I see this as a continuum going from Anabolic <—> Catabolic with people tending to fall on either side of point 0, tending toward one or the other. Me, I’d say I’m a 2 on the right side of point 0.

Anabolic

Metabolism 5- 4 – 3 – 2 – 0 – 1 -2 – 3 – 4 – 5 Catabolic Metabolism
Hallmarks of the Anabolic Metabolism:

• Put on muscle easily
• Has difficulty getting lean
• Will respond well to lower carb intakes (approx 30%)
• Responds well to higher training volumes

Hallmarks of the Catabolic Metabolism:

• Has difficulty adding LBM
• Gets lean easily (but has difficulty retaining LBM)
• Responds well to higher carb intakes (approx 50%)
• Responds best to lower training volumes

Where do drugs factor in?

The above is based on non drug using people. Drugs are the great genetic equalizer: those who add muscle easily but can’t get lean are able to do so, and those who have great difficulty adding LBM, but have no problems staying/getting lean, can do so while retaining LBM. Obviously, genetic traits still play a role (or everyone would look identical and respond identical, etc) but drugs allow for genetic limitations in the above, faster recoup, ability to tolerate higher training volumes, etc.

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39 Comments
  1. Tim 8 years ago

    Curious if you mean legal or illegal drugs.

  2. VB 8 years ago

    Hey, can u please consider writing out your articles. I can’t stand watching a video to gain any information or knowledge.
    Otherwise keep up the good work.
    Thanks

    • Author
      willbrink 8 years ago

      VB, there's about two decades worth of articles on the site to read. The vast majority of people prefer video these days, and they allow me to get out much more info out to people then articles, which take FAR more time. I will be doing some as articles in the future, but vids are a much more efficient and popular way to do it.

      • ben 8 years ago

        I hate the video also..prob a way to do it..lol

        • Jacques 8 years ago

          Yup gotta agree… video is a pain

  3. Roger Tucker 8 years ago

    This is really interesting. I only ever went to gyms to lose weight and all I ever did was put on muscle. I can exist quite happily on a low carb diet, (as you suggest), but not at all on a low fat diet. It would be really good if you could pursue this further with prescriptive recommendations according to type.
    Thanks for the insight.
    Roger

  4. Billie 8 years ago

    Great information! I have to agree with Roger. I am the same anabolic type…low carbs okay…but not low fat. I too would like further prescriptive recommendations according to type. Thanks.

  5. Kathleen 8 years ago

    And then aging throws a big wrench into the works!
    Since we tend to lose muscle and bone as we age, wouldn’t the trend be towards catabolism after, say, age 40, despite which end of the spectrum we may have occupied over our youth and young adulthood?
    Certainly we older individuals tend to accumulate fat, lose lean body mass, struggle to put on muscle AND require decreased training volume. We have to cope with a hormonal status (including reduced insulin sensitivity) that generally does not “help” us stay lean and muscular–so we have to diet more carefully and work smarter in the gym.

    • Dai 6 years ago

      These are some great points here. Being an older guy 51 I find it a lot harder to loose fat at my age as compared to when I was in my 20’s/30’s strength, muscle mass comes at a slower pace as well.
      It would be interesting to find if the basic metabolism goes through a process of change as we age. I know hormones play a large part but what other physiological changes are responsible that also contribute to a changing metabolism.

  6. mike 8 years ago

    I would like to keep you in my basement and pick at your genius brain, you are the best!

  7. Tom Scott 8 years ago

    I am on the opposite side of the spectrum Will -Love the videos!!
    I tend the absorb information better as if someone is talking to directly
    to me as opposed to reading it like homework. Hence, now that i am
    older i read more magazines and less books.
    I find as i was younger, in my 20's i was more Catabolic and when i hit more
    30's and now 40's i see to be more Anabolic.Some friends can't believe i use
    to be a stick back then.Also, strangely i get energized by eating red meat like
    a steak (rarely these days) as if i was drinking coffee/caffeine!!

  8. Stanly Inso 8 years ago

    Will.. I got your point.. but is this somehow related to genetics? being an ectomorph and endomorph?
    of how you explained anabolic and catabolic metabolism.. it seem close to these two genetics.. endomorph as anabolic metabolism, and ectomorph for catabolic metabolism.. Could you give me a little clarification of the two things? thanks

  9. Steve 8 years ago

    Mr.Brink what do you mean by volume exactly? I would say I am extremely Catabolic for example I am 6’1” and was about 160 in 3 months i was 185 but as soon as I stopped lifting and track and field stopped (I throw shot put and Discus) I was back to around 160 in only a couple of months. Is there any way to slow down this process when I can’t really give time to working out?

  10. Roland 7 years ago

    As always, you did agood job of explaining the difference between the two.

  11. satx 7 years ago

    self-proclaimed natural greasebags are much more often victims of corporate food-like substances, eating out too much where portions are huge “family style”, and a corporate/industrial food-like substance engineering/pimping rather than their genetics.
    I was looking at a picture of my friends 7-year-old Little Leaguers in a team picture from about 1954. All but one of them, including both coaches, would be derided today as bony, pencil-necked, pointy-shouldered if not anorexic, but were unremarkable to 1954 eyes. Only one slighty thick kid, and nobody was overweight or obese.
    BigFood, having created a toxic food world, makes $100Bs off overweight/obese people.
    I’m not denying genetics or metabolic type, but I am saying excess, crappy calories dominate.

    • Jim 7 years ago

      @satx
      The american public is fat because they choose to eat poorly and live a more sedentary lifestyle than we did 60 years ago. To say that they are victims excuses the ignorance of some and shifts blame from the vast majority of the rest to the corporate world. This sets up the environment for uninformed politicians to create ineffective statutes and incompetent bureaucracies with an end result of a fatter and more unhealthy population.

  12. Roger Carpenter 7 years ago

    I believe there is truth in this, but I also believe for you young guys that’s it’s also a matter of age. When I was In junior high and high school, I was lean and didn’t gain weight. I played every sport that our small school offered so I was always active. In college, I wasn’t as active, but stayed lean. As I got older, I began to gain weight. I have noticed that I tend to be toward the anabolic range, though. I can walk into a gym and look at weights and get bigger. And, if I don’t do anything, I get fat quickly. I used to want to be like the long distance runners, long and lean, but that’s just not me. I wish I could get lean and firm because I don’t want to look like a big gym person.

  13. Doug 7 years ago

    I am DEFINITELY on the Catabolic side. In my mid 50’s I can still tolerate weight gainer formulas. Of course the amount of sugar is risky, but to add pounds I need more calories than I can get from eating.
    I train hard now and supplement because I don’t want to live the last years of my life as a scrawny spider like my Father and my older brother. I figure I only have 10 more years where my body will produce enough hormones to gain muscle, so I am working at it now.

  14. Luiz 7 years ago

    Interesting.
    I’ve never thought anabolism like that. Always thought gaining fat had nothing to do with making muscle. So I’m usually sad cause I easily gain fat, but the other side of the coin is: If I train consistently I can gain LBM too.
    Gave me something to think about and rethink my perspective.
    Tks

  15. Marcelino 7 years ago

    Good Day Will, I’m totally with you, regarding the fact that many individuals could be judges on a scale from anabolic to catabolic.
    I for myself would be anabolic (at the far end). I add muscle easy and get fat easy too. What I dont understand is the following fact that you pointed out —Will respond well to lower carb intakes (approx 30%)—
    What do you mean by that? That 30% respond well on this diet? I know that if I cut my carbs, I lose weight (muscle mass) and power. I totally burn out after a few weeks of low carbs as my body eats up my muscle at a rapid rate. Could you explain or clarify this point? Love your research, and you no B.S. approach.

    • Author
      Will Brink 7 years ago

      What I meant was, 30% of total cals from carbs. I find as a rule, those leaning toward the more anabolic metabolism do better on lower carb intakes, but individuals will differ, depends on type and volume of exercise, total cals, and so forth. Highly generalized info to be sure based on a hypothesis only. 🙂

      • Marcelino 7 years ago

        Thank you Will for the explanation!

  16. Kevin 7 years ago

    Hey Mr. Brink thanks for sharing your insight! I agree 100% and think it’s probably just as easy to think of it as most people think about somatotypes…that being anabolic metabolism = more endomorphic and catabolic metabolism = more ectomorphic on the continuum. Always appreciate you input!
    Kevin
    MuscleScience.co

  17. Claudia 7 years ago

    Hi Will,
    I enjoyed your video and I think you are completely right. I have been a person who has struggled with weight gain all my life and I run to the anabolic side of the spectrum for sure. I also do much better on a low carb / higher protein diet. I can eat the same amount of calories as a few of my friends who eat more carbs – they will lose weight and I will gain. I my case, I have had an insulin resistance problem. When I was younger, I had a hypoglycemic problem, and now my body is changing to a pre-diabetic stage. I am told by my doctors that if I can lose weight I can slow or even halt the progression to diabetis . I’m covinced that hormones such as insulin play a big part in how you build and maintain
    muscle.

  18. Anthony Drexel 7 years ago

    I’m not sure how this is different from the old model Ectomorph-Mesomorph-Endomorph. Maybe more research into the genetic causes would be interesting for the scientific community, maybe leading to more hormone, enzyme, or nutritional supplementation knowledge, but what are the functional limitations of the old model? And how does this theory overcome those limitations?

  19. colin coade 7 years ago

    Hi Will, another good article, you don’t disappoint! love the pearls of wisdom,keep keepin it real!

  20. kon 7 years ago

    Interesting theory but i have trouble categorising myself in this model(as well as the ecto-endo-mesomorph model).If i didnt work out id be fat i know that for a fact.I dont know if i respond great to high volume training cause i have trouble getting lean as well as packing on lean muscle mass…Really how useless can ones genes be cause even though i have tried to study bodytypes and genetics concerning muscle building and sports, i cannot understand why im like that both anabolic(easy to gain fat hard to lose it) but also catabolic(relatively easy to lose muscle when not working out for a period of time and hard to add muscle mass).My nutrition is good lots of protein adequatte carbs fruits veggies and stuff and my bone structure is small if that is of any help…..a reply with some scientific insight if possible would be great

  21. Catabolic 6 years ago

    I’d say I’m a 4 on the catabolic side. Is there any way to prevent or slow the loss of LBM?
    Would a few minutes of cardio be enough to keep it? Or do I need to keep lifting weights?

  22. Russell McConaghy 6 years ago

    Hey Will,
    That’s a really interesting perspective on that and I would certainly fit into the catabolic group. For a person that does a lot of cardio and looking to put some more lean mass on I might gear my weights routine to lower reps/higher weights and try to be more effective with my cardio workouts so I can reduce some hours spent doing that part. Great read! thanks. Russell.

  23. Doug 6 years ago

    A catabolic person knows it! While most people gain weight as they age, and constantly complain about not being able to take off the chub, imagine what it is like to constantly struggle to keep weight on! There are thousands of programs and products marketed at the Anabolic population, but not much for us Catabols. We have to figure it out ourselves and go through a lot of BS to find a program or system developed to help us maintain a healthy ( I mean heavier) weight.
    I like your simple system. It makes sense and it is real.
    To my fellow catabolics…NEVER, NEVER, EVER use those phoney weight gain formula protein powders. Unless you want to be a skinny guy with a fat gut!
    Great Vid Will.

  24. Mark Hemphill 6 years ago

    This is very similar to Mecola’s opinion that there are basically two types of oxidative metabolisms. One that thrives on a high protein diet, although he states no requirements, and one that thrives on a high carbohydrate diet. I think he even offers an on line questionnaire to assist in determining which of the two you are. Since the dominance of certain levels of hormones, androgens, estrogens, T3, growth and insulin and so on, likely have a profound effect on this, one would have to wonder how stable the type remains after, say forty years of age. One might also wonder how much effect it has when someone introduces any of these exogenously. The only commercial claims I can think of on this would be the now fading HCG diet which sold a lot of human chorionic gonadotropin for the sake of losing weight but derived its benefits from a strict diet.

  25. Gregg Bowman 4 years ago

    Hi Will….my partner Jonathan Miller and myself are working on a very high end fitness app. We would like to talk to you in regards to this…Best, Gregg Bowman

    • Author
      Will Brink 4 years ago

      I’d recommend using the contact option on the site for that.

  26. Ken P 4 years ago

    That’s what I like about you Will; … you’re a thinking man.
    … Great insight!

  27. jim 4 years ago

    Hi Will,
    What you are saying is generally true in the same way as saying that the public is generally thin or stocky. What it all comes down to is hormonal balance.
    For example. The pencil necked bean pole with inflammatory acne I almost certainly experiencing a mild to moderate cortisol deficiency. Put him in the optimal range of the catabolic hormone cortisol and his weight will normalize and he will no longer be a “hard gainer” This is not so say that he isn’t also experiencing a testosterone deficiency, however cortisol is more significant in this case. So here, the lack of the most potent catabolic hormone can result in what you refer to as a catabolic metabolism. For proof of this look a the silhouette the most extreme example – Addison’s disease.
    On the other hand, those that experience Cushing’s syndrome gain massive amounts of weight, generally have thin limbs and have excess cortisol. In this case, excess catabolic hormones cause weight gain (fat) with breakdown of other tissues.

  28. mark grove 4 years ago

    Hey Will,
    great topic!
    It’s funny, I’m 5′ 8″ 180 LBS and pretty lean. I’ll be 53 in January and in better health and ability to build muscle now than ever before. But I’m definitely a combination of both anabolic and catabolic. That’s because I eat a high protein and nutrient rich diet along with working out 6 days a week. But I find I could never handle big training volumes—and I don’t do any systematic cardio. Just light walking and being out on a bicycle. I definitely want to learn more about this topic Will. Thank you sir!

  29. Kent Ingram 4 years ago

    Eye-opening, to say the least, Will! My male cousins and I are all in our 60’s, now, and we’re starting to look alike! I’d say our genetic heritage makes us the Anabolic type. Thanks, Will, for a great article and video.

  30. Bruce Nelson 4 years ago

    Thank you Will! I appreciate your informative videos and articles relating to the many relevant issues for those of us active in exercise and weight training. Keep them coming!

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