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Insulin on Steroids


Insulin Injection Insulin is a small polypeptide hormone, which is synthesized and stored in the pancreas. Insulin is extremely important for the regulation of blood sugar. When the blood sugar levels increase in the blood, the pancreas senses this and releases the insulin. The insulin lowers the blood sugars by allowing it to enter the body cells where it is used up as energy.


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a disorder where the levels of insulin are either absent, low or the body has developed a resistance to it. In general, there are two subtypes of diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes is congenital and usually presents in childhood. In this disorder, the pancreas never makes the insulin. Most of these individuals are diagnosed in early childhood and need lifelong treatment with insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the onset is in the 4-5th decade of life or later. This disorder is most commonly seen in obese individuals, individuals who do not exercise and those who eat a high sugar diet. The body does have insulin but in some cases the insulin is not adequate. In other cases, the body does develop a resistance to the normal insulin in the body and the sugars remain high. In type 2 diabetes, the recommended therapy is to exercise, lose weight, and take drugs, which can stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas.
Pancreas & Insulin


Insulin formulations


Insulin today is available in various formulations depending on the duration of their actions. Some insulin is short acting and other formulations are long acting. The short acting insulin is generally used to lower blood sugars immediately after a meal, e.g. after eating breakfast. The intermediate insulin works slowly and is often used to treat blood sugar elevations that occur in the middle of the night or late afternoon.


Rapid acting insulin: There are several varieties of short acting insulin known as Insulin lispro, Aspart and Glulisine. These insulin formulations work immediately after injection and peak in 1 hour. The action lasts for a couple of hours.


Regular acting is clear insulin that works 30 mins after the injection. It peaks in 2-3 hours and work for about 3-6 hours


Intermediate also known as NPH is cloudy insulin. It starts to work in 2-4 hours and lasts for at least 10-14 hours


Long action insulin products are Glarine and Detemir. They start to work in about 2 hours and remain in the body for at least 20-24 hours.


In most newly diagnosed diabetics, the blood sugars are analyzed daily for a few weeks and the best combination of insulin is prescribed. In the beginning there are dose adjustments required for almost all patients. Factors which affect insulin dosing include stress, exercise, infection, other medicines, and degree of hyperglycemia.


Insulin doses


Insulin is measured in units and the vials come in either U100 or U500. If it says U100 then 100 units of insulin make up 1 ml. One must use the appropriate U100 syringes for injection.


Insulin can never be taken orally. It has to be injected underneath the skin. Most people are taught to inject themselves 2-4 times a day. Today, there are also insulin pumps available which release a little insulin as preprogrammed. Recently new insulin formulations have been developed which can be inhaled. The powdered insulin is inhaled using a special device. It is not recommended for use in smokers and those with lung problems, like asthma.


Insulin should not be frozen but refrigerated. All insulin vials come with an expiration date. Before injecting insulin, always look at the vial. If the vial has changed color or is clumped, it is best to throw it away.



Bodybuilding Insulin promotes glucose storage and is considered by some to be an anabolic hormone. The glucose is converted to glycogen in the tissues and later used up when required. It is this property of insulin which is utilized to promote bursts of energy and muscle build up. Glycogen is always the first substance to be broken down when energy is required. During sports, if one has excess glycogen stored into the tissues this can be immediately released when there is a sudden need. Insulin always makes the body ready in case fuel is needed.


However, the effects of insulin are always counterbalance by other hormones to make sure that the glycogen storage does not become excessive. The majority of people who take insulin for type 1 diabetics are not fat- thus refuting the belief that insulin can be used to build the body. Many bodybuilders use insulin in combination in with growth hormone and thyroxine. GH potentiates the anabolic effects of insulin. It is believed that the combination of GH and insulin together act like Growth factors and can stimulate muscle mass growth. Because bodybuilders take so many other steroids and a cocktail of health supplements, it is difficult to know which drug is causing the increase in muscle mass- but insulin alone does not build the body.


Insulin Injections in bodybuilders

One thing very serious about insulin is that it can cause blood sugars to drop. While this may not make a big difference in diabetics; in a normal individual, it can easily cause a coma. There are thousands of cases where normal individuals have injected themselves with insulin and develop a life-threatening coma. Infact, insulin has often been used to kill people. So... before you think of injections with insulin, always have some orange juice or a sweet drink handy. Insulin Injection


The majority of bodybuilders use the short acting insulin to build glycogen stores. Long acting insulin should never be used as its actions are prolonged. For those who have allergies to animal products, now there is recombinant manufactured insulin, which is quite safe.

Blood Glucose & Insulin The effects of insulin depend highly on where it is injected, individual response and the type of insulin used. One should never change insulin on a daily basis. This can lead to serious alterations in blood glucose, which can be fatal.

Since insulin is only recommended for patients with diabetes, the dose of insulin in normal people is unknown. There is no safe dose. The normal person does not have the same capacity to tolerate insulin like a diabetic. Those who use insulin for bodybuilding use 1/10th the dose of very short acting insulin administered underneath the skin.


While insulin has always been given with syringes and needles, there are other new methods to administer the drug. There are pen-like injectors which work well and offer very rapid absorption after injection. However, these injectors are very expensive and can also lead to trauma to the skin.

 Injection site

Insulin may be injected under the skin on the arm, thigh, buttocks or abdomen.


It should not be injected into the muscles because of faster absorption. Intravenous insulin preparations are available and are only for use in a hospital setting. Intravenous insulin injection at home can be lethal. It should never ever be done. The injection sites should be rotated to prevent formation of lumps (fat deposits at the site).


Insulin is most rapidly absorbed when injected under the skin in the abdomen, followed by the arms, thighs, and buttocks. Exercise increases the rate of absorption from injection sites, probably by increasing blood flow to the skin and perhaps also by local actions.


Areas of fatty deposits can also slow absorption. The rate of absorption also differs between subcutaneous and intramuscular sites. The latter is faster but not recommended for routine use because the absorption can be unpredictable. Intramuscular injections are generally given in emergency scenarios when a patient needs urgent insulin.


Insulin is a very dangerous hormone when it is used in normal people. The only way to avoid lethal complications is to monitor the blood sugars. There are many home-based kits, which can be used to monitor blood glucose. For all bodybuilders who abuse insulin; this is a must, plus having a bottle of orange juice.  Further the blood glucose should be monitored 2-3 times a day to ensure that the levels of glucose are safe.

For those who decide to take insulin, it is essential to eat a diet rich in carbohydrates. This will help maintain normal glucose levels despite the insulin injections.


Excess insulin is a common cause of hypoglycemia in diabetics but in normal individuals, any dose of insulin can cause complications. After insulin injection, the bodybuilder must continue to eat or drink a diet rich in carbohydrates to ensure that hypoglycemia does not occur. Hypoglycemia may occur when a meal is missed or the dose of insulin is excessive or the exercise is intense. Sometimes, the insulin may not have been injected properly.

It cannot be emphasized enough that all bodybuilders who do take insulin should carry a sugar drink all the time in the event that a hypoglycemic attack occurs. And one should tell the family and friends what they are doing in the event that the individual is found in a coma.

Final Warning

While insulin may have some mild anabolic properties, it is not a drug that should be used without the guidance of a physician. And it is definitely not recommended for normal individuals, and this includes bodybuilders.


Insulin is relatively cheap to buy. While a prescription is required to get the drug, there are many sites on the internet who will willingly sell you the insulin without one.

The cost of 100 units/ml of a 10 ml vial can cost about $100. Supplies like syringes and needles can cost an additional $50. Pen injector can cost $ 400. Sometimes the syringes and fresh needles can be difficult to obtain, and many people use/share the same needles and syringes- which in turn increases the risk of infections and transmission of dangerous infections.


Many sports organizations regularly monitor levels of insulin in the urine. The drug is not banned because many diabetics do need the insulin for survival. Short acting insulin is rapidly broken down and difficult to detect in the urine. Nevertheless, many sporting agencies are aware of insulin abuse in sports. If insulin is suspected in the urine, then other biochemical profiles are obtained from blood work. However, short acting insulin cannot be found in the blood 5-7 days after the last dose.


Barroso O, Mazzoni I, Rabin O. Hormone abuse in sports: the antidoping perspective. Asian J Androl 2008 May; 10(3): 391-402.


Evans PJ, Lynch RM. Insulin as a drug of abuse in bodybuilding. Br J Sports Med 2003 Aug; 37(4): 356-7.


Holt RI, Sönksen PH. Growth hormone, IGF-I and insulin and their abuse in sport.
Br J Pharmacol 2008 Mar 31.


Konrad C, Schüpfer G, Wietlisbach M, et al. Insulin as an anabolic: hypoglycemia in the bodybuilding world. Anasthesiol Intensivmed Notfallmed Schmerzther 1998 Jul;   33(7): 461-3.


Minuto F, Barreca A, Melioli G. Indirect evidence of hormone abuse. Proof of doping? J Endocrinol Invest 2003 Sep; 26(9): 919-23.


Striegel H, Simon P. Doping: High-tech cheating in sport. Internist (Berl) 2007 Apr 11.


Thevis M, Thomas A, Schänzer W. Mass spectrometric determination of insulins and their degradation products in sports drug testing. Mass Spectrom Rev 2007 Nov 13.


Thevis M, Thomas A, Delahaut P, et al. Doping control analysis of intact rapid-acting insulin analogues in human urine by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Anal Chem 2006 Mar 15; 78(6): 1897-903.


Wells DJ Gene doping: the hype and the reality. Br J Pharmacol 2008 Jun; 154(3): 623-   31.


Velloso CP. Regulation of muscle mass by growth hormone and IGF-I. Br J Pharmacol 2008 Jun; 154(3): 557-68.

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