Insulin is a powerful hormone in the human body, responsible for regulating glucose levels in the blood. This is a function that your life constantly depends on. Before going any further I must stress that insulin use by those who do not medically require it can be a very risky endeavor. It is important not only to research and understand the risks involved, but to really give some thought to just how important a little extra boost is to you. Misusing insulin can have tragic results. Immediate death, coma or the possible development of insulin dependent diabetes in a previously healthy athlete are all possible, be extremely careful.
In the human body insulin is secreted by the pancreas. The release of this hormone is most closely tied to glucose, although a number of other factors including pancreatic & gastrointestinal hormones, amino acids, fatty acids and ketone bodies are also involved. Its role in the body is to control the uptake, utilization and storage of amino acids, carbohydrates and fatty acids by various cells of your body. The activity of insulin is both anabolic and anti-catabolic, the hormone stimulating the use and retention cellular nutrients while inhibiting their breakdown. Skeletal muscle cells are among the many targets of this hormone's action, and the reason pharmaceutical insulin has made its way into the realm of athletics. But this is a little tricky because insulin can also promote nutrient storage in fat cells, obviously an unwanted result. Athletes have found however, that a strict regimen of intense weight training and a diet without excess caloric intake can result in insulin showing a much higher affinity for protein and carbohydrate storage in muscle cells. This could produce rapid and noticeable growth, the muscles beginning to look fuller (and sometimes more defined) almost immediately after starting insulin therapy.
The fact that insulin use cannot be detected by urinalysis has ensured it a place in the drug regimens of many professional bodybuilders. Insulin is often used in combination with other "contest safe" drugs like human growth hormone, thyroid medications and low dose testosterone injections, and together can have a dramatic effect on the users physique without fear of a positive urinalysis result. Those who do not have to worry about drug testing however, find insulin and anabolic/androgenic steroids a very synergistic combination. This is because the two actively support an anabolic state through different mechanisms, insulin enhancing the transport of nutrients into muscle cells and steroids (among other things) increasing the rate of cellular protein synthesis.
The actual medical purpose for insulin is to treat different forms of diabetes. Specifically the human body may not be producing insulin (Type-I diabetes) or may not recognize insulin well at the cell site although some level is present in the blood (Type-II diabetes). Type-I diabetics are therefore required to inject insulin on a regular basis, as they are left without a sufficient level of this hormone. Along with medication, the individual will need to constantly monitor blood glucose levels and regulate their sugar intake. Together with lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise and developing a balanced diet, insulin dependent individuals can live a healthy and full life. Untreated, diabetes can be a fatal disease.
Insulin is available from pharmacies in the United States without a prescription. This is so that an insulin¬dependent diabetic will have easy access to medication when traveling about. Arguing over forms or having to call a doctor for verification is all the delay needed to cost someone who needs this medication their life. Pharmaceutical insulin comes from one of two basic origins, animal or synthetic. With Animal source insulin, the hormone is extracted from the pancreas of either pigs or cows (or both) and prepared for medical use. These preparations are further divided into the categories "standard" and "purified", dependent on the level of purity and non-insulin content of the solution. With such products there is always the slight possibility of pancreatic contaminants making their way into the prepared drug. On the other hand there is "synthetic" insulin. Specifically "biosynthetic", it is produced by a recombinant DNA procedure similar to the process used to manufacture human growth hormone. The result is a polypeptide hormone, consisting of one 21-amino acid "A-chain" coupled by two disulfide bonds with one 30-amino acid "B-chain". The biosynthetic process will produce a drug free of the pancreatic protein contaminants possible with animal insulin, and is biologically equivalent in all important ways to human pancreatic insulin. With the innate (remote) risk involved with animal insulin, coupled with the fact that the structure is (very slightly) different from human insulin, most opt for the synthetic product. Biosynthetic human insulin, hereon referred to as Humulin, is the standard insulin among athletes, and the subject of this section.
There are a number of different insulin preparations, separated by variable factors such as speed of onset, peak and the duration of activity. Regular synthetic insulin is generally faster acting that animal source insulin, with a shorter duration of activity in the body. But scientists have found that by adding substances such as protamine or zinc, they can produce a drug with a much slower release and a prolonged duration of effect. Following we will show you the distinctions between the various forms of Humulin.
Humalog® (Insulin Lispro Inj): Humalog® is a newer, rapid acting form of insulin. It reaches peak effect in less than two hours, and by the four hour mark is almost out of the body completely. It was designed to mimic the body's natural insulin response to meals, and allow a diabetic patient to take their medication before or immediately after eating. Medically this type does not replace other insulin products, but is used in conjunction with them. For athletes the fact that it works in such a short window of time makes it an extremely interesting product. It may in fact be the most ideal type of insulin to use, as it would work almost exclusively in the post-training nutrient uptake window.
Humulln®-R or "regular" insulin: This product has a short duration of effect, approximately 6 to 8 hours. This is the insulin of choice among athletes, as it is fast acting and easier to control than most other forms (except Humalog®). Should one encounter problems with glucose levels in the blood, the shorter the drug will remain active in the body the better. Occasionally athletes do experiment with the longer acting forms described below, but this is generally unadvised. While all other forms of insulin will be cloudy due to their mixture, regular insulin should be a clear solution. One should not use regular insulin if the solution is cloudy or has floating particles.
Humulin®-N, NPH (insulin Isophane): Intermediate length insulin, lasts up to 24 hours.
Humulln®-L, Lente (medium zinc suspension): Intermediate length insulin, lasts up to 24 hours
Humulin®-U, Utalente (prolonged zinc suspension): Long acting insulin. Can remain active for over 24 hours.
Humulin® Mixtures: These are mixtures of regular insulin for fast onset and a longer acting insulin for prolonged effect. These are labeled by the mixture percentage, commonly 10/90, 20/80, 30/70, 40/60 and 50/50.
As we have discussed earlier, regular insulin is the most popular choice and will be the subject of our intake discussion. Before one even considers using insulin, they should become very familiar with using a glucometer. This device gives you a quick number reading of your blood glucose level and can be indispensable in helping you manage your insulin/carbohydrate intake.
Insulin is used in a wide variety of ways. The dosages can vary significantly among athletes, and are often dependent upon factors like insulin sensitivity and the use of other drugs. Most users choose to administer insulin immediately after a workout, which is likely the most "anabolic" time of the day to use this drug. Insulin is always injected subcutaneously, or below the surface of the skin but without entering muscle tissue. This is given by pinching a fold of skin, commonly in the arm or abdominal area. A small "insulin needle" is used, approximately 1/2" long, 27-29 gauge thickness and holding one third to one full cc. These are available over-the-counter in many states. A full cc (or ml) equates to 100 international units (I.U.), a scale that is clearly labeled on an insulin syringe. It is important that the injection site be left alone after insulin has been injected and not rubbed. This is to prevent the drug from releasing into circulation too quickly. It is also a good idea to rotate injection sites regularly; otherwise a localized buildup of subcutaneous fat may develop due to the lipogenic properties of this hormone.
Among bodybuilders, dosages used are usually in the range of 1 IU per 15-20 pounds of lean bodyweight. First¬time users should at first ignore body weight guidelines however, and instead start at a low dosage with the intention of gradually working up to this point. For example, on the first day of insulin therapy you could begin with a dose as low as only 2 IU. Each consecutive post-workout application this dosage can be increased by 11U, until the user determines a comfortable range. This is safer and much more tailored to the individual than simply calculating and injecting a dose, as many find they tolerate much more or less insulin than weight guidelines would dictate. Athletes using growth hormone in particular often have higher insulin requirements, as HGH therapy is shown to both lower secretion of, and induce cellular resistance to, this hormone.
One also must remember that it is very important to consume carbohydrates for several hours following insulin use. One will generally follow the rule-of-thumb, of ingesting at least 10 grams of simple carbohydrates per IU of insulin injected (with a minimum immediate intake of 100 grams regardless of dose). This is timed approximately 20 to 30 minutes after the drug has been administered. The use of a carbohydrate replacement drink such as Ultra Fuel® by Twin Labs would probably be a good idea, as this is a fast and reliable carbohydrate source. It is best to always have something like this on-hand should you begin to notice too low a drop in glucose levels. Many athletes will also take creatine monohydrate with their carbohydrate drink, since the insulin may help force the creatine into the muscles. An hour or so after injecting insulin, one will eat a good meal or consume a protein shake. The carbohydrate drink and meal/protein shake are absolutely necessary. Without them, blood sugar levels can drop dangerously low, and the athlete will most likely enter a state of hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is the primary worry of insulin users. This Is a dangerous condition that occurs when blood glucose levels fall too low. It is a common and potentially fatal reaction experienced at some time or another by most insulin users. It is therefore critical to understand the warning signs of hypoglycemia. The following is a list of symptoms which may Indicate a mild to moderate hypoglycemia: hunger, drowsiness, blurred vision, depressive mood, dizziness, sweating, palpitation, tremor, restlessness, tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or tongue, lightheadedness, inability to concentrate, headache, sleep disturbances, anxiety, slurred speech, irritability, abnormal behavior, unsteady movement and personality changes. If any of these warning signs should occur, one should immediately consume a food or drink containing simple sugars such as a candy bar or carbohydrate drink. This will hopefully raise blood glucose levels sufficiently enough to ward off mild to moderate hypoglycemia. There is always a possibility of severe hypoglycemia, which is very serious and requires immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms of this include disorientation, seizure, unconsciousness, and death.
Many taking insulin will also notice a tendency to get sleepy some time after injecting the drug. This is an early symptom of hypoglycemia, and a clear sign the user should be consuming more carbohydrates. One should absolutely avoid the temptation to go to sleep at this point, as the insulin may take its peak effect during rest and blood glucose levels could be left to drop significantly. Unaware of this condition during sleep, the athlete may be at a high risk for going into a state of severe hypoglycemia. We have of course already discussed the serious dangers of such a state, and unfortunately here simply consuming more carbohydrates will not be an option. Those experimenting with insulin would therefore be wise to always stay awake for the duration of the drug's effect, and also avoid using insulin in the early evening to ensure the drug will not be inadvertently active when retiring for the night.
Many athletes prefer to bring their insulin with them to the gym, injecting in the locker room (or car) immediately after a workout. Although insulin should be refrigerated, it is fine to keep it in a gym bag or car so long as it is not left out for too long and it is kept away from heat/direct sunlight. Rather than waiting to the end of a workout, some actually prefer to inject their insulin dosage during training, 30 minutes prior to the end of a session. Immediately following the workout the user will consume a carbohydrate drink in this case. Such timing may make the insulin more efficient at bringing glycogen to the muscles, but also increases the danger of hypoglycemia as carbohydrate consumption may be inadvertently delayed. Some will go so far as to inject a few units before lifting to improve their pump. This practice is risky and best left to those very experienced with insulin. Finally, some bodybuilders opt to inject insulin upon waking in the morning. After the injection they will consume a carbohydrate drink. Later, perhaps one hour after the Injection, a full breakfast will be consumed. Some athletes find this application of insulin very beneficial for putting on extra mass while others will tend to store excess fat. If using more than one application of insulin per day it would also be a good idea to restrict the total daily intake to no more than 20-40 IU.
In America, regular human insulin is available by the name of Humulin R by Eli Lilly and Company. It costs about $20 for a 10 ml vial with a strength of 100 IU per ml. Remember to be very careful, one mistake in dosage or diet can be potentially fatal.