Difference Between Anabolism and Catabolism - Summary

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Metabolism is the set of redox reactions (oxidation-reduction) that, through the regulation and use of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, allow, among other functions, the growth of organisms, the regulation of body temperature, energy production and maintenance of vital functions. Such chemical reactions, which take place at the cellular level and are enzymatically channeled, are organized into pathways, which can be anabolic or catabolic. Thus, anabolism and catabolism are two of the stages that make up the metabolic process and whose balance is essential to achieve the survival of living beings, frequently exposed to natural or anthropic disturbances and alterations. But what exactly do they consist of? Do they operate in the same way?

If you want to know more about metabolism, keep reading this Green Ecologist article, where you can also discover the differences between anabolism and catabolism.

What is anabolism

Anabolism o biosynthesis, as the name suggests, is the constructive phase of metabolism, which consists of the generation of complex organic molecules (such as carbohydrates, lipids, fats, proteins or nucleic acids) from simple ones. Therefore, functions of anabolism they are associated with tissue maintenance, repair and growth, and energy storage.

Among its characteristics it is worth mentioning that:

  • The anabolic pathways or routes that collect the chemical reactions of this process, are also known as divergent.
  • These synthesis reactions are generally reduction and endergonic. What does this mean? That, on the one hand, the molecules or ions involved gain electrons, and that, on the other hand, for them to take place they require an energy source, which is normally ATP (adenosine triphosphate), coming from catabolic phases.
  • In this case, the energy is consumed by the body.
  • The process is similar in all cells.
  • It can be autotrophic (as in the case of photosynthesis or chemosynthesis) or heterotrophic (as occurs with carbohydrates in gluconeogenesis and in glycogenogenesis, with lipids and proteins), both types differing in the origin of the simple precursor molecules (amino acids, monosaccharides, nucleotides). If these molecules are formed from organic matter from other living beings, we speak of heterotrophic anabolism; on the contrary, if they are synthesized starting from their own organic matter and energy sources, the biosynthesis process is autotrophic.
  • Hormones such as estrogen, insulin, growth hormone, and testosterone are involved.

As in any biological process it is possible to identify different phases, in this case, specifically there are 3 stages of anabolism:

  1. First, the generation of precursors takes place, some of them being able to derive from the last phase of catabolism.
  2. Second, these precursors are activated by ATP molecules.
  3. Finally, the formation of complex molecules takes place.

Examples of anabolism

Once the concept of anabolism has been introduced, with the clues from the previous section, could you tell what type of reaction is photosynthesis, catabolic or anabolic? Continue reading this article because, below, you will find some examples of anabolism, briefly explained, that will completely clarify your doubts and answer the question asked.


It is the process by which, the excess energy that we incorporate through the diet, our body uses, through acetyl CoA, for the formation of fatty acids.


It consists of the production of glycogen from glucose-6-phosphate and takes place in the liver and muscles. This process is similar to amylogenesis in plants (starch formation), unlike the fact that, in this case, the energy source or activating molecule is UTP (uridine triphosphate) and not ATP.


Gluconeogenesis or neoglycogenesis is the process of synthesis of glucose, starting from precursors that are not carbohydrates and that can be converted to pyruvate or oxaloacetate (for example: lactate, glycerol, various amino acids). It takes place mainly in the liver (90%) and kidney (10%), which helps the brain and muscles to obtain the glucose necessary to meet their energy needs.

Photosynthesis, chemosynthesis

As we hinted previously, and responding to the question previously posed, both types of processes are autotrophic anabolisms, which consist of the generation of simple organic molecules from other inorganic ones such as CO2, H2O or NH3. The difference between photosynthesis and chemosynthesis is that the necessary energy is obtained from sunlight, instead of coming from redox reactions. We recommend you read this other article about What is the photosynthesis process and its importance.

What is catabolism

Catabolism o destructive metabolismOn the contrary, it consists of the transformation or degradation of large molecules of organic matter (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) into smaller ones (lactic acid, CO2, NH3). Between the catabolism functionsIt is worth mentioning the degradation of organic nutrients and the obtaining of chemical energy from these same nutrients.

Some of the main features to highlight are:

  • The metabolic pathways or pathways are convergent, which implies that, starting from many different substrates, only a few products remain at the end of the process.
  • The reactions it comprises are oxidative and exergonic in nature; that is, in them, the molecules or ions involved lose electrons and the release of energy takes place.
  • Epinephrine, cortisol, cytokines or glucagon are examples of catabolic hormones.

As in anabolism, we can identify 3 stages of catabolism, in which:

  1. First, the breakdown of large and complex organic molecules into amino acids, monosaccharides and fatty acids takes place.
  2. Later, the products of the first phase are transported to the cells in order to achieve a greater degradation and obtain, therefore, simpler molecules, in a process in which energy is released.
  3. Finally, the oxidation of the coenzymes that participate in the electron transport chain occurs.

Examples of catabolism

We continue to know this concept by indicating some examples of catabolism:

Respiration and fermentation

Respiration and fermentation are two important and widely known catabolic processes that, despite consisting of obtaining energy from complex organic molecules and sharing a first phase of glycolysis, are significantly different.

Among other factors, they differ in the presence / absence of oxygen, being anaerobic fermentation compared to aerobic respiration; in the final electron acceptor, being an organic compound in fermentation and an inorganic substance in respiration; and, above all, in that with fermentation a complete degradation of glucose is not achieved, while with respiration it is.

Krebs cycle

The Krebs Cycle is another catabolic process, which configures one of the 4 stages of cellular respiration. Also called the citric acid or tricarboxylic acid cycle, it consists of the oxidation of carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acids until obtaining CO2 as a final product.


This process, as we well know, involves the breakdown of organic nutrients that we ingest through the diet, into other components that are simpler and easier to use by the body to meet food and, therefore, energy needs.


Glycogenolysis, as indicated by the suffix -olysis (dissolution, breakdown), is the metabolic pathway for the breakdown of glycogen and from which glucose is obtained. In this process, the most important enzyme involved is glycogen phosphorylase.


It is the set of chemical reactions that, as part of the digestion process, allows glucose degradation, obtaining some final products or others, depending on the presence or absence of oxygen, being pyruvate or lactate, respectively.

What is the difference between anabolism and catabolism

The main difference between anabolism and catabolism is that, being two types of reactions that they complement each other and are given at the same time to achieve a balance, necessarily oppose. That is, as has been explained throughout the article, catabolism consists of the degradation of large organic molecules to obtain simpler ones; While, on the contrary, anabolism takes advantage of the energy released in catabolic processes to produce more complex ones from simple molecules.

In accordance with all this and remembering the influence that all these metabolic reactions have on the growth of living beings, it is interesting to mention that according to Von Bertalanffy (his Growth model is widely used in marine studies to estimate the relationship between age and size of fish), organisms develop when anabolism exceeds catabolism, while their growth stops when the magnitude of both processes is the same.

In the main image of the article you can see a table of differences between anabolism and catabolism summarized, but we also recommend you watch this video which is a summary about the difference and the relationship between anabolism and catabolism explained by a biologist.

If you want to read more articles similar to Difference between anabolism and catabolism, we recommend that you enter our Biology category.

  • Gluconeogenesis. Recovered from: https://www.uv.es/marcof/Tema17.pdf
  • Catabolism. I.B. MONFORTE. BIOLOGY 2º BAC. Retrieved from: https://www.edu.xunta.gal/centros/iesriocabe/system/files/u1/T_203_Catabolismo.pdf
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