Manipulating GH Release Factors - Optimize Natural Growth Hormone Output

Manipulating GH Release

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It's a know fact of the powerful anabolic effects of human growth hormone (GH) and why training to stimulate natural secretion of this hormone will greatly benefit development of muscle mass. Since promoting increased GH can be a complex process, we must discuss some of the more important conditions under which GH secretion is known to occur and how such states can be altered to optimize its natural output. This article will therefore outline some of the ways you can restructure your training and bodybuilding lifestyle to promote natural GH-pulsing to improve your bodybuilding efforts. The following factors affect GH release.

The pituitary gland naturally releases up to 0.7 thousandths of a gram of GH during a 24-hour period - about 50 percent during the first four hours of sleep. (This fact highlights the importance of a good night's sleep.) It releases the rest of this amount spontaneously or in response to a variety of physical stimuli produced from changes in our body physiology or the environment. Such events produce the "GH- pulsing" that is critical to maintaining biological sensitivity to the hormone. Although a wide range of factors can alter GH release in the body, some can be unsafe whereas you can manipulate others often enough to produce potential benefit with minimal health risk.

Aside from sleep-induced release of GH, secretion of the hormone is also known to increase in response to an elevation in body temperature, a decrease in blood-glucose level, high protein intake, physical exercise (including weight training), alterations in circulating levels of other hormones in the bloodstream, administration of certain medi-cal drugs, prolonged fasting and other miscellaneous factors. Of the many variables which affect GH release, a good night's sleep, dietary protein intakes at predetermined times during the day (in the absence of other foodstuffs) and physical exercise appear to be the key GH stimulation variables bodybuilders can regularly and safely manipulate to achieve success.

Scientists have demonstrated that ingestion of amino acid is a potent stimulator of GH release. The effect is not limited just to isolated amino acids but occurs to a full complement of proteins. In fact, GH release occurs when you eat plain beef broth. From this evidence we can easily see that mere protein ingestion will stimulate GH release. Tests have shown, however, that certain isolated amino acids and their combinations produce somewhat better results. Oral argi-nine and ornithine are probably about as effective as any at stimulating GH release. Studies have found significant improvements in lean mass, fat loss and muscular strength with regular ingestion of only relatively small amounts of these two amino acids. Two controlled experiments discovered that the amino acids L-arginine and L-ornithine work synergistically to produce significant increases in lean body mass and strength, decreases in bodyfat, and reduction in tissue breakdown related to the stress imposed by regular exercise. The authors of these studies suggested that GH-pulsing was enhanced with the nutritional amino acid supplementation and that this enhancement was responsible, at least in part, for the body composition, performance and metabolism findings observed.

Other variables such as a person's age and amount of bodyfat can also exert an effect on GH release. We know that GH release begins to decline in healthy adults between 20 and 30 years of age. Researchers attribute this effect to aging alone. It probably is the result of a defect in the releasing mechanisms which control GH release from the pituitary gland rather than a defect in the production or storage of the hormone in the pituitary. Our body still makes GH but aging impairs our ability to release it into the bloodstream. This is also true for bodyfat, as we associate higher levels of obesity with decreased GH release.

Other stimulators of GH release exist but have little relevance to the bodybuilder. A mere elevation in body temperature brought about by an illness will also stimulate GH, probably in part because of the positive impact of the hormone on the immune response and the lessening of protein tissue breakdown during disease-induced tissue-wasting. Slow intravenous injections of up to 30 grams of L-arginine monohydrochloride combined with oral L-dopa (another amino acid) also stimulate GH release, but this is a medical procedure that can produce serious side effects (e.g., vomiting). One could not apply it on a regular enough basis to have any potential benefit whatsoever.

The key to achieving a response to GH releasers is that such variables need to be used on an empty stomach. If any carbohydrates are present, even in small amounts, they will block the stimulating actions of the releasing factors. This restriction applies to situations ranging anywhere from exercise to the oral administration of proteins designed to provoke GH release.

EFFECTS OF PROPER EXERCISE

Of all the events known to modulate GH release, physical exercise is clearly one of the best. Although research has demonstrated that sleep is the major overall stimulator of GH release, physical exercise is the next most potent stimulus for release of the hormone. Peak levels of GH in the bloodstream may be higher during sustained exercise than the peak levels observed during sleep.

Research has recently revealed physical exercise can continue to stimulate GH release in older adults, and that regular training can enhance GH release even further to overcome some of the harmful effects of age on GH secretion.3 Proper exercise is so powerful it appears to offset some of the factors (e.g., age) which serve to impair GH release.

The magnitude of hormone release is influenced by one's level of physical fitness, experience with weight training, intensity and duration of exercise (weight training as well as endurance training), and the amount of power put out by the muscles. Scientists have conducted specific studies on the effects of different weight-training programs on GH release. As it turns out, the type of weight-training program used may be critical released.

Findings from an important study conducted in the past help shed some light on the connection between different intensities of weight training on GH release. In this investigation researchers studied GH release in relation to weight-training programs of equal work output and duration but using different loads and repetitions.4 They measured GH levels during the performance of two different weight-training programs which both involved 7 sets and rest periods of 2.5 minutes between sets. Test subjects did a leg press for a total exercise time of about 21 minutes in each program. The researchers took blood samples frequently to study the GH response to the two methods of muscle loading. They found that a moderately heavy leg press (85 percent of a 7-rep max, which converts to about 60 percent of a 1-rep max) done for a fairly low 7 reps resulted in significant increases in GH release, whereas a program using very light loads (about 30 percent of a 7-rep max, which converts to about 18 percent of a 1-rep max) and a much higher 21 reps did not significantly influence GH release. The increase in GH after lifting 85 percent of a 7-rep load for 7 sets began near the end of the leg-pressing session and continued to higher and higher levels, peaking about 15 minutes after the end of the exercise. The increase in GH release was significant and about two and a half times that observed before the subjects started the exercise session. Later work has confirmed an increased GH release in response to weight training in both men and women lifting to a 10-rep max for each of 5 sets of leg presses after they did a few preliminary exercises.

In addition to lifting, submaximal aerobic training is another form of exercise known t produce GH-pulsing. Tests have demonstrated that submaximal aerobic exercise at about 75 percent of max for approximately 20 minutes,6 or exercising at a slightly lowe level (about 65 to 75 percent of aerobic maximum) for 45 minutes3 will produce a strong GH pulse. In the latter study older subjects also had a pronounced GH response.

INTERACTION BETWEEN GH STIMULATION AND INHIBITION

Proper arrangement of known stimulatory and inhibitory factors is important to obtain the best GH effect. The two events must be separated so that inhibitory events do not block the stimulatory ones and limit GH release. The goal is to stimulate GH and then later allow other inhibitory events to occur (encouraging a "pulse and trough" phenom-enon) without direct competition between the two. Of the possible inhibitory factors affecting GH release, ingestion of glucose or carbohydrate is one of the most important. It exerts an extremely potent suppressing effect on GH-pulsing. One should never combine lifestyle factors which induce GH release with carbohydrate ingestion of any type or amount. An example will serve to clarify this point.

I observed the GH-blocking effect of a very small amount of carbohydrate during the course of conducting one of my research projects. One subject had mistakenly drunk about 3 ounces of fruit juice (only 50 calories of simple sugar) immediately before undergoing a rigorous 20-minute exercise session on a motor-driven treadmill. 1 was conducting the treadmill exercise test specifically to provoke GH release. When the blood samples were analyzed for GH, I was unable to find any GH response to the exercise. I was unprepared for this result because I had performed the same test weeks earlier and found a significant elevation in GH in the same person. Only a small amount of sugar had totally blocked this subject's ability to secrete GH during exercise.

Since GH-pulsing is so critical to its biological effect, one might reasonably expect enhanced bodybuilding gains if one arranges stimuli within the day to maximize GH-pulsing. You can achieve this situation by spacing workouts and meals to increase pulsing and getting ample sleep at night to augment nocturnal release of GH. But remember, GH-stimulation techniques should not coincide with high carbohydrate intakes as this nutrient is known to block GH release.

MECHANISM OF EXERCISE-INDUCED RELEASE

Bodybuilders need to know that lactic acid in the muscle may be an important mediator of GH release. It could be a key factor in determining the growth potential in response to weight training. You may have to experience a burn in the working muscles while weight training to stimulate the release of GH. Low-rep sets (i.e. fewer than 7) with too much weight (more than 70 percent of a 1-rep max) are not desirable for pure muscle growth because you won't achieve the best combination of burn and load. This approach will compromise your ability to directly stimulate the muscle and impair the stimulus for natural GH release. High-rep sets (i.e. 12 to 25) can produce a high degree of lactic acid in the muscle.

One must be careful to distinguish a "friendly" burning sensation in the muscle caused by the normal production of lactic acid from that of an injury which produces a burning sensation from muscle, tendon or ligament damage. The latter is obviously not what I am referring to in this article. Release of lactic acid is desirable and should not be avoided. The production of lactic acid, however, should be controlled so that workout performance is not significantly hindered. Utilize a system of training which will avoid an untimely excess accumulation of lactic acid in specific muscle areas (that will adversely affect workout performance), but yet will still allow enough lactic acid to be produced to stimulate GH release and achieve the subsequent benefits to muscle mass growth.

SUMMARY

The idea is to accelerate muscle growth and bodyfat loss by striving to increase the number of GH pulses appearing during a 24-hour period. You can accomplish this goal with a carefully prepared program of diet, exercise, nutritional supplementation and rest in which you separate each attempt at GH manipulation from the others by several hours. In this way GH-pulsing can occur more frequently in response to the repetitious arrangement of stimulatory events. Although successfully promoting GH-pulsing is a complicated process, accelerated gains await those who carefully space stimulatory techniques throughout the day to promote its release.




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