glucagon (sold as
"insulin emergency kits" in drugstores). An additional benefit of the Glipizide
is that it induces the release of GH on top of insulin which is beneficial for
This is a nice way to fix the reduced anticatabolic property of insulin.
Unfortunately, this will not yet provide the optimal amount of insulinase to
have steroids work better. We said that training was the third key ingredient in
this synergy. This is because training can stimulate insulinase activity. Not
any exercise will do. The traumatic ones inducing muscle soreness are the most
effective. It is the factors inducing soreness which will trigger this increase
in insulinase. On the other hand, you do not want to create too much soreness as
it will temporarily reduce the effects of insulin and androgens by impairing
their effects at the level of their respective receptors. What you want is mild
but frequent soreness along with some very frequent pumping sessions.
Do not forget both androgens and insulin circulates in the blood. The more blood
you get into the muscles (and the longer it stays), the more your muscles will
be "drenched" in those two hormones. Please note that insulinase is produced
locally in the trained muscles only. It does not circulate into the blood.
By Michalovich Greutstein
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