Insulin abuse in bodybuilding

Insulin is a perfect example of just how extreme some bodybuilders are willing to go to gain a competitive edge. Not happy with “just” using steroids, some careless bodybuilders have begun risking their lives with this potentially dangerous drug. In the minds of many bodybuilders, insulin is almost the perfect drug. It’s cheap, difficult to detect and actually enhances performance. Notice I said “almost,” as this “perfect drug” has another side to it – it can be lethal.

Insulin is a natural peptide (protein) hormone secreted by the pancreas. Its primary role is in controlling the levels of glucose in the blood. Diabetics need to inject it to prevent a rise in blood glucose, as their pancreas produces either insufficient or no insulin. The dangerous fact about the hormone is that if too much is injected it can drive blood sugar levels too low, putting the individual into a diabetic coma or even leading to death. In fact, insulin injection has been the suspected method of death in many murders.

So you may be wondering just why anyone in his right mind would use insulin for athletic purposes. Insulin use is thought to have first started with endurance athletes, who used the drug to force more glucose into muscle cells for storage as glycogen. Later, bodybuilders discovered that the hormone could also be used for muscle building by speeding up protein synthesis and increasing the delivery of amino acids to muscles.

Insulin probably became part of bodybuilding subculture around the same time as growth hormone – the early 1990s. Up until the late 1980s drug stacks and cycles primarily consisted of steroids and maybe an anti-estrogen. But as soon as word started circulating that a few pro bodybuilders were experimenting with insulin, gym rats everywhere jumped on the bandwagon and started using the drug for muscle building.

Together with anabolic steroids and growth hormone, insulin is one of the big three drugs in bodybuilding. These three drugs together are believed to produce a synergistic effect. This means each drug magnifies the others’ effects. Whereas 240 solid pounds was considered huge back in the 1970s and 1980s, the new stacks pushed the average weight of the pros to 260 pounds, and it’s not unusual now to see bodybuilders weighing 280, 290 or even more in contest shape.

For those readers contemplating using insulin, I strongly urge you to reconsider. Unlike steroids and growth hormone, which may cause side effects down the road, this is one drug that could literally kill you within minutes. The problem is that while you may be taking it to speed up amino acid transport and muscle-tissue synthesis, the hormone will also start lowering blood sugar levels. You could very quickly end up in a coma. A number of bodybuilders have died from insulin-induced comas. You have to ask yourself if a few extra inches on your arms or chest are worth dying for. I seriously doubt it.

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