Difference between anabolism and catabolism

anabolism and catabolism

In this article we will discuss the differences between Anabolism and Catabolism, if you continue reading this article you will find the clear concepts of each term and their differences.



Firstly, what is metabolism?

Metabolism refers to the biochemical process that occurs with any living organism – including humans – essential for maintaining life. Any and all energetic and material transformation that takes place in the living cells of the body. Thanks to the metabolism, it is possible to grow, reproduce and repair damages. Living things use the metabolic process to keep their molecular structures and organizations in a stable state.
Specific questions like weight, age, sex and physical activity can be decisive in the regulation of metabolism, making it, also, faster or slower. Just to stay alive, performing vital functions (such as sleeping, breathing, eating), the body already spends a certain amount of energy; that is, there is a certain caloric expenditure and the value of it is related to the metabolism of each individual. For example, there is a decrease in caloric value for weight loss, and over time the body will require less energy to fulfill its vital functions, which slows metabolism. The physical exercises are an example of practice that causes the metabolism to accelerate.

Metabolism consists of two basic and interdependent phases; to which energy is released and to which energy is captured. The phase that consists in the disintegration of organic complexes to release energy is known as catabolism. Already the phase that consists in arranging organic compounds from simpler compounds, aiming at storing energy, is known as anabolism. Next, we will see better what is anabolism and catabolism.

What is anabolism?

Anabolism is the process of building organic complexes; a succession of chemical reactions that build or synthesize molecules from smaller compounds; energy is required for this to occur.
The human body, in order to grow and maintain itself, must resort to nutrients from the external environment. These nutrients are broken down to provide energy that cells use to continue their chemical reactions in the body. The breakdown products of these nutrients are small molecules that cells can use to build larger molecule blocks – literally forming new material from the products of these nutrients.
The function of anabolism is, in a simplified way, to construct structural and functional molecules. The anabolic process uses monomers to build polymers; a polymer is a large molecular complex made up of many smaller molecules similar to each other, the monomers.

To build new proteins (large, complex molecules, polymers), cells need amino acids (single molecules, monomers), which make up proteins. The cells get these amino acids by absorbing them from the bloodstream and this is considered an anabolic process; the construction of proteins from smaller molecules, the amino acids.

Classical Anabolic Hormones

The growth hormone, produced in the pituitary gland, stimulates the activation of the hormone somatomedin by the liver, which causes growth. IGF1 and other hormones that stimulate the production of protein and sulfate, are involved in the growth of the uterus and placenta, as well as the fetus during pregnancy. Insulin, another anabolic hormone, is produced by the beta cells in the pancreas and regulates the blood sugar level.
Testosterone, the male hormone, causes the development of male sexual characteristics, such as muscle stiffness and bone mass. Estrogen, the female hormone produced in the ovaries, develops female characteristics such as breasts and other aspects of the menstrual cycle, for example.

Benefits of Anabolism

For the body to enter the anabolic state, it is necessary to consume a source of energy. Food or nutritional supplements allow muscle tissue to receive such energy, and when individuals do not consume enough food, the effect of anabolism is counteracted by catabolism, as we shall see better in the next topic.
If humans were able to maintain a steady and healthy rate of anabolism, everyone would have muscle mass in all regions of the body. Many athletes use drugs that induce the anabolic effect, which promote absorption of energy and protein from food to muscle tissues. And as this process is banned for athletes, many of them have been caught and penalized.

People who are looking for weight loss or gaining muscle mass should consume densely nutritious foods before and after physical activity. This helps provide energy to the body, which eventually will reach the muscle tissue.

What is catabolism?

As has been seen, anabolism and catabolism are part of the metabolic process of living things. Catabolism, however, is very different from the anabolic process. The body goes into catabolic state during normal functions of metabolism and this process consists of breaking down food and nutrients so that they later have the ability to build muscles or act on the growth of other tissues.
After physical exercises, hormones are released into the body and they perform catabolic processes and that, as a result, may end up breaking the muscle gains of each workout. Knowing this natural process, people can consume highly nutritious post-workout foods to prevent such an occurrence. Anabolism and catabolism act together and naturally in the human body to maintain healthy energy levels and durable muscle tissues.
When food enters the body, from the first moment, larger molecules naturally become smaller. The idea of ??digestion, in fact, has to do with catabolism. Once the food particles become small nutrients, these compounds release energy through an oxidation process. The catabolism process, by itself, causes the breakdown of compounds to release energy, which helps maintain proper muscle activity.

Effects of catabolism

In addition to helping supply the human body with energy that is needed for growth and other functions of the body, catabolism acts negatively that leads to various health effects. This does not occur often, but when the body goes through a high rate of catabolism, the muscle tissue and fat deposits essential to the body become deplored.

During rest, for example, the body tends to recover and stay in an anabolic state. If the body does not rest properly for long periods of time, just like in a long period of heavy exercise, the muscle tissue begins to break. Without ingestion of nutritious foods, the natural process of muscle growth will not work. People who have a healthy lifestyle, eating right and exercising, will not find problems in catabolism. However, high levels of stress and hormonal imbalances cause negative effects that clutter the ideal balance between anabolism and catabolism.


Below we present the  differences between Anabolism and Catabolism

  • Anabolism is the building up of things, but catabolism is the breaking of things.
  • Catabolism transforms substances into simpler ones and releases energy, whereas anabolism synthesizes simple substances to form a more complex and requires energy
  • Anabolism usually occurs when we rest or sleep , Catabolism can occur from extreme workout , not sleeping enough , stress and fatigue .
  • Anabolism uses different hormones to help build these are the growth hormones testosterones and estrogen , .Catabolism uses cortisol ,adrenaline and glucagon.
  • Anabolism builds and repair muscles and tissue using proteins , catabolism burns calories from fats , sugars and protein.
  •  Anabolism takes place when there is  glycogen synthesis, protein synthesis and assimilation ,Catabolism take place during digestion, cellular respiration,  and excretion.



1.“2503 Cellular Respiration” By OpenStax College – Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. Jun 19, 2013. (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

2. Boundless. “Catabolic-Anabolic Steady State.” Boundless Anatomy and Physiology Boundless, 26 May. 2016. Retrieved 1 Sep. 2017 from




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