Muscle growth can be accomplished in many ways. One such method includes increasing the anabolic hormone – human growth hormone.
First isolated by scientists back in 1956 and used to treat children with deficient levels as it could result in stunted growth or dwarfism. The original source was harvested from the pituitary glands of cadavers, but thankfully genetic engineering enabled a synthetic version to be mass-produced during the 1980s.
Hailed as an elixir of youth by get-rich-quick doctors, slated as a dangerous gimmick by the tabloids and injected like there’s no tomorrow by the ageing has-beens of Hollywood, HGH has had a bad rap over the last decade. So let’s dispel the myths and lay bare the facts about this entrenched performance enhancer.
What is HGH?
Human Growth Hormone – as the name suggests – is something we produce naturally to help our body repair itself and grow. It is secreted by the pituitary gland, and its levels are controlled by a complex set of hormones. HGH affects many tissues and cells throughout our body. It notably improves calcium retention to strengthen bones, increases muscle mass, stimulates organ growth and supports the immune system.
Levels rise during childhood and peak during puberty when the body reaches its intended size. Sadly, the rate at which we naturally produce HGH declines dramatically after our mid-twenties, and by the time we reach the grand old age of 60; we will only be producing between one-half and one-quarter of our original levels.
HGH was first isolated by scientists back in 1956 and used to treat children with deficient levels as it could result in stunted growth or dwarfism. The original source was harvested from the pituitary glands of cadavers, but thankfully genetic engineering enabled a synthetic version to be mass-produced during the 1980s.
But what can it do for you?
For anyone pursuing a lean, ripped physique, HGH is particularly appealing for its anabolic effects on the body – the synthesising of new protein tissues to build and repair muscle. If you want to get technical about it, HGH promotes cell division and enhances amino acid movement through cell membranes, which speeds up the conversion of cells into proteins. This gives it the anabolic, muscle-building effect desired by bodybuilders. However, unlike steroids, it hasn’t been shown to increase weight-lifting ability – it’s more about muscle size and definition than strength.
Like its use during puberty, HGH also continues to stimulate cartilage production (with the help of the mediator Somatomedin) which helps the body recover from injuries. But its healing powers don’t end there. It also improves metabolism, decreases body fat, increases muscle mass, increases energy, builds stronger bones and improves the heart and kidney function.
Other ways it keeps you looking and feeling younger are by improving skin condition, smoothing out wrinkles, lifting your mood and giving you an overall sense of well-being. Apparently it also improves sexual performance… But HGH isn’t all roses and chocolate. Artificially increasing your natural levels can result in some fairly severe side-effects that you’ll want to avoid.
Those side effects include: joint pain, muscle weakness, fluid retention, compromised glucose regulation leading to an increased risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Some thirty years after it was first manufactured and taken for vanity reasons, research suggests that because HGH stimulates cell growth, prolonged use can prompt malignancy and lead to an increased risk of cancer. In extreme cases, continued bone growth can change the shape of the face and hands, while organ growth can result in potential life-threatening conditions such as heart disease.
The good news is there is a lot you can do to reap the benefits of HGH by naturally stimulating production.
How to Stimulate Natural HGH
High-Intensity Interval Training
By optimising your workout routine through high-intensity interval training, you can significantly increase natural production of HGH. Short, hard, fast explosions of activity will not only get your heart rate going and leave you short of breath, but will also activate super-fast muscle fibres.
The brief respite between bursts will boost the release of growth hormone into your bloodstream as HGH is rushed out to repair the damaged muscles. Consuming vast quantities of energy and leaving your body in a physically exhausted catabolic state releases increased growth hormone, but the trick is not to train for more than 45 minutes, otherwise HGH production gives way to cortisol.
As well as brief rest periods between high-intensity workouts, studies have shown that a deep sleep is critical to stimulating Human Growth Hormone secretion. Three-quarters of your standard HGH dose is released in rhythmic pulses while you slumber, mostly during quality REM sleep. You should aim for eight to ten hours of sleep each night, but it’s also important to ensure superior shuteye: keep your bedroom cool, pitch black and free from any electrical distractions such as a television, computer, tablet or smartphone. You will also want to practice a little meditation before bed rather than exercise. The night hormone melatonin helps improve sleep quality, so either eat some pineapple before or try a melatonin supplement to bolster HGH production. Experts also believe it important to maintain a regular pattern of sleep to prompt more REM cycles.
Along with interval training, intermittent fasting can help increase HGH levels. It is not something you should do too often or for too long, but occasional 24-hour fasts, along the Eat Stop Eat pattern espoused by Brad Pilon, can have a positive effect. A study conducted at the University of Virginia showed that after a day of fasting, growth hormone levels had increased by a whopping 2000%.
When you are not fasting however, there are also many foods you can ingest to stimulate HGH production levels. Amino acids are one of the key substances that help the secretion of human growth hormone. Arginine, particularly when taken in conjunction with ornithine, is one of the best substances to promote HGH production during workouts, while glutamine helps extend the effects of arginine when resources are low.
Take these amino acids three-quarters of an hour before your workout for maximum benefit. Arginine rich foods include most nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, Brazil and peanuts), raisins, sunflower seeds, dairy, lean meat and fish. A high dose is required to have any effect, so try to take between five and nine grams of arginine, and 170 mg per kilogram of ornithine, daily.
L-citrulline, which can be found in watermelon, is another amino acid our bodies can convert into arginine. In addition, L-leucine has also been shown to be particularly effective when combined with arginine. Snacks to promote naturally high HGH levels include fava beans and goji berries, while a post-workout boost should be high in whey protein which is jam-packed with amino acids.
Organic dairy products are particularly good for stimulating HGH levels. Unpasteurized yogurt is a rich source of the amino acid L-glutamine, while cheese made from raw milk can contain growth-increasing peptides. Eggs, the traditional bodybuilder’s fall-back food, are packed with powerful nutrients and include all the essential amino-acids, not to mention vitamins A, B, E, D and K. Raw chocolate (not processed milk chocolate, mind) is a very rich source of tryptophan, which not only stimulates increased HGH production but also promotes deep sleep, providing a positive double whammy effect.
Most people concerned with their physique would already avoid sugary food and drinks, but it’s particularly important to maintain steady blood sugar levels as high insulin levels suppress growth hormone production. But what if you don’t want to eat the foods mentioned above? Are there any supplements that could provide a viable alternative?
HGH can be injected under a medical prescription if you are one of the rare adults to genuinely suffer a deficiency, but please don’t be tempted to inject any of the self-prescribed versions available online as you would be putting yourself at high risk to an unknown, unregulated illegal substance. Similarly, creams that claim to promote HGH are not worth the money as they are exceptionally unlikely to have any effect.
However, there are some natural supplements you can take to help boost levels of human growth hormone. Mucuna pruriens, a tropical legume boasts a high concentration of L-dopa, which assists in HGH secretion, while Growth Factor-9 is a specific combination of amino acids designed to stimulate HGH production when taken on an empty stomach.
Human Growth Hormone is gets a lot of press and for good reason, but personal health should always be paramount in any physical improvement journey. Eating the right foods, sleeping properly and using natural supplements will ensure you get all possible benefit from natural HGH while eliminating the dangers.