cat·​a·​bol·​ic ˌka-tə-ˈbä-lik How to pronounce catabolic (audio)
: marked by or promoting metabolic activity concerned with the breakdown of complex molecules (such as proteins or lipids) and the release of energy within the organism : relating to, characterized by, or stimulating catabolism
If the anabolic and catabolic processes are in balance, tissue remains intact and good health is sustained.Paul Clayton
The energy deficit that the contestants have been running since the first day is now catching up with them, and their bodies have become catabolic (preferentially feeding off their own muscle and fat stores to fuel critical metabolic and cellular processes).Alice Park
catabolically adverb
… the brain needs glucose as the source of energy and it cannot utilize fatty acids or amino acids catabolically. Miland Watve

Examples of catabolic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Cortisol is released from the adrenal gland and is an anti-inflammatory and a catabolic hormone that breaks down cells. Kelly O'Mara, Outside Online, 15 May 2014 Astroflav Ecdysterone is a natural steroid that has anabolic and anti-catabolic properties. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 12 Oct. 2022 When your testosterone levels drop, your body turns catabolic instead, breaking down muscle tissue instead of building it up, Dr. Werthman says. Erica Sweeney, Men's Health, 1 Feb. 2023 BCAAs can even prevent your muscles from going into a catabolic state, which can happen during intense training. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 12 Oct. 2022 Cortisol, however, can have an inhibitory, or catabolic effect, on muscle building. Dr. Michael Daignault, USA TODAY, 23 June 2022 Any sort of workout puts us in a catabolic state — breaking down fat and muscle for energy — so a snack first and foremost further prevents the body from breaking down, and instead, starts the anabolic, muscle building, process. Sarah Schlichter, Outside Online, 16 Aug. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'catabolic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


earlier katabolic, from kata- cata- + (meta)bolic

First Known Use

1887, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of catabolic was in 1887

Dictionary Entries Near catabolic

Cite this Entry

“Catabolic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Medical Definition


variants also katabolic
: of or relating to catabolism
catabolically adverb
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