Are You Growing Muscle – or Growing Fat? How to Naturally Improve Growth Hormone Production
Growth Hormone is not something most people stop to think about. Yet everyone wants to stay young (or at least look young) and feel energetic. Well, growth hormone plays a significant role here and quite possibly you are doing things that directly limit growth hormone production. Lets explore 2 very important variables that are under your control.
The amount of growth hormone you produce begins to drop as you approach middle age. A harsh lifestyle that is loaded with toxins, bad food, poor sleep and lack of exercise can accelerate this drop. The two elements that have the greatest effect on your daily growth hormone production are SLEEP & EXERCISE. But first lets detail the role of growth hormone and its benefits.
Growth hormone increases your resting metabolic rate, which translates into more fat burning. It stimulates the use of fat for fuel, which is what we all want. It also increases lean muscle mass and aids recovery of muscle damage after exercise. The bone and skeletal system also benefit with increased bone density. And lastly growth hormone stimulates the immune system to keep us healthy. So we have a vested interest in being nice to our growth hormone production yet many people engage in destructive habits that insult this function on a daily basis resulting in decline of their health.
EXERCISE is the most potent stimulus for the release of growth hormone. In fact the performance on “interval training” (short periods of high intensity sprints) can increase your growth hormone production 5 fold. Long slow training such as a slow jog for an hour will not come near the explosive production of growth hormone that results from 15 to 20 minutes of intense sprints. If you really want to send your growth hormone soaring go explore Tabata intervals. I will be posting some information on Tabata intervals soon.
Ever notice the physical difference in the appearance of a marathon runner compared to a sprinter? Endurance sports such as running a marathon come with some inherent risk as they are overly stressful on the body causing elevation of cortisol, our stress hormone, and are catabolic (break down) to the body. Sprinting, if properly done and not excessively exploited is more anabolic (build up) resulting in more testosterone and growth hormone thus a different physical make up.
The other critical element is SLEEP. The biggest surge of growth hormone comes after your first hour of sleep. We experience multiple surges of growth hormone throughout the day but the vast majority happens during sleep and particularly during “slow wave” (deep) sleep. If you are experiencing interruptions in your sleep pattern, even just brief awakenings that allow you to return to sleep, this is a sign that you are likely not reaching the deepest most restorative level of sleep. Thus, you experience a reduction in growth hormone production. This can and should be fixed. Talk with a good integrative care physician who understands these issues as there is much more to the answer than simply taking a drug based sleeping pill.
If you snore then there is a significant chance that you have sleep apnea and this is a true killer. Sleep apnea increases your risk for heart disease by 70%. This is a big topic and beyond our discussion here but I mention it so that you can take action now by asking your doctor for a sleep study to uncover this poorly-sleeping giant.
Growth hormone killers – sugar and arginine. Buyer beware, if you are taking products that are intended to give your workout a bigger “pump” and more energy then you may be taking arginine and sugar in these products and these elements will kill your production of growth hormone. Sports drinks that contain sugar are your worst option for energy during a workout. Better options include resistant starch and branched chain amino acids. More on this later.
So . . . what to do:
- Start exploring and implementing interval style workouts once per week. Don’t do intervals every day as they are too stressful on the body. I will be posting information on interval training in the near future but go explore Tabata Intervals and Peak 8 Fitness.
- Make your sleep cycle a priority. Spend time designing your best sleep option to optimize your sleep pattern:
- darken the room with blackout blinds
- avoid fluids 2 hours before bedtime to avoid bathroom trips at 3am
- avoid excess caffeine and no coffee after 1PM
- get away form computer screens 2 hours before bedtime, that bright light in your face is telling your brain it’s “daytime”
- use natural sleep aids or simple magnesium to calm your mind
- meditation is a great habit that helps calm the brain.
3. Avoid sugar during and immediately after a workout as it will reduce your growth hormone production. In fact avoid sugar all day
4. Get clean sources of protein as this will support and stimulate proper growth hormone production.
Look for upcoming discussions on the impact of arginine on growth hormone as well as interval training. Oh, and by the way if you are considering the purchase of growth hormone for an easy solution, don’t bother. Multiple studies show that injecting growth hormone in a healthy adult did not improve sports performance. There was no improvement in VO2 max, endurance or strength.
The best option is to naturally support your body’s own production. Maybe more importantly stop interfering with your production by purposely missing sleep and eating sugar. These are critical changes that net gains in health far beyond your athletics pursuits.
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