If there was ever a hormone you’d want for a best friend, it would be human growth hormone.
While it’s often associated with steroid use, human growth hormone (HGH) is so much more than a tool to increase muscle mass. In fact, once you learn all the benefits of HGH, you’ll probably want to do what you can to take advantage of it – naturally.
HGH also plays a role in:
- Increasing lean muscle mass
- Decreasing fat tissue
- Increasing bone density
- Fat and sugar metabolism
- Increasing testosterone levels
HGH’s effects are so potent it’s now called the “fountain of youth” hormone due to its ability to turn back the aging clock.
What is Human Growth Hormone?
So what exactly is HGH, and what makes it so powerful?
Secreted by the pituitary gland, HGH is an anabolic hormone responsible for spurring growth throughout childhood and adolescence, granting us the lean, muscular frame we often carry during these years.
This growth effect is mimicked when HGH is taken in supplement form, resulting in rapid changes in body composition resulting in leanness and added muscle.
It’s also responsible for collagen and muscle tissue synthesis, which is one of the major reasons HGH is known for its anti-aging effects, especially in skin elasticity (1).
Now, you might be thinking, “Excellent! How do I kickstart my HGH production and/or where can I pick up a bottle (or 10)?”
Unfortunately, there are two major caveats when it comes to HGH.
One: natural HGH production begins to decline once we reach our 20s, resulting in a progressive loss of muscle mass and increase in fat tissue.
This loss continues at about 10 to 15 percent each year after the age of 30 and leads to the standard symptoms of aging like sagging skin, loss of energy and endurance, and graying hair.
Two: while HGH injections are a popular option for the elderly and children with deficiencies and growth disorders, supplement use by the general population is still illegal.
Which means we’re left to our own devices when it comes to increasing our HGH levels.
Human Growth Hormone Stimulators
Luckily, there are several simple ways to naturally boost our levels of HGH, without supplements or injections.
Take a look below at the top three ways we can boost this youth hormone.
1. Deep Sleep
Human growth hormone is released not in a continuous flow, but in pulses. And some of these major “pulses” occur during deep sleep.
This occurs because growth hormone plays a role in repairing and restoring the body, which often takes place during our slumber.
But not just any slumber. Specifically, our brains secrete growth hormone during the third stage of the sleep cycle, when our brain temperature, breathing and heart rates, and blood pressure are all at their lowest levels (2).
To get to this stage, we have to bypass stage two, which is where most adults usually spend 45 to 50 percent of their time asleep.
To optimize HGH levels, we want to get into that third stage of sleep, also known as the “slow wave” stage (3). This requires a deep level of sleep that is often interrupted either by our sleep environment, stress, diet, or any one of a number of factors.
So, to get the growth hormone release we want, we have to employ tactics to help us sleep more deeply, more often.
How to Sleep More Deeply (3 Ways)
Even though we might know that deep sleep is good for us and helps to stimulate growth hormone, getting enough of it can be a real challenge.
Check out these tips for longer, deeper sleep.
1. Get more rays.
Sunlight plays a key role in the secretion of melatonin – a hormone produced in the pineal gland responsible for our sleep-wake cycles.
Getting more sunlight during the day naturally helps the body signal the release of melatonin when it gets dark at night. The release makes us feel sleepy and ready for bed.
2. Get (less) technical.
Those seemingly harmless devices we often carry into bed (tablets, phones, etc.) actually work against us when it comes to sleep.
The artificial blue light emitted from the screens actually disturbs normal hormone levels, disrupting our sleep cycles (4).
That’s why I recommend removing the TV from your bedroom, and also avoiding bright screens 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
3. Limit caffeine.
Obviously, you don’t want to guzzle down a fully caffeinated cup of coffee before going to bed, but you should also try to limit caffeine during the day.
Why? Caffeine does a number on your hormones and metabolism that can potentially play a role in getting a deep sleep (5).
A few other tricks to get a deeper sleep include: developing a regular bedtime, supplementing with magnesium, and creating a sleep journal noting anything that effects your sleep.
Believe it or not, abstaining from eating is also one of the best ways to stimulate human growth hormone. In fact, in one study, fasting caused participants serum growth hormone levels to increase by a whopping 500 percent (6)!
Now (before panic sets in), know that I’m not talking about embarking on a month-long water fast in order to boost growth hormone.
By “fasting,” I’m actually referring to what is termed as intermittent fasting. This type of fasting involves eating daily, but only in a certain window of time.
For instance, the most popular form of intermittent fasting involves simply skipping breakfast and eating your first meal at lunch time. In doing this, you’ll essentially be performing a daily 14- to 16-hour fast from dinner the night before to lunch the next day.
At this point you may be thinking (due to years of conventional wisdom and conditioning) that skipping any meal is a recipe for a wrecked metabolism.
Studies show that fasting for short periods of time actually has no effect on metabolism. In fact, researchers have found there is no difference in calories burned over a 24-hour period between people who eat breakfast and those that skip it altogether (7).
The breakfast skipper’s metabolisms were unharmed by daily fasting and there was no “boosting” of the breakfast eater’s metabolisms.
So much for those promises of breakfast “kickstarting” our metabolisms, right?
To try out fasting for yourself, simply start by skipping breakfast a few days a week to see how you feel. One thing to remember, however, is to not ingest any calories during the “fasting” period – no milk or sugar in your tea, no juices, etc.
How to Fast
If your last meal is at 6 p.m., then your fast will begin from 9 p.m. (our bodies take about 3 hours to digest a main meal), which means your 16-hour fast will end around 1 p.m. the next day.
Notice the shorter window of eating time. If you find this daunting at first, feel free to increase your fast time by an hour every day until you feel more comfortable not eating breakfast.
[Related: How to Do Intermittent Fasting: 19 Popular Questions Answered]
3. Intense Exercise
As with deep sleep, intense exercise has also been shown to act as a natural human growth hormone stimulator.
There are several theories why this occurs, but researchers agree that it seems to be in response to the breaking down of muscle – including resistance training and any other form of exercise that involves significant intensity (8).
It’s true: regardless of the activity, it really is all in the intensity.
So, how can we, as non-professional athletes, get the intensity levels required to produce more growth hormone?
The answer is high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
HIIT involves alternating periods of high-intensity activity (sprints, circuit training, etc.) with short periods of rest, for a total of 15 to 30 minutes of exercise.
[Related: 5 Powerful Jump Rope HIIT Workouts (#2 Is My Favorite)]
A simple HIIT workout can include sprints, jump rope, cycling, rowing, and/or circuit training with or without weights. The key is to go all out in effort during your “work” phase.
For instance, you do sprints at maximum effort for 30 seconds, then recover for 60 seconds, repeating for a total of 15 to 30 minutes. Know that you can slowly increase the duration your sprint time or decrease your rest time if you’re a beginner.
Three Ways to Boost HGH
Combining these three human growth hormone stimulators into your daily routine will have you naturally increasing you levels without the need for injections or additional supplements.
Get ready to sleep, fast, and HIIT your way to increased muscle (and, perhaps, the fountain of youth!).
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