growth hormone picture

Growth Hormone (HGH): How to Increase Levels Naturally

Human Growth hormone is another hormone that is vital for body composition and physical condition. It’s a complex protein produced by the pituitary gland and secreted into the bloodstream.  When it reaches your liver, it is metabolized into Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). Human growth, also known as “The Fitness Hormone,” increases protein synthesis, lean muscle gain, bone density, healing/recovery, and your ability to burn fat. 

Growth hormone is also responsible for the health of your immune system.  The more HGH you have circulating in your system, the less likely it is you get sick.   

**Bonus**– In the presence of testosterone, the two create a synergistic effect that accelerates your body’s fat-burning capabilities.

So it’s fair to say that growth hormone is pretty important for maintaining lean body mass, fat loss, and overall health.  Learning how to naturally elevate your own HGH production/secretion is one of the keys to maintaining good body composition for life!

Naturally Boost Human Growth Hormone

So what exactly are some of the tactics that can naturally elevate and prolong growth hormone secretion in your body?  One of the best methods is fasting. Some studies show that after 24 hours of fasting men can increase their HGH by 2000%!  That’s an impressive stat, but fasting 24 hours every day is obviously not sustainable.  So what is a good way to sustain high levels of growth hormone each and every day while still eating?

Intermittent Fasting and Growth Hormone

Allow me to introduce intermittent fasting.  By fasting intermittently for 12-16 hours per day, where 7+ hours occur while you are asleep, you get the growth hormone boosting benefits of fasting while still being able to eat the foods you normally would eat.  I normally fast for 16 hours and then eat during an 8-hour window. 16 hours seems to be the sweet spot for fasting because this is when autophagy really starts to kick in.  Autophagy means “self-eating.”  When you limit your nutrient intake for a prolonged amount of time your body stops focusing on digestion and begins to “clean” itself up at the cellular level.  Cellular metabolites and waste are recycled 

Skip Breakfast

Not only is it important how long you fast for, but it’s also important when you fast.  Skipping breakfast is one of the best ways to increase natural levels of growth hormone because of the interaction between insulin and HGH.  You see, when you sleep your body secretes its highest levels of growth hormone.  When you wake your HGH levels are still high, but the minute you raise your insulin (i.e. eat breakfast) your HGH levels drop (1).  If you want to optimize and prolong the surge in HGH experienced during sleep, skip breakfast.  Its as simple as that.

Growth Hormone IGF-1

Get Better Sleep for more Growth Hormone Production

Growth hormone secretion peaks during the first cycle of deep sleep.  Therefore, in order to maximize your growth hormone, you have to maximize your sleep.  Here are a few ways to get better sleep:

  • Sleep in a room as dark as possible
  • Make sure your room is cool (65-68 degrees F approximately)
  • Turn off your wifi at night (emf disrupts sleep)
  • Don’t eat junk food before bed
  • Get more consistent sleep- go to bed and wake up at consistent times of night/day
  • Start tracking your sleep with fitness wearables like WHOOP

Getting more deep sleep or slow-wave-sleep (SWS) is super important for growth hormone production because over 95% of growth hormone is produced during this time.  It has been shown that the more consistent the sleep the greater the duration of SWS sleep.  Sleep consistency is a measure of how similar the times are when you go to bed and wake up each day.  The more similar the more consistent.  

Growth Hormone and Sleep

Sleep consistency measures the consistency of when you wake and fall asleep each day.  The more consistent,the more deep sleep. The more deep sleep the more HGH production. Measured by WHOOP

Lift slow, high volume, heavy weights, with short breaks

Lifting weights causes a cascade of beneficial hormones within the body.  One of them is growth hormone. If you want to maximize growth hormone production, then there are a few hacks that will help up your own natural HGH production when lifting:

  1. Do compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, and pressesMore muscle fibers are recruited during compound lifts which causes a larger response to the training
  1. Focus on the eccentric portion of the lift-  This is the “lowering”/lengthening phase of an exercise.  A couple of Brazilian researchers studied the effects of 3-second negatives while lifting weights. They compared these lifters to a control group that lifted weights normally and discovered the group that used the 3 second slow down during the eccentric phase produced 1700% more growth hormone 15 minutes after finishing their workout.  Talk about a large increase!

Growth Hormone production from eccentric training

SEV represents the slow eccentric velocity, experimental group.  FEV represents the fast eccentric velocity control group.  

  1. Shorten Rest Periods–  Short rest periods between sets increases the amount of “burn” or lactic acid in the muscles.  Lactic acid has been proven to increase growth hormone secretion.
  1. Do more reps.  Higher training volume also equates to more HGH production according to some studies, most likely due to increased lactic acid in the muscles.  
  1. Do Sprints– There are so many benefits associated with sprinting.  Fat loss, better body composition, lean muscle gain, and increased growth hormone production are a few of them.   One study compared how much growth hormone was secreted in subjects that sprinted for 6 seconds vs subjects that sprinted for 30 seconds on a cycle ergometer.  The 30-second sprinters produced 450% more growth hormone than 6-second sprinters.  HGH levels also remained higher for a longer period of time.  The 30-second sprinters HGH remained elevated for 120 minutes whereas the 6-second sprinters’ HGH remained elevated for just 60 minutes. 

Knowing this information, you can effectively “hack your hormones” and produce more fat burning, muscle building HGH, with short bouts of effort.  In addition to sprinting, other types of high-intensity interval training also raise growth hormone levels.

Do interval high-intensity interval training

Besides just sprinting,  try to incorporate some form of interval training into your routine to increase HGH.  For example, a high-intensity interval circuit could be 10 burpees, followed by 10 thrusters followed by 15 push-ups with a 1-minute break and repeated for 5 rounds.  In order to get the highest HGH surge during an interval workout, the intensity of the exercises should be above your lactate threshold and last about 10 minutes at the minimum (2). When you are working above your lactate threshold, the rate of lactic acid that builds up in the tissues exceeds your body’s ability to remove it from the tissues.  When working below the lactate threshold your body can remove lactic acid faster than it accumulates in the muscles. The threshold point for lactic acid build-up occurs at around 85% of max heart rate for most individuals (3).

lactate threshold graph

Hit the Sauna

Another way to increase your growth hormone production naturally is by making frequent trips to the sauna.  There are a multitude of studies that use different sauna protocols to increase HGH. One study showed doing 2, 20-minute sauna sessions broken up with a 30 minute cool-down period increased HGH 2x above normal levels.  This is an easy, passive way to increase HGH levels.  

Supplements

In addition to the different methods and protocols for increasing growth hormone discussed in this article, supplementation is another tool that can be used to increase HGH naturally.  One of those supplements is colostrum. Colostrum has been proven to increase IGF-1 (insulin growth factor-1), which is the first metabolite of growth hormone when it gets processed by the liver.  IGF-1 is actually the peptide that is responsible for all the anabolic properties associated with HGH.

Another supplement that increases IGF-1 levels is whey protein.  According to this study, whey protein is shown to raise serum levels of IGF-1 above baseline levels.  When supplementing with whey protein, I make sure it comes from a good source. Whey protein that is made from organic, grass-fed cows and is devoid of artificial sweeteners and soy is best.

Sources (All other sources are hyperlinked):

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29063103
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12797841
  3. 3. McPartland, Darren; Pree, Adrian; Malpeli, Robert; Telford, Amanda (2010). Nelson Physical Education Studies For WA. Australia: Nelson. ISBN9780170182027.

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