Being in the fitness and mental health field for years as a coach and mentor, I hear some people over forty complain about their discomfort with certain bodily changes. They complain about mood changes, a decline in energy, strength, muscle mass, sex drive, as well as their lower ability to burn fat as they used to. Those are issues that can’t be ignored. They are not only physically uncomfortable and bothersome symptoms but emotionally distressing. In actuality, these symptoms are associated with lower secretions of growth hormone (GH).
Below we’ll take a deeper look into growth hormone and cover the following topics:
- What’s growth hormone?
- Growth hormone deficiency
- Benefits of growth hormone
- Growth hormone-raising exercises
- Supplements to raise growth hormone
- Lifestyle tips that improve growth hormone levels
- Foods that boost growth hormone
What Is Growth Hormone?
Growth hormone – GH (also known as human growth hormone -hGH- or somatotropin) is a peptide hormone made by the pituitary gland and secreted into the bloodstream. It stimulates growth, cell reproduction, cell regeneration, and overall human development. Additionally, GH is used for performance enhancement and as an anabolic agent.
GH influences other hormones as well. It stimulates the production of IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1 – a hormone similar to insulin involved in growth and anabolic states) and testosterone (this hormone helps increase muscle mass, fat loss, energy, strength, libido, and it’s involved in mood, cardiovascular / bone / brain health).
Unfortunately, hormone production declines over the course of the years. By age 55, growth hormone levels have declined one-third of what they used to be between the ages of 18 to 35. Some people experience growth hormone deficiency even younger, which brings a wide range of symptoms. Severe deficiencies can reduce people’s ability to function – both physical and psychological, deteriorating their quality of life.
Symptoms associated with GH deficiency:
- Decreased muscle mass
- Diminished strength
- Increased body fat
- Cholesterol abnormalities
- Issues in the blood and circulation
- Poor bone density
- Low energy and stamina
- Concentration and memory problems
- Lowers testosterone levels
Benefits of Growth Hormone
A recombinant form of hGH called somatropin is used as a prescription drug to treat children’s growth disorders, adult growth hormone deficiency, and growth hormone decline.
GH injections have several benefits:
- Denser bones
- Increases muscle mass
- Helps burn more fat
- Improves strength and power
- Lower risks of heart disease
- Increase positive feelings and sexual drive
- Better ability to fight cell degeneration – important for antiaging and immunity
How to Increase Growth Hormone Levels Naturally
Fortunately, there are different ways in which you can increase growth hormone levels naturally as well. You can create huge metabolical changes by modifying your exercise routine, diet, and daily habits.
Growth Hormone-Raising Exercises
One of the greatest growth hormone boosters is exercise. Studies show that there is a linear relationship between the magnitude of the increase in GH release and exercise intensity. However, not all types of exercise affect your hormones equally. Research shows that endurance training /prolonged exercise, such as long-distance cardio, results in decreased resting GH, GH, and IGF-1 levels. Resistance training, on the other hand, results in significantly higher growth hormone stimulation.
Here are some of the protocols needed to elicit higher GH responses:
- Weight training using short rest intervals, heavy loads, and exercise intensity above lactate threshold for a minimum of 10 minutes.
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIITT): In this exercise strategy, you alternate between short periods of intense activity with periods of recovery – 2:1 ratio of work (30-40 seconds) to recovery (15-20 seconds) is the most common.
Higher intensity exercise and strength training are not only beneficial for your health and training outcomes but they help reduce the impact of aging. Just be mindful not to overtrain in order to avoid affecting GH negatively.
Supplements that Help Raise Growth Hormone
Supplementation can aid to raise GH levels. The following are some of the supplements associated with higher GH release:
Vitamin D is essential for proper cell replication, immunity system, mood, as well as for prostate, bone, joint, colon, and digestive support. Additionally, research shows that Vitamin D increases circulating IGF1, which as you learned, influences GH.
Melatonin is a hormone that’s involved in sleep and blood pressure regulation. Additionally, studies have shown that melatonin supplementation increases basal GH release. You take 1–10 mg 30 minutes before bed, getting started with a lower dose.
Arginine helps to build protein, release nitric oxide in the blood, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, and ease inflammation in the digestive tract. Additionally, arginine enhances exercise performance and boosts GH. A study showed that taking 1,500 mg of arginine significantly elevated GH during resting conditions.
GAMMA-AMINOBUTYRIC ACID (GABA)
GABA is a non-protein amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter. It has a calming effect on the brain and helps ease anxiety, stress, insomnia, and balance blood pressure. Research shows that ingesting GABA elevated resting and postexercise GH by about 400%.
Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that can help increase muscle endurance and training volume, and reduce fatigue.
A study compared the effects of creatine and creatine plus beta-alanine on strength, power, body composition, testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone, and IGF-1. The group taking beta-alanine presented significantly greater improvements in strength, lean body mass, and body fat percentage.
Creatine is a natural supplement used to boost energy, athletic performance, and build muscle and strength. It can promote brain health and the stabilization of blood sugar. Research shows that 20 g of creatine enhances GH secretion.
L-Dopa (or levodopa) is an amino acid produced from the amino acid, L-tyrosine. It’s a precursor of dopamine that plays a role in epinephrine and norepinephrine and has even been used to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Besides increasing dopamine in the brain, research shows that L-dopa stimulates growth hormone secretion.
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in human blood and is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. It is crucial for your immune system, as it fuels white blood cells, and for intestinal health. Glutamine also contributes to gaining muscle and performing physically. Research shows that 2 grams help increase GH levels.
Ornithine is a nonprotein amino acid important for conditions that involve an excess of ammonia – liver conditions or prolonged exercise. It has an anti-fatigue effect and even helps with hangovers. Paired with arginine, ornithine helps improve lean mass and power output. Studies show that taking ornithine 30 minutes after strength training increases GH.
Lifestyle Habits that Improve Growth Hormone
One of the factors that promote the natural boost of GH is sleep. Growth hormone is secreted during the delta wave part of sleep and follows your circadian rhythm. It is recommended to get a good night’s sleep since most GH secretions are released by the brain into the bloodstream while you sleep. This is the time in which your body repairs itself.
Another factor related to inadequate GH levels is stress. It has numerous negative effects. Stress not only has devastating effects on your emotional health but disrupts bodily functions and systems. Additionally, it affects the production of growth hormone and many others.
Fasting, or refrain from eating, has huge benefits. It helps to lose weight, decrease inflammation (which is associated with chronic disease), improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and great for heart and brain health, as well as for longevity. Fasting has even produced great results in delaying tumor growth in animals. Furthermore, fasting enhances GH secretion.
HEALTHY HABITS BEFORE BEDTIME
Since sleep is directly related to GH, it’s wise to instill habits that facilitate deep sleep. Eating can spike insulin levels which disrupt sleep patterns as well as the release of GH. This is why you should avoiding food right before bedtime. At the same time, sleeping with the phone, computer, or TV on, and heavy alcohol/drug use disturb your sleeping cycles. Try to eat at least 2 hours before you go to sleep and turn off the electronics in your bedroom.
Foods that Boost Growth Hormone
Now that you understand the types of training that increase the release of GH into your system, it’s time to address your diet. The food you consume plays another vital role in your hormonal system. But it’s not only about what you consume, it’s also about what you remove from your diet.
One of the compounds that negatively affect GH is sugar. The regular consumption of processed sugar, commercial sugary snacks, sugary drinks, and baking goods should be avoided because they increase blood sugar levels and decrease GH levels, facilitating fat storage. Additionally, try to avoid sugar post-workout and before sleeping so you can obtain the GH boost that exercise and sleep can give you.
The following are great foods that stimulate growth hormone naturally:
Water is not a food but it’s an essential compound for survival. Hydration is necessary for proper hormone functioning.
Coconut Oil is very unique since it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), caprylic acid, lauric acid, and capric acid, which are easily converted to energy. Coconut oil has anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties. Research shows that MCT increases circulating growth hormone.
RAW CACAO OR DARK CHOCOLATE
Cacao, unlike hot chocolate or a chocolate bar, comes directly from cold-pressed cacao beans and has no added sugar. It is high in healthy fats, magnesium, potassium, iron, and theobromine (a healthy stimulant like coffee). Cacao contains serotonin, phenylethylamine (a neurotransmitter known as “the love drug”), anandamide (a natural antidepressant), and tryptophan (which stimulates dopamine and HGH production). You can get cacao’s benefits by consuming dark chocolate, cacao powder (making a hot chocolate or adding it to smoothies), or cacao nibs (adding them to smoothies, oatmeal, or kefir).
Arginine is one of the amino acids that boost GH synthesis. Arginine-rich foods include dairy, red meat, eggs, chicken, turkey, seeds, nuts, legumes, and brown rice.
Whey protein is made from whey – the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. Whey protein combined with resistance exercise has shown to have a significant effect on growth hormones and muscle strength.
Colostrum: This is the milk secreted during the first few days after a mammal is born. Colostrum contains not only nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals but also bioactive components like antimicrobial factors and growth factors, such as insulin-like growth factors I (IGF-I). IGF-I can mimic most effects of GH and GH’s effects on skeletal muscle are mediated by IGF-I. Studies show that colostrum increases blood IGF-I concentration, positively affecting GH.
As you know whey and colostrum are dairy products high in nutrients. Other great dairy options that help boost HGH production are greek yogurt and kefir but you must consume high-quality clean sources to get all their benefits. Commercial milk processing (pasteurization, homogenization, and centrifugation) denatures bioactive proteins and RNA molecules and alters the bioavailability of fat-soluble components. It also contains antibiotics, pesticides, and synthetic growth hormones. On the other hand, raw milk is very nutritious because it has bioactive components, including whey proteins, transcription factors, immunoglobulins, omega-3 fats, and microRNAs. Raw milk consumption is associated with hormonal, gut, and lung health, and a lower incidence of asthma and allergic diseases. Check out a US listing of raw milk near you. If you can’t find raw dairy products, at least choose organic.
Grass-Fed Organic Beef
Beef is powerful, containing beneficial fatty acids (CLA- conjugated linoleic acid), iron, selenium, zinc, and vitamins B12, B3, B6, and E filthy. However, not all beef is the same. Conventional beef, unlike organic beef, contains harmful pesticides, genetic engineering (GMOs), bacteria, antibiotics, and the animals live in filthy confined factory farms and are fed corn and soy. Additionally, there is grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Grass-fed animals are fed grass most of the year but can receive supplemental grain feed while those with a grass-finished label graze on grass in the summer and alfalfa in the winter. The beef is 100% grass-fed, grass-finished, organic, and free-range beef.
Eggs help provide the good cholesterol needed for hormone production. Eggs are also loaded with vitamins, amino acids, DHA, and EPA that help promote HGH secretion. It’s best to buy free-range organic eggs instead of conventional.
Various algae that you find in the ocean are consumable and highly nutritious. They help alkalize and detox your body, have anti-inflammatory properties, and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids. These algae help amplify GH release as well. Some of the most powerful algae are spirulina, chlorella, or blue-green algae. These algae help amplify GH release.
Nuts provide a boost of L-Arginine to stimulate HGH and testosterone secretion. They are very convenient and easy to incorporate into your diet.
Legumes are a great plant-based source of protein, fiber, and arginine. Fava beans are rich in L-Dopa and a powerful options for increasing HGH levels.
Foods rich in melatonin increase melatonin secretion at night. Melatonin helps you sleep longer and deeper which is associated with enhanced HGH production. Melatonin-rich foods can increase GH release by up to 157% and they include milk, eggs, fish, mustard seeds, tomatoes, nuts, grapes, tart berries, goji berries, pomegranates, watermelons, raspberries, and pineapples.
Goji berries are at the top of the HGH-producing food list. Goji berries contain vitamins, 22 minerals, essential fatty acids, and 18 amino acids.
Watermelon is high in L-Citrulline amino, an amino acid that converts to Arginine and promotes GH.
Pineapple is not only high in melatonin. It’s a great source of serotonin – a feeling-good neurotransmitter that can relax you and help you sleep. Having some pineapple at night 30 – 60 minutes before bedtime can increase GH and testosterone production.
In the quest to get the benefits associated with growth hormone, you should take specific steps. Help raise GH levels by integrating the workout regimens describe above. Additionally, you can elicit hormonal responses that boost GH by incorporating the right foods and supplements, sleeping enough, fasting periodically, and dealing with stress adequately. In this manner, you will be more apt to gain more muscle, lose fat, remain strong, have a healthy sex drive, be in better spirits, and experience more antiaging properties.
To a Fitter Healthier You
The Fitness Wellness Mentor