With thousands of supplements to rave about, an entire cloaked market of potent steroids, and the debate about their legalization, why on earth would anyone want to discuss Human Growth Hormone (HGH)? Hasn't it been proven totally useless as a muscle builder?
Well, if that were true then why is there a market for it? It should be obvious that HGH is one of the most active hormones in the world today. The miracles of testosterone have amazed the world of bodybuilding with its regular turnout of 300-pound behemoths, but GH is another story altogether.
When you take into account that hormones may hold the secret to stopping aging in its tracks, and that GH is the hormone produced on the largest scale in the human body, it may be our own fountain of youth. I'm not saying that large amounts of HGH would help you live to be 200—here is also the matter of tissue resistance.
GH starts to decline in the body as we grow older. After the age of 30 it declines by 25 percent every decade, so by the time you hit 60 you are operating at 25 percent of original capacity. If HGH was present in the same amount throughout our lives, we'd easily live to be 140, several inches taller, and a lot more muscular.
The Benefits of HGH
Growth hormone was discovered in the 1920s and was isolated in the form of somatotropin in 1956. The benefits of HGH are immense; even today new research pops up regularly that reveals new uses for it. HGH is present in the body at a rate of 500 micrograms at any time in the blood of males between the ages of 20 and 30.
It's produced by the anterior pituitary gland under the stimulation of the hypothalamus (like LH, the testosterone precursor). The effects on our system are tremendous:
HGH promotes and increases the synthesis of new protein tissues, such as in muscle recovery or repair. This is the way new muscle is built.
Recent research suggests its involvement in the metabolism of body fat and its conversion to energy sources. Tests were conducted in obese people, and medical use in treating obesity was proven beyond a doubt. Some pros have used GH as a way of maintaining and increasing lean mass while dieting for years.
It improves the sleeping pattern, makes for fewer unintended awakenings and betters REM-stage sleep.
HGH produces more energy
It may improve sexual performance
It builds stronger bones
Improves the quality and duration of heart and kidneys
As you can see, HGH has several benefits. Research shows HGH may be superior to testosterone and its derivatives because it is not androgenic, causes no aromatization, and shows few side effects in limited doses. It can dramatically increase size in combination with testosterone.
It is believed that we may benefit from doses of 1.0-1.5 mg in the bloodstream. That is somewhere in the optimal range for natural GH.
How do I up my GH?
Well that's the point everyone was hoping I'd get to. GH concentration is improved through four key facets of bodybuilding: training, rest, nutrition, and supplementation.
The first way to stimulate GH release naturally is training. Intense workouts, energy-consuming events, and long periods of physical exhaustion are keys in releasing more; these catabolic states require extra protein synthesis—and in the case of energy-consumption, fat metabolization to make up for glycogen depletion.
This is no doubt the most potent kind of GH release, as it's targeted to meet the demands of the bodybuilder. Of course I'm not telling you anything new (I hope) when I say you have to work out to gain muscle mass. Moreover, the production of this GH is a direct reaction to a catabolic state that is not optimal to those looking for gains.
I learned in my first year of physiology that GH can be manipulated. The general rule of thumb when working out is never to train longer than 45 minutes, because that's when GH tapers off and cortisol production sets in. But the half-life of HGH can be influenced.
If you train 40 minutes for a month, then increase it by 2 minutes every month, after 10 months, you could train for an hour without inducing a catabolic state. No one has ever tested how far you can push the envelope, but that much is a proven fact. At this point I see no use for working out longer than an hour. Anyone using moderate to heavy intensity should be able to finish 25 sets in that time.
The highest I use right now, being a competitor myself, is 22 sets for back. Since I'm still growing, I feel that's enough. And since you have to match recovery to training intensity and vice versa, 25 or more sets would necessitate at least 4500-5000 calories, maybe more. My stomach just isn't that big.
75 percent of your total daily HGH output is produced while sleeping, and most of that in REM sleep. This ais yet another reason to get a good night's sleep, in case that hasn't quite dawned on you. Though cat naps may help a bit, it's unlikely that you can induce a deep-enough sleep to start producing GH.
This GH, in any case, is not nearly as potent as the other kinds. It is produced as a response to a need for sleep protection and a need for energy repletion for the next day, rather than in response to a need for extra energy. That said, without the GH produced through proper rest, other sources of GH will not be used as efficiently. Getting at least 8-10 hours of sleep is a sacrifice everyone should consider making if you want to get big in a hurry.
Also, the regularity of your sleeping pattern could promote more REM cycles and result in more hormonal output. So keeping steady hours of rest is beneficial. If you are one to stay out late on weekends, it may be best to still wake up at the same time instead of sleeping in. Otherwise you may disturb your sleeping pattern.
If you are used to sleeping from 10-8, but on weekends you get home at 1, sleep until 8 and add a one-hour nap every afternoon for the next 3 days to make up for the lack of sleep. But if at all possible, maintain steady hours.
Nutrition is probably the most important section of this article for the natural bodybuilder looking to make the most of his GH. Naturally, I have to ask you to take the past two paragraphs into regard before continuing here. You can't expect gains from nutrition or supplementation if your recovery is not adequately adapted.
The search for natural GH secretagogues (substances that cause other substances to be secreted) begins with the most basic of nutrients. Yup, you guessed it (or you read it in the previous article): amino acids. But for aminos to have optimal effect, you need to make sure that 15-20 percent of your diet consists of clean fats. These induce cholesterol, the storage of the base hormone in the body that leads to the manufacture of most steroidogenic hormones.
The ultimate goal of this paragraph is to give you a complete stack of amino acids that can synergistically produce more GH, but most amino acids should be helpful. In this particular instance, I'll list the supplements in order of their importance for GH production, not the order of their importance to overall health.
These doses are the best range for maximizing GH in a pre-workout stack. If you have antiaging properties in mind, smaller doses will work as well.
Arginine (5-8 g) or arginine Pyroglutamate are prime movers in the production of natural GH.
Ornithine (4-7 g) works synergistically with arginine, from which it is derived. Together they have the best impact.
Glutamine (5 g) or glutamine peptides preserve the use of arginine in depleted circumstances.
Glycine (3-10 g)
OKG (3 g) is very expensive, but useful
BCAAs (3-6 g) for musclebuilding properties, enhanced by GH.
Other dietary sources of nutrients to promote GH are Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Vitamin B3, and most antioxidants. Take your stack—whichever aminos it ends up consisting of—45 minutes prior to your workout for maximal levels of GH. On non-workout days, take your stack either before bed or in the morning, on an empty stomach.
If you wish to learn more about specific amino acids in this stack, or others that may be of benefit to your training regimen, take a look at my previous article about amino acids. This stack is more than adequate to boost HGH gains by 50 percent. If I haven't convinced you of the use of protein to gain muscle, the potential amount of GH you get from maintaining protein levels should make you change your mind.Whey protein and desiccated liver are especially high in arginine levels. Gearing protein intake to specific goals could be a motivation to keep up the work on the nutritional end of things.
No I'm not telling you to inject GH. Until it becomes legal and then still under a doctor's supervision, I don't suggest you use it. GH supplementation has many benefits though. It increases the protein-synthesizing effect of testosterone and causes growth in muscle tissue. Unlike most steroidogenic substances, it is currently undetectable in drug tests.
Studies show that, in small doses, it exerts minimal side effects. In large doses it may be very harmful however.
Too much natural GH causes a condition called acromegaly. A person's muscles grow, but so do his bones, his face, and his intestines. Not funny, huh? Plus the muscle you gain on GH is not functional. GH causes no gains in strength. Larger muscles naturally increases strength a little, but without training of the tendons and attachments, no strength increase is noticeable.
The enlarged intestines are what cause the bloated guts on stage in bodybuilding contests. Only two substances cause this bloating: IGF-1 (insulin-like Growth factor 1) and HGH. Many pros swear by the stuff.
For a long time, the only source of GH was from cadavers. This held a great risk of infection with BSE (Kreutzfeld-Jakob disease), a debilitating disease that leads to death within weeks BSE became a hot topic because of cases in the European bovine stock as a result of processing animal waste in animal food. Now HGH is available as somatotropin, synthethized outside the body.
So why did I bring up supplementation if it's illegal? Well, how do you suppose you make an illegal drug a legal supplement? In the United States, certain substances can be sold over-the-counter if they are below a certain concentration, so GH is currently being sold as a supplement, suspended in alcohol. It is supposed to be absorbed sublingually (under the tongue) or through the nasal glands (in the nose).
It's small enough to do this and yields high rates. It can't survive the digestive process and find a way into the blood through ingestion. The only other way is to inject it, which makes it illegal again. The law is the same one that allows ephedrine in fat-loss supps and pseudoephedrine in cold medicine.
The GH we are talking about here is not very effective, nor very cheap, but it pays off as a recovery supplement. I tried it once, taking a few drops sublingually after every workout. I didn't gain much extra muscle, none to speak of, but I found that my muscles recovered faster. I also noticed a decrease in lactic acid buildup, and slept better overall.So it has its merits. The downside: a pricetag of 70 or 80 bucks for a month's worth.
HGH is a necessary factor in your training and recuperation, and knowing how to manipulate its release may be one of the most important steps you can make toward optimizing gains in muscle mass. GH may not have revealed all of its secrets yet, but to pass up on the benefits would be a a lost opportunity for the hard-working hardgainer such as yourself.
I could digress and deliver endless dissertations about HGH, but I think you have the core elements. Many proponents of HGH believe that making growth hormone legal and authorizing hormone replacement therapy for the elderly would be a great advantage to the health care system, but the fact remains that GH is a dangerous substance to fool around with. I'm all for legalization, but only with the necessary restrictions. Whatever is decided in the future, it's worth following the evolution closely.