Exogenous Insulin: The Impact of Insulin Use & Abuse in Bodybuilding

Exogenous Insulin

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There is a growing trend among bodybuilders and bodybuilding wannabes concerning the use of drugs for esthetics enhancement: Do whatever you can, whenever you can. Since federal authorities have designated all anabolic steroids as schedule C-III drugs, making mere possession a felony, people have constantly been looking at other pharmaceutical "opportunities" to put on muscle mass and melt off fat. One of these other opportunities is the use of insulin.

Most of us think of a diabetic relative or friend in connection with insulin usage, but insulin is rapidly becoming a drug of choice among bodybuilders in order to rapidly pack on muscle mass. And I am pretty sure that few if any of these bodybuilders are diabetics. Before I delve into the nitty-gritty of insulin use among bodybuilders and their associated ink, there are a few basic messages I'd like to convey to you. If you choose to use insulin with the hope of gaining muscle mass at an exponential rate, one of three results will happen. Either 1) you will get bigger and stronger than you could ever imagine, 2) you will become a fat slob, or 3) you will die. Those are the three outcomes, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

By now you have figured out that insulin can make you big - steroid big, perhaps even bigger than steroid big - but with bigger gains come bigger risks. Screw up even once while using insulin and you get to take the dirt nap.

You might ask, "Hey dude, if insulin use is so dangerous, why would you even discuss it?" That very question has been bouncing around my head for some time. I'd estimate that I receive 20 to 25 inquiries on this subject per week. People want to know about this avant-garde subject. I am writing this article because I'm tired of answering the same questions over and over again on an individual basis.

People have questions, and they are going to experiment with insulin anyway. If the answers I propose, as factually correct as they are, present moral and ethical problems for some of you, then ponder the next sentence. If my answers seem frightening and bothersome, perhaps you shouldn't be asking the questions.


Insulin is an endogenous peptide hormone manufactured in the pancreas by the beta cells located in the islet of Langerhans. An insulin "molecule" consists of two amino-acid chains. There are an A chain (acidic) that is 21 amino acids long and a B chain (basic) that is 30 amino acids long. The A chain is connected to the B chain by disulfide bonds. Before there is insulin, the pancreas makes a precursor protein called proinsulin. A peptide to the B peptide. C peptide helps keep the A's and B's neatly packaged in the pancreas. When you remove the C peptide... presto... you now have insulin. Why do you even care about all this? This seems so... boring? You already know the alphabet, right?

Well, friends, measurement of plasma C peptide levels offers us a way to determine whether or not your pancreas is still making insulin on its own when you use the exogenous kind of insulin you buy from a pharmacy. You see, the stuff from the pharmacy is almost identical or totally identical (more on this later) to the insulin your pancreas makes except that there is no C peptide in the product you get at the drugstore. Remember how when you used steroids your testicles decided they were not gonna make any more testosterone and shriveled up into raisins? The same might be true for your pancreas during exogenous insulin use. Thus, if you are using too much insulin or stay on an insulin shotgun (shotgunning is the term for cycling insulin) for too long, we can see whether you made yourself a diabetic by looking for C peptide in your blood. Pretty cool, eh? See, I told you it was important.


So what does this insulin stuff do? Well, insulin is the most powerful anabolic hormone on the planet! OK, some of you may argue that IGF-1 is a much more potent anabolic than insulin is, but IGF- 1 is not readily available and the studies surrounding it are just coming in. For now insulin is the king of the hill. Not only is insulin the most anabolic hormone on the planet, but it is also the only hormone that your body makes that can appreciably lower your blood glucose level. Epinephrine, cortisol, growth hormone, et al.. they all raise your blood glucose level.

Your blood glucose levels should be between 75 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL if you are not a diabetic and are not fasting. If your blood glucose level gets too high, your pancreas will release some insulin to bring the blood glucose level down. However, too much glucose in the blood is not the only factor that will cause insulin to be secreted by the pancreas. Certain amino acids, fatty acids and ketones will also stimulate insulin secretion.

Additionally the sympathetic nervous system helps to regulate insulin secretion. Activating the beta-2 receptors in the pancreas will stimulate insulin release. Our old friendly supplement ephedrine/ephedra will raise insulin levels a little by stimulating the beta-2 receptors. If you like to take ephedra before you work out, taking it with some simple carbohydrates might make you, like, totally jacked and ready to go. The opposite is also true. Activate the alpha receptors in the pancreas, and insulin secretion slows down. By using yohimbine HC1/yohimbe bark extract, you might be able to modulate your blood glucose level via this mechanism to a slight degree also.

As I said, insulin is anabolic. It makes you store stuff- good stuff.., and bad stuff, Insulin will massively stimulate cellular intake of glucose, amino acids, nucleotides and potassium at the receptor site in skeletal muscle. It also promotes the synthesis of complex organic molecules post-receptor. This will make your muscles big - really big - if you know what you are doing. But.., insulin will tell your fat cells to suck up all that glucose too, It will also cause fatty tissue to increase triglyceride synthesis and decrease the release of free fatty acids and glycerol while increasing the oxidation of free fatty acids to ketoacids. You'll end up looking like sumo wrestler if you have no idea of what you are doing.

Right off we can see the problem: Insulin will make you massively muscular and massively fat. "So, dude, how do we cut out the massively fat part?" Most bodybuilder types shotgun insulin with some lipolytic agent. People who seem to make the best gains in muscle while staying lean use insulin with hGH but this gets a bit pricey. For those on a fixed budget there is always clenbuterol or the Cytomel antifat method. You may be able to offset the fat gain with some decent steroid use as steroids seem to have some lipolytic effects. Plus using insulin with steroids will theoretically make you even bigger than using insulin alone since you would be building muscle mass from an anabolic (insulin) and an anticatabolic (steroid) point of view. Sort of like a double whammy.

Actually, your typical bodybuilder is using insulin with four or five steroids, clenbuterol, Cytomel, hGH and whatever else he/she can stuff into a syringe. While I am usually of the opinion that most bodybuilders are mentally challenged, they know enough to use something to keep the fat off. So I will say this much: "If you do not use a lipolytic agent with insulin, you will absolutely get fat - really fat!" If I were hell-bent on trying insulin and I couldn't get one of the aforementioned goodies, I'd be on that ephedrine-caffeine-aspirin - narengenin stack that everyone talks about.


There are basically six different types of insulin available. They differ in onset, peak and duration of action. Insulin can further be subdivided into subsets based on whether the insulin is extracted from a cow or pig pancreas (animal), whether it is a modified version of the pig stuff (semi-synthetic) or if it is made from rDNA technology (human). I do not need to discuss all of those six types-I would use only one type. The only type of insulin that I would ever consider using is called regular insulin. Regular insulin has an onset of about 30 to 60 minutes after injection, its action peaks in two to four hours, and the duration is only six to eight hours. Regular insulin is the fastest-acting and shortest-duration insulin that there is. A person using insulin will actually feel it working when it kicks in. If I used regular insulin, I'd probably start to feel it working in about an hour.

Why wouldn't I use one of the other types if their duration is longer? Can't I cut down on injections if I use a longer-acting insulin? I have found that people I consult with about what to use have this mentality that if a little is good then a whole lot is much better. With insulin this mentality will end in your death. If Joe Muscle taught uses a longer-acting insulin that doesn't have an onset until four to eight hours after he injects it, Joe might think 30 minutes after an injection, 'I don't feel it working like the other stuff... I didn't use enough,' so he'll zap in some more... and more.., and more. Then it kicks in about four to eight hours later. He has given himself 10 times the amount he really wanted because he got impatient, so when it kicks in four to eight hours later, he depresses his blood glucose level to 2Omg/dL, gets all twitchy and bitchy, and slips into a coma. He'll probably die. Any ICU nurse or doctor in an ER will tell you it is much easier to bring a high blood glucose level down than it is to bring a low blood glucose level up. I'd stay away from anything but regular insulin. Besides, the short duration of regular insulin makes use management easier to control.

Remember I said that there were three subsets? There is a reason for this too. Way back before we had recombinant DNA technology, insulin was manufactured from the pancreas of a cow or a pig. Both of these animal-derived insulins are nearly identical to human insulin and work exactly like what you make in your own pancreas. Nearly identical is the key phrase. Porcine insulin has one different amino acid and beef insulin has three different amino acids compared with human insulin. Big deal? Most of the time it is not a big deal, but some people are allergic to these subtle differences.

So along came a method to convert porcine insulin to human insulin. In this case an enzyme causes the terminal amino acid alanine in the porcine insulin to be replaced with the amino acid threoniae in solution. This is called semi-synthetic insulin. Finally, using rDNA technology (the same technology that brought you safer hGH so you didn't develop that nasty cadaver-brain viral infection), we can convince bacteria that they absolutely have to make human insulin. Does any of this matter? Well, kinda-sorta but not really.

In the majority of states you can buy most types/subsets of insulin over the counter without a prescription. A bottle that will last you forever might cost between $10 and $20. The animal product (called regular Iletin I or regular Iletin II) is usually cheaper than the rDNA human product called Humulin R). The semi-synthetic insulin called Novolin R) is priced in the middle. If I were going to use insulin, I think I'd be a sport and spring for the rDNA human stuff- assuming I could get it. Why? Well, I don't want to be in that 2 percent group that reacts badly to the animal-derived insulin. Severe allergic actions kinda suck, know what I mean?

Insulin is not measured in milligrams. Insulin is measured in units. Typically it is available in concentrations of 40 units/cc, 100 units/cc or 500 units/cc. Most common is the 100 units/cc variety. Since a bottle of insulin contains 10 cc, you get 1,000 units of insulin when you purchase a bottle. I am of the opinion that most sane people using insulin to gain muscle mass will be in the geriatric ward before they use up 1,000 units of insulin because you don't need that much insulin to get results and you don't need much insulin to overdose and end up dead. Insulin can't be taken orally as your stomach and small intestines will enzymatically destroy it. Thus, insulin should be injected subcutaneously or intramuscularly.

A trained professional (read: critical-care physician) can give insulin intravenously. Only the regular insulin can be given this way. If you think you can IV the stuff so that you will feel the effect faster, well, you are theoretically correct. You'll "feel" it faster, but go pick out your casket now and say "bye-bye" because I'll bet that you'll end up taking a permanent snooze. I'd never, ever, use any drug, especially insulin, via the IV route. The onset is virtually instantaneous and using even a little too much insulin will plummet you into a hypoglycemic coma as well as truly screw up your intracranial pressure via an acute osmotic imbalance. If the diabetic coma doesn't kill you, the increase in intracranial pressure and resulting cerebral edema could cause medullary herniation (a.k.a. "brain death" or "exploding head phenomenon"). So unless you want to be an organ donor, don't mess with the IV route!

You don't need much insulin to see fantastic results. If I am a smart user, I might use 4 to 8 units of insulin on the days that I work out and none on the days that I do not work out. If I work out four days a week and I want to use insulin to get huge muscles, I am going to use between 16 and 32 units per week. Remember, there are 1,000 units in a bottle and 100 units in a single cc.

This brings us up to our next problem: "How can I measure out a mere 4 to 8 units as this is like 1/25th to 1/12th of a cc?" Well, measuring out insulin can't be done with your standard 3/cc syringe with the 21-gauge 1.5-inch needle. The gradations on such syringes are in 1/4th cc increments. The only suitable method for accurately measuring out insulin is to use an insulin syringe that holds 100 units (l0cc) and has gradations of 1/50th cc increments (usually insulin darts have unit measurements right on the side based on 100 units per cc) or by using a 1 cc tuberculin syringe with gradations in 1/20th cc increments. I'd also use the smallest length needle possible to further eliminate inaccuracies as some of the insulin will be left in the dead space of the needle lumen and hub after injection. The biggest I'd go is a 25-gauge 5/8th-inch needle. If I had my druthers, a 29-gauge 1/2-inch needle is what I'd pick.


So how would I use insulin? Well, besides using it only on days that I work out, I'd use it with some thermogenic agent to keep the fat off. I've actually seen about a dozen people use insulin (from an aspiring pro bodybuilder to a kamikaze Joe Muscle- taught) and spoken to maybe another 50 or so who claimed to have used it. The best results that I have seen occurred when users injected 6 to 10 units of regular insulin about 20 to 40 minutes after working out. I've seen one guy put on 20 pounds of mostly muscle mass in six weeks from insulin use. On the other hand, I saw another guy put on 20 pounds of mostly fat in six weeks from insulin use.

After a workout (well, after a good workout) I have used up all of my muscle glycogen, and theoretically my muscles will start to rebuild from the trauma I just instilled. My muscles are screaming, "Dude, please feed us some goodies (glucose and amino acids) and feed us now!" If there is more insulin than usually present - say, from that injection of insulin I just gave myself-I can hyperglycogenolate the muscle to a degree as well as increase anabolism. This is yet another compelling reason why I would stick to using regular insulin only. Regular insulin will start working 30 to 60 minutes post injection. If I inject right after my workout when my muscles are screaming for goodies (glucose, amino acids, etc.), I can divert more of these goodies into skeletal muscle cells. If I used an insulin that took four to eight hours to start working, my muscles will have had a chance to stock up on those aforementioned goodies before onset via endogenous insulin release. Even though the injected insulin will push some more of these goodies into my refilling! refilled muscles, more of them will end up in my adipose tissue.

With my insulin shot I'd consider eating around 100 grams of mixed carbohydrates with 30 to 50 grams of a good protein source (like whey protein). If I am using creatine monohydrate, I'd throw 5 to 10 grams of that in too as creatine is helped into the skeletal muscle by insulin in a big way. A serving of Phosphagain HP (an EAS product) is pretty good with 6 to 10 units of insulin. If I weigh between 100 and 175 pounds, lam using 6 units of insulin. If I weigh between 176 and 220 pounds, lam using 8 units of insulin. If I weigh between 221 and 260 pounds, lam using 10 or at most 12 units of insulin. If I am heavier than 26Oish, I don't really want to use insulin because I am either a pro bodybuilder and I don't think that I need Bruce's advice, or lam a fat toad and should concentrate on losing adipose tissue before I play with something that can possibly make me even fatter. In less than a month I am going to be looking mighty big if I am using insulin and some fat-burning goodie.

There are a couple of other items that I'd like to be aware of if I were using insulin. Unopened vials of insulin should be kept refrigerated (not frozen). Opened vials of insulin can stay at room temperature for up to a month without loss of potency. Remember, kids, insulin is a protein so I'd keep an open vial between 60'F and 80'F lest I denature the protein.

I'd invest in one of those little glucometers that pricks your finger and tells you what your blood glucose level is. If I am a cheap bastard and won't shell out the cash for a glucometer, or if I am so stupid that I can't figure out how to use one, I'd buy a bottle of DextroSticks (D-sticks). D-sticks are little paper strips with a chemical on the end that changes color quantitatively in the presence of glucose. The more glucose in your blood, the greater the color change. With D-sticks you prick your finger, put a drop of blood on the chemical end of the stick, wait a minute, see what color the chemical is, and match it up to the chart on the side of the bottle. D-sticks aren't super accurate but even the most moronic of bodybuilders can use them with a high degree of efficacy. If you are color blind you are really screwed.

If I felt twitchy or jittery after using insulin I'd drink a big glass of apple juice and measure my blood glucose level with my glucometer or by D-stick. If my blood glucose level was below 50 mg/dL, I'd have someone drive me to the hospital sol would not crash my car while passing into a coma. And I'd shotgun insulin for no longer than four to six weeks before coming off it for at least 12 weeks.

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