It seems as if growth-hormone (hGH) abuse is becoming more prevalent in bodybuilding every day. Reports of consistent use by Olympia competitors
and even amateurs are depressingly frequent. The jawbones of athletes seem to grow before our eyes, as do other tell-tale signs of hGH abuse.
Does this mean that natural bodybuilders, already fighting a battle against steroids, are destined to fall further behind in their pursuit
of muscle mass? Not at all. While there has been a lot of unsubstantiated hype in the area of natural growth- hormone stimulation, research
has shown a number of ways to increase your hGH levels naturally.
Characteristics of hGH
Growth hormone is one of the most anabolic hormones in the body. Produced by the anterior pituitary gland, it has numerous functions. It
increases protein synthesis and promotes the preferential oxidation of fat over protein. This leads to a net reduction in protein catabolism.
It also boosts the levels of insulin growth factor-1, or IGF-1, which results in higher levels of that anabolic hormone as well. Additional
benefits of growth hormone include improved nitrogen balance, increased resting metabolic rate and enhanced rates of healing for fractures
and wounds. HGH also elevates water-retention levels in the body, which can be a drawback if the retention is subcutaneous, or under the skin,
which would obscure the underlying muscles.
The circulating levels of hGH are thought to reflect the level of specific functional receptors in the liver. Hormone secretion is the result
of an interplay between two neuropeptides: GH-releasing hormone (somatomedin) and GH-inhibiting hormone (somatostatin). These secretions average
around four per day, although the number varies with the study cited. The largest burst of hGH usually occurs within the first 45 to 90 minutes
of sleep. HGH has a half-life of 20 to 50 minutes.
Our goal as natural bodybuilders is to moderately increase the level of hGH secretion. Too much hGH in the system can lead to apelike jaws and
acromegaly, which is an increase in overall bone size. We want to maintain a healthy natural appearance without that biology-experiment look that
some drug abusers have. Big bones and joints can actually destroy the advantage that larger muscles would otherwise provide.
New Study Results
Two recent studies show how you can increase hGH levels naturally. Kang's 1990 research shows that it's the intensity of the workout, not the
volume of work, which maximizes growth-hormone secretion. Kang studied a variety of training regimens and found that the greatest hGH production
was achieved with relatively heavy weights done in sets of eight to ten repetitions with a one-minute rest between sets. This boosted hGH levels
36 percent higher than regimens that used longer rest periods, higher rep ranges and lower weights. Kang also discovered that hGH secretion peaks
10 to 25 minutes after the start of exercise. After 25 minutes it begins to decline but still remains above baseline levels for an hour. The fat
mobilization produced by this additional hGH lasts more than an hour, however.
A second study, this one performed by Ballard in 1991, indicates that the timing of your workout may affect total hGH release. Ballard analyzed
the amount of growth hormone produced by identical workouts at four different times of the day: 6 am., noon, 6 p.m. and midnight. She found that
training sessions at noon and 6 p.m. produced significantly higher levels of hGH secretion than early-morning or late-night workouts. This
appears to be related to the body's circadian rhythm and the length of time between the peak secretion during sleep and the workout. While each
athlete's biological clock is different, you might want to experiment with midday or early-evening training if you currently work out first thing
in the morning or late at night. It could very well make a noticeable difference.
One thing you should avoid is oral arginine and ornithine. There has been a lot of hype about these supplements from advertisers, who stand
to gain financially from your purchases. Unfortunately, oral supplementation doesn't work at dosages that you can afford unless you've won the
lottery. Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw report in their book Life Extension that measurable increases in hGH have been achieved with dosages of
five to 10 grams of L-arginine and 2 1/2 to five grams of Lornithine per day. (Try pricing the cost of these dosages on a monthly basis if you
want a shock.) Alas, lower doses are only effective if the amino acids are introduced intravenously. So unless you work in a hospital, chances
are you're out of luck.