Produced in the pituitary gland, growth hormone (GH), also known as somatotropin, plays a major role in childhood growth. GH continues to be important as we age as well.
GH stimulates the production of chemicals known as somatomedins, the most researched of which is insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Together, GH and IGF-1 exert positive effects in almost every bodily system including maintaining lean body mass (muscle tissue), inhibiting fat accumulation, repair of tissue and even heart and brain health.
In other words, the effects of GH in adults are what keep us young, and our metabolism efficient. However, GH release slows dramatically once we reach early adulthood, and becomes more and more scarce with advancing age. One study showed that GH decreases by about 50% every 7 years, after our mid-20’s.
Because of the apparent anti-aging effects of GH, there’s been a lot of research into using synthetic GH in people with certain pituitary conditions where they make little to no GH. This of course has captured the attention of people wanting to use it to ward of normal aging and to increase athletic performance.
This is a highly controversial (and expensive!) aspect of GH use. GH use for anything other than specific disease conditions is considered risky and even unsafe; studies don’t necessarily show an absolute benefit to using synthetic GH for regular biological aging. GH has no approved use in the realm of athletic performance, and is of course a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
However there are other effective nutritional and lifestyle strategies that can help keep one’s GH at healthy levels throughout life, that include:
Lose the spare tire Fat stores centered around the mid-section and abdominal organs are notorious for both inhibiting proper metabolic function (including slowing down GH release), and as a marker of metabolic dysfunction. In other words, mid-section fat accumulation is both a cause and symptom of inefficient metabolism. Losing belly fat can help support GH secretion.
Lose the sugar Sugary, or high glycemic foods are the enemy of GH. Eating these foods leads to the release of the hormone insulin, which directly inhibits GH release. Stop eating the simple carbs and stick with veggies, nuts, legumes and whole fruits.
Get complete nights sleep Most of your GH is secreted at night, during periods of deep sleep. It’s well researched that poor quality sleep; irregular sleep patterns and inadequate sleep absolutely kill GH release. If this is you, you’ve got to get your sleep fixed!
Get fit Next to good sleep, high intensity exercise is perhaps the most powerful way to boost your own GH production. Studies show that the more intense the exercise (as in close to your lactate threshold), the more significant the release of GH.
Optimize GH with nutrition In addition to getting balanced amounts of protein in your diet, there are 3 important amino acids that can amplify natural GH production:
Glutamine – is important for maintaining muscle mass in times of stress; one study showed 2,000 mg daily can increase GH blood levels.
Arginine – similar to glutamine, arginine can boost GH levels. Coupled with exercise, this effect is greatly increased.
Ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate – is known for its anabolic (muscle growing) effects, combined with strength training and arginine, it can also increase secretion of GH.
Growth Hormone Support is one of our favorite products for supporting natural growth hormone levels – it contains the perfect amount of arginine and ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate. Combined with glutamine, take them before your workout or at bedtime to boost your growth hormone levels.
I can’t stress how important it is to support your growth hormone naturally as you age. Declining levels of GH are a natural state of the aging process; however taking the steps to maintain the levels we normally make goes a long way in keeping your body functioning at a youthful level well into old age.