Upon hearing the word insulin, we can imagine only one scenario: either diabetes or low blood sugar. Insulin is a natural peptide and amino acid-chain hormone that is secreted by your pancreas. Its primary function is to maintain the glucose level in your blood by taking up and storing sugar in it. It also allows cells to take in a certain amount of protein and fat. Insulin helps protect against the breakdown of glycogen, proteins, and fat in the body. Glycogen is stored glucose found in the liver and muscles, and it is broken down into glucose to increase blood sugar levels after consuming carbohydrates.

Insulin has been a cornerstone of diabetes treatment, particularly for type 1 diabetes, where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys beta cells in the pancreas, leading to a lack of insulin production. This necessitates insulin injections to replace the missing hormone. In contrast, type 2 diabetes involves insulin resistance, where the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin. While some insulin may still be produced, it may not be sufficient to maintain normal blood sugar levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends a target range of 80 to 130 mg/dL before meals and under 180 mg/dL after eating as optimal blood sugar levels, although individual targets may vary based on factors such as age, health status, and treatment plans. But what about its use in bodybuilding?

Effects and use of insulin in bodybuilding


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Insulin usage by pro bodybuilders began in the early 1990s as a part of the three big anabolic boosters: st****ds, growth hormone, and insulin. Since then, the use of insulin has been widespread. The use of insulin was easily noticeable before; insulin-proficient bodybuilders used to weigh around 240 pounds. However, after insulin usage, they weighed around 260 pounds. 

Insulin is more than just a blood sugar level-controlling hormone. It is widely used in bodybuilding because of its supposed anabolic nature, making it an aid for some to help them with building muscles. According to some increases anabolism, leading to maximum muscle gains. Some bodybuilders at the pro level take insulin with a strategic diet and exercise plan for maximizing gains. 

Insulin plays a role in regulating muscle protein synthesis, which is crucial for muscle growth. Research conducted in 2006 on 19 healthy adults who received an intermediate dose of insulin showed a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis, not breakdown. Furthermore, a 2016 review suggests that insulin can have a beneficial impact on muscle growth in bodybuilding, especially when combined with a sufficient intake of dietary protein. It’s important to note that amino acids, the building blocks of protein, should be present during insulin use to support muscle gains effectively.

Insulin plays a crucial role in facilitating the uptake of glucose by muscle cells, which is an essential nutrient for muscle growth and repair. Additionally, insulin promotes the uptake of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, which further supports muscle development. While insulin’s primary role is not to directly increase blood flow to the muscles, its actions do contribute to increased nutrient delivery to muscle tissues. In certain contexts, such as athletics or bodybuilding, some individuals may use insulin in combination with other anabolic substances and growth hormones to potentially enhance protein synthesis and optimize muscle growth, although this practice is controversial and should be approached with caution due to associated risks.

Insulin has a well-known ability to promote carbohydrate storage. People generally consume carbohydrates after a workout to refuel and promote glycogen replenishment. 

Insulin’s effect on hypertrophy and recovery

Insulin plays a role in promoting protein synthesis, where amino acids are utilized to build proteins and aid in muscle repair and rebuilding. A study was conducted in 2006 on 19 young men who were given the same amount of insulin, which decreased muscle breakdown while increasing protein synthesis. This process is important for muscle recovery and growth, especially after exercise that causes micro-tears in muscle fibers.

There was another study that was conducted by the “National Library of Medicine.” The study was performed on 12 men and 5 women aged between 25 and 40 years. They were given the same dosage of 0.1 IU of semisynthetic rapid-acting human insulin on two different days with an overnight fast. The results showed that insulin brought the blood sugar level up faster. Insulin from outside the body makes the body produce less insulin for a long time, even after the blood sugar levels are back to normal. This is not the only side effect of insulin. There is much more to it. 

Types of insulins

Short-acting insulins

Short-acting insulins have a quick effect within the onset time of 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the body. They have a peak effect for around 1 to 3 hours and remain active for 2 to 8 hours. Short-acting insulins are mainly used in the bodybuilding community. This insulin enhances the muscle’s capability to absorb nutrients quickly after the workout.

Intermediate and long-acting insulins

Intermediate and long-acting insulins have a 2-hour onset, and the effect of intermediate and long-acting insulin generally stays around for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the specific type of insulin. These insulins are not generally considered to be an ideal choice for bodybuilding due to their longer onset and elongated effect time.

Biphasic insulin

Biphasic insulin is also known as premixed insulin. It is a meticulous blend of short-acting and long-acting insulins. These are often used in the pharmaceutical world because of their precise blood sugar control capabilities. Generally, bodybuilders don’t use them.

Potential health risks of taking insulin


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Despite all the benefits of insulin for building your muscles, it has some severe side effects. Insulin usage leads to hypoglycemia, a condition where a person’s blood glucose level drops dangerously low. The symptoms of hypoglycemia are dizziness, lethargy, shakiness, and hunger pangs. To avoid this situation, you need carbohydrates to increase your blood glucose level. 

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Hypoglycemia can lead to many life-threatening situations. It can lead to blurry vision, confusion, seizures, and a loss of conciseness. It can lead to coma and some severe cases can also prove to be fatal. Many pro-bodybuilders have died, and many more have been in a coma from an insulin overdose. 


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Despite all the benefits, insulin has some life-threatening side effects too. Will you consider taking insulin, or will you stick to the basics? Let us know in the comments.

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