Weighing up the pros and cons of exogenous insulin use to add muscle.
By Josh Hodnik, owner of Enhanced Nutrition (www.enhancednutrition.ca)
[Disclaimer: Muscle Evolution does not condone nor promote the use of performance enhancing drugs and steroids. This information is provided solely for the purpose of fostering a better understanding of these substances through education, to ensure that if they are used, it is done so responsibly.]
Insulin is considered to be the most anabolic hormone present in the human body, as this hormone, which is secreted by the pancreas, is responsible for regulating carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism in the body.
Injecting insulin is not a new concept in the world of bodybuilding. In fact this practice has gained in popularity over the last few decades. To put the power of insulin into perspective simply take a look at bodybuilders of today and compare them to the bodybuilders of Arnold’s era. Many top amateurs today dwarf many of the top pros during the time when Arnold, Lou and Franco were the kings of the stage. Not much has changed in the steroid world since then, which means that we have insulin to thank for this shift in the physical development potential of modern day athletes. Sure, HGH and other peptides have been thrown into the mix, but insulin is ultimately responsible for the disparity in size between bodybuilders of today and those of yesteryear.
Anyone who has used exogenous insulin will swear by its ability to dramatically increase size and strength. The method used by most bodybuilders today is to inject insulin multiple times throughout the day while taking 10g of simple carbs for each IU injected.
However, this approach is not without its dangers. Failure to consume enough simple carbs will ultimately result in hypoglycaemia and a possible trip to the emergency room or, in the worst case scenario, will result in death.
Similarly, while bodybuilders are quick to praise insulin’s amazing ability to pack on size, they will also attest to the other downside to its use, which is excessive fat storage. Years ago I also turned to exogenous insulin to help increase my size and I too became hypoglycaemic as I didn’t eat enough simple carbs. After eating and drinking everything I could find in my kitchen to rid myself of the sweating and nausea that accompanies extreme hypoglycaemia, I knew I had to take in more carbs if I was going to continue to use insulin. The end result was that I ate as many calories as I could at the local buffet following an insulin injection. I packed on a ton of size while doing this, but did it look like I had more muscle? No, I looked fat and bloated. This is generally what happens to most bodybuilders in the off-season when they use insulin. If used incorrectly they simply become fat.
And obviously this impacts on your contest prep because, when a person has to drop 30kg or more by dieting down, muscle loss will occur. Sometimes the muscle gained through the use of insulin outweighs the muscle lost from the resultant need for extreme dieting. However, athletes, including myself, have been able to avoid the fat storage and muscle loss while still reaping the benefits of exogenous insulin use.
By manipulating the process of gluconeogenesis – a metabolic process that converts amino acids and fatty acids into glucose, predominantly in the liver – athletes have been able to achieve substantial gains in muscle mass, with very little fat gain. By depleting your body’s glycogen stores and consuming high levels of protein and some fatty acids to compensate for this, your body will start to convert amino and fatty acids into glycogen for energy. This means that there is no excess carb-derived glycogen in your system that can be stored as fat. I know this sounds crazy, but it works. The same effect is achieved through a ketogenic diet, but the insulin approach works almost immediately, whereas a ketogenic diet works over a period of weeks and months, However, using insulin to promote gluconeogenesis is extremely dangerous if not administered correctly.
Failure to adhere to the correct protocol will send you into a hypoglycaemic state, but there is also a chance that this could happen even if you follow the proposed guidelines. In instances where this happens, failure to have a high glycaemic index source of carbs like dextrose tablets or fruit juice on hand could result in hypoglycaemic shock. This can lead to a number of symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening. These include cold and pale skin, numbness around the mouth, apprehension, heart palpitations, emotional outbursts, hand tremors, mental cloudiness, dilated pupils, sweating and fainting. Mild to severe cases can result in extreme tiredness, loss of alertness, decreased muscle strength and coordination, extreme tiredness, headaches, double vision, staggering or an inability to walk, a craving for salt and/or sweets, abdominal distress, chronic colitis, allergies, ringing in the ears, unusual patterns in the frequency of urination, skin eruptions and inflammations, pain in the neck and shoulder muscles and memory problems. Depression, insomnia, irritability, lack of concentration, crying spells, phobias, forgetfulness, confusion, unsocial behaviour, suicidal tendencies, comas and death are also related to extreme and prolonged hypoglycaemia.
Despite having successfully used insulin to add substantial size to my frame, where I packed on close to 5kg each time, this is not something I would ever try again. As I have aged I have become a little more sane and I feel that there are safer ways to pack on muscle. But many bodybuilders are hellbent on stacking on the kilos as quickly as possible and continue to use this method. At the end of the day though you have to ask yourself, is adding on insane amounts of muscle worth your health or your life?