Anabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that construct molecules from smaller units. These reactions require energy. One way of categorizing metabolic processes, whether at the cellular, organ or organism level is as ‘anabolic’ or as ‘catabolic’, which is the opposite. Anabolism is powered by catabolism, where large molecules are broken down into smaller parts and then used up in respiration. Many anabolic processes are powered by adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Anabolic processes tend toward “building up” organs and tissues. These processes produce growth and differentiation of cells and increase in body size, a process that involves synthesis of complex molecules. Examples of anabolic processes include the growth and mineralization of bone and increases in muscle mass.
Endocrinologists have traditionally classified hormones as anabolic or catabolic, depending on which part of metabolism they stimulate. The classic anabolic hormones are the anabolic steroids, which stimulate protein synthesis and muscle growth. The balance between anabolism and catabolism is also regulated by circadian rhythms, with processes such as glucose metabolism fluctuating to match an animal’s normal periods of activity throughout the day.