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Hormones are chemical messengers of the body, and they are part of the endocrine system. They are produced by glands, and then they go into the bloodstream and travel to different tissues and organs, where they have multiple functions. They are essential for the regulation of heart rate, metabolism, appetite, mood, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, development and many more tasks in the human body.
Human growth hormone (HGH or just GH) is a protein, and it is also known as somatropin. It is produced by the pituitary gland that is located at the base of our brain. The secretion of HGH isn’t continuous, but it is rather released in a pulsating matter. It is crucial for children as it promotes growth and development, but it has a lot of positive effects on adults as well, as it boosts their metabolism and physical performance, and even helps live longer.
HGH production is under the influence of a complex set of hormones produced by the hypothalamus. HGH is mostly secreted during sleep and exercise, and typically, more of it is generated during the night.
Human growth hormone is mostly produced during deep sleep, so it naturally decreases with age due to the lack of deep sleep that old folks are getting. This decline is associated with cardiovascular disease, increased body weight especially body fat, osteoporosis, thinning and loss of hair, wrinkles, reduced libido, decreased energy and other symptoms. Many of these are also found in younger adults who have an HGH deficiency. There are several things you can do to boost your HGH production, but first, let’s see why it is so important.
Benefits of Human Growth Hormone
HGH is essential for kids, as they are growing, so for them to develop normally, they need to have appropriate levels of HGH. As much as it affects growth in children, lack of it hasn’t been found to harm a child’s intelligence.
There are many roles of HGH, and here are some of its benefits:
- It increases muscle strength. It was observed that HGH stimulates the synthesis of collagen in tendons and skeletal muscles, which improves strength and exercise performance. During the deep restorative sleep, when the HGH is mostly secreted, the brain also works to repair the body, which explains the effect that it has on muscles. Besides improving strength, it has been shown to improve body composition and thermoregulation.
- It improves fracture healing. HGH and numerous growth factors HGH affects have a significant role in regulating bone and mineral metabolism. HGH has been shown to speed up regeneration of the bones, and help with the wound healing in general.
- It enhances weight loss. HGH speeds up fat burning. Obese people were found to be less responsive to HGH and losing extra weight improved their body’s response to it. Sticking to a healthy diet, exercising, and potential HGH treatment can have a huge role in weight loss for heavier people.
- It is vital for healthy bones. Besides a role that it plays in fracture healing, it has an overall positive impact on the bone structure. It regulates bone growth, especially during puberty. It stimulates the production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which is produced in the liver and then distributed through the bloodstream. This duo induces bone production as well as bone resorption, leading to an increased bone mass. Their production decreases with age, which is a potential cause of osteoporosis in older adults.
- It reduces cardiovascular disease risk. Adults who suffer from HGH deficiency are more prone to cardiovascular disease and have a shorter life expectancy. They are usually overweight and have excess body fat, which additionally affects their health.
- It is responsible for male reproductive function. It also plays a role in sexual maturation, and lack of HGH can lead to erectile dysfunction and lack of sex drive.
- It decreases obesity. Insulin resistance, and excess body fat, especially on the belly, are pretty frequent with people with an HGH deficiency. HGH treatment showed to decrease visceral body fat in obese people, improve insulin sensitivity and decrease blood pressure.
- It improves mood and cognitive function. Treatment of people who were HGH deficient showed to improve mood, cognitive abilities, and concentration.
How Does Sleep Affect the Production of HGH?
Around 75% of the human growth hormone is produced during sleep. In healthy adults, it is typically created during the first period of Stage 3, also known as a deep or slow wave sleep. During this stage, HGH works to repair and restore your body and muscles from the stress they suffered the previous day.
Sleep deprivation means that there is less slow wave sleep, which leads to less HGH production. When a person experiences the lack of sleep, the body will try and make up for it by producing more the next time this person sleeps, which can disrupt circadian rhythms and normal HGH cycle.
We get more Stage 3 sleep during the first part of the night, so people who are working night shifts, or those who tend to stay up late are more at risk of disrupted HGH secretion. In the day after sleep loss occurred, secretion was showed to be decreased and more random.
What Are the Signs of Human Growth Hormone Deficiency?
The signs of HGH deficiency vary with age, and they are different in children and adults. Typical symptoms in children are:
- Being significantly shorter than other kids that are the same age
- Growing less than 2 inches per year
- Facial features that appear younger than in children of the same age
- Slow teeth development
- Slow hair growth
- Delayed puberty
- Increased fat around the stomach and the face
- Prominent forehead
Adults may experience:
- Depression or anxiety
- Thinning and loss of hair
- Decreased libido and sexual dysfunction
- Reduced muscle mass and strength
- Dry skin
- Impairment of memory and cognitive abilities
- Increased fat levels, especially around the waist
- High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Reduced bone density
- Insulin resistance
- Bad thermoregulation
- Increased weight
Are Human Growth Hormone Supplements Safe?
The production of HGH peaks at a young age, and then steadily declines with years. It is entirely normal, but the lack of HGH can also be due to sleep deprivation. This reduction in HGH levels can lead to weight gain, impaired physical and mental performance, reduced muscle mass, and it can increase chances of heart disease and diabetes.
HGH is available as a prescription medication, and it is in the form of an injection. It is given to children and with HGH deficiency. HGH therapy has been in use since the 1950s. The treatment has been shown to reverse some of the effects by the lack of HGH and to improve sleep. It increased muscle mass in adults, enhanced energy levels and exercise capacity, strengthened the bones and improved mood and cognitive abilities.
Unfortunately, there is a price to pay. Around 30% of patients experienced some sort of side effects. They include enlargement of toes and fingers, fluid retention, joint and muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, high blood sugar, lengthening of the jaw, expansion of some internal organs. Some of the side effects are very serious, and they can lead to a shorter life span. Make sure to consult with your doctor about HGH therapy, and tell them right away if you notice any of the mentioned side effects.
There has been a craze of creams and pills that were supposedly containing human growth hormone. It is not useful if ingested or put on the skin, so this was merely a marketing trick.
HGH and Athletic Performance
HGH got a bad reputation because it was abused by some athletes. It increases muscle mass, enhances performance and cognitive abilities, so it is only logical that it can help athletes achieve better results. While it can definitely help people who are suffering from HGH deficiency, the case with professional athletes is more complicated. It seems that at that level, it doesn’t have the desired effects, especially since they already have normal HGH levels.
HGH supplements are banned from every sport, and they don’t even contribute to better competition results. The people who try to use them put themselves at risk of getting banned from the sport they like, and from public humiliation without any hard proof of enhanced performance.
Tips for Boosting Your Human Growth Hormone Levels
There are natural ways to increase the production of HGH. You can try incorporating some of these into your daily routine for best results:
- Try high-intensity exercise. Incorporate high-intensity training two times a week on top of moderate exercise you should regularly be getting. It is proven to boost HGH levels, and it is one of the most effective ways to do so. Physical activity also increases the time we spend in the slow wave sleep, which additionally increases the production of HGH.
- Lose belly fat. It is observed that the visceral fat has an impact on HGH production. Losing belly fat is one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes, no matter what you do, it doesn’t seem to work, and even though you are losing fat everywhere else, your belly stays the same. Don’t worry, you will lose belly fat with the right diet, regular exercise, and sleep, as long as you remain persistent.
- Fast intermittently. Studies show that fasting is one of the great ways to increase your HGH production. Fasting for only two to three days can boost HGH levels by as much as 300%, which is a significant improvement. However, continuous fasting is not sustainable. Starving your body won’t do any good, and it might even make things worse. You can try one of the methods of intermittent fast, like eating your meals in eight hours during the day, and then not eating for the remaining 16. You can also try eating fewer calories for one or two days a week while keeping your regular diet for the rest of time.
- Lower your sugar intake. It is showed that the increase of insulin lowers your HGH levels. Refined carbs and sugar affect insulin levels the most, so you should avoid them. Excess sugar is also the main reason for weight gain and obesity, which additionally affects HGH production. Kick out the junk food, soft drinks, and everything with a lot of sugar in it, and aim for the healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Don’t overeat before bedtime. Huge meals usually spike your insulin levels, especially the ones full of sugar and protein. As we mentioned before, insulin interferes with HGH production, so you should avoid meals too close to bedtime. It is best to have dinner before 7 pm, and then eventually have a light snack if you still feel hungry before sleep.
- You can try different supplements. Some supplements have positive effects on HGH levels. It is mostly amino acids that active people take to boost muscle growth along with their exercise. You can try L-glutamine, beta-alanine, creatine, glycine, ornithine, L-arginine, A-GPC, and GABA. While these have a short term impact on HGH, long term effect is yet to be determined.
- Optimize your sleep. We can’t stress enough how important this one is, not just for HGH production, but pretty much for every aspect of your life. You should make your bedroom a comfortable environment for sleep. It should be dark, quiet, and at the right temperature. Remove any distractions, and develop a nice bedtime routine. Try to stay away from screens, and do an activity that relaxes you, like reading a book, meditating, breathing exercise or listening to some mellow music. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants that might keep you awake at night. Remember that most of the pulses are produced in the first part of the night, so don’t stay awake for too long, and be sure to maintain a steady sleep schedule.
- Try melatonin supplements. If you can’t seem to get adequate sleep time, melatonin supplements can be a good idea for you. Read more about them, consult with your doctor, and see if they may be a good fit.
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Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.