You can decrease the breakdown of muscle tissue both during and after exercise and thus provide potent anti-catabolic effects in several ways. (For bodybuilders, anticatabolic really means much the same as protein sparing, since that involves decreased muscle breakdown.) A lot of substances and methods decrease muscle breakdown and have anticatabolic effects; for example, taking in adequate carbohydrates is known to have a protein-sparing effect.

Although the concept of anticatabolism is simple, you may not understand what mediates the anticatabolic response. Some people use the term anticatabolic interchangeably with the term antiglucocorticoid. This can lead to misconceptions, even though in many cases an anticatabolic effect may be mediated by decreasing the effect of glucocorticoids on muscle tissue. You should consider other factors and influences, however, when a certain substance or regimen produces an overall anticatabolic effect.

In addition, the popular notion of cortisol being solely a catabolic hormone isn't accurate. Too much cortisol can certainly be a problem, but cortisol is a necessary hormone, and in athletes, plays a role in decreasing muscle stiffness and inflammation. Without normal and even somewhat elevated cortisol levels, we couldn't even exercise properly - so it wouldn't matter what training, diet, drug and nutritional supplement regimes we followed. In fact, short cycles of synthetic cortisol like drugs are used in some sports to enhance both strength and endurance.

Yet chronically elevated cortisol levels have a catabolic effect on muscle and decrease the effect of anabolic hormones. Decreasing or attenuating the rise in cortisol seen after exercise can give you an added anabolic boost by decreasing muscle tissue breakdown and increasing amino-acid influx and utilization by muscle cells. But why all the fuss about decreasing muscle breakdown? Aren't we interested in increasing protein synthesis and thus building up muscle? Yes and no. Decreasing muscle breakdown can be just as important as increasing protein synthesis. It all depends on how the two processes divvy up the protein shares and affect the overall protein balance.

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