If you regularly work out, you have probably heard of human growth hormone (HGH). You may have heard that HGH can rebuild your muscles, keep you fit and energetic, and fight off the effects of aging. You may also have heard that it is illegal and dangerous.
It is true that HGH is by and large beneficial, and there is a good reason why so many athletes look to boost their HGH levels. Though there are some legitimate concerns about boosting it artificially, there are natural methods to encourage your body to produce more HGH and keep yourself in shape.
Here is a look at what HGH is and how you can get the most out of this chemical to improve your body.
How HGH Helps
As the Harvard Medical School notes, “HGH is a small protein that is made by the pituitary gland and secreted into the bloodstream.” The pituitary gland releases HGH throughout the day, particularly when you have just fallen asleep. HGH works by getting more protein into your muscles and by reducing fat, creating a stronger, leaner you.
Your body releases the most HGH during your teen years, when you are still growing. But when you hit your 30s, HGH levels begin to drop off for the rest of your life. This is a major reason why your muscles get weaker, your body flabbier and your bones more brittle as you age. This does not mean that adding HGH will reverse the effects of aging, but doctors are still interested in its health potential.
Improving Natural HGH Levels
While artificially adding HGH can carry risks, there are plenty of ways to stimulate your body’s natural production or at least end habits and practices that suppress it.
If you’ve been serious about staying in shape, you should already be practicing some of these methods. Sleep more. Cut back on sugary foods and eat more vegetables and fruits. Exercise regularly.
But while these methods will help, there are certain aspects you should emphasize if your goal is HGH production. For example, intense resistance training boosts HGH more than endurance training, and anaerobic exercise is better than aerobic exercise. This is because intensive training damages your muscles, which causes your pituitary gland, in response, to release more HGH to speed up the healing process. While endurance training can improve HGH levels at first, it levels off over the long run as your body adjusts to that lower level of exercise.
And though sleeping more is always beneficial, the emphasis should be on long, regular periods of sleep. The sleep website Tuck notes that “the major period of HGH release is in the first period of Stage 3 sleep during the night,” which is the first period of deep sleep in a sleep cycle. Sleeping on a fixed schedule also improves HGH production and is beneficial for your body in other ways as well.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Given the benefits of HGH in sports, some athletes look into boosting it artificially or with various medical compounds instead of doing it naturally. This is a bad idea for several reasons.
First and foremost, it’s illegal without a prescription. The only reliable way to artificially boost HGH levels is through injections. The New York Daily News points out that doctors are more concerned with HGH’s potential to fight the symptoms of disease like HIV than keeping you buff.
The second problem is that you will likely get ripped off. There are plenty of compounds or pills out there, often sold online, that promise to boost your HGH levels. But most of them are scams. Glutamine is a possible exception, as studies have shown that a small amount of glutamine can have an appreciable effect on HGH levels. Take one glutamine pill after exercising, preferably on an empty stomach.
Also, overdosing on HGH carries serious medical risks. Some symptoms of excessive HGH include inflammation, fluid retention and headaches. There is also an inverse relationship between your body’s HGH and insulin levels, and excessively low insulin carries health risks as well.
HGH is often touted as a “fountain of youth” compound that can keep people fresh and energetic, and there is no doubt that it can boost your health and physique when used appropriately.
But remember: many of the ways to keep your HGH levels high are the same ways you should be using to keep yourself in shape to begin with. Exercise regularly, sleep a lot, and take the occasional supplement after working out. By keeping your HGH levels at a good level naturally, you can avoid the temptation of using artificial (and illegal) methods and looking for a quick fix.