Every bodybuilder and muscle building enthusiast has certainly heard of human growth hormone.
This chemical messenger, secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain, instructs the body to grow—not just in height during the developmental years, but this chemical continues to be produced throughout adulthood, yielding various instructions to the body.
Growth hormone comes in different forms, about 100 variations (the result of the hormone’s molecules sometimes fragmenting to produce smaller pieces, and sometimes these smaller pieces then lump together to create a molecule that’s bigger than the original).
It’s composed of 191 amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
Most research on this chemical has focused on the 22kiladalton form, which is a unit of molecular size. The 22kiladalton form is released in a pulsating way from the pituitary.
Most of the release occurs after exercise (intense or heavy weight lifting, and highly intense cardio activity) and during sleep.
Growth hormone (i.e., the 22kiladalton size), promotes the growth of connective tissue (collagen), which has strong implications for muscle building.
This is why growth hormone from extraneous sources (e.g., injections) is much sought after by some athletes for whom muscle size and power are important for their sports or goals.
Growth hormone doesn’t have a direct effect on the size or power of muscles (as some believe); it has an indirect effect by strengthening the connective tissue of the musculoskeletal system.
One of the reasons for the myth that growth hormone outright increases muscle strength and size is that its effect can cause an increase in the diameter of the muscle belly, such as the biceps bellies.
This enlargement is from a growth of the connective tissue about the biceps, rather than an increase in the size or power of the contractile proteins within the biceps tissue, or an increase in volume of the “metabolic machinery” in the sarcoplasm of the muscle cell.
In short, growth hormone will not make a bodybuilder or power lifter stronger.
The increase is in the collagen or connective tissue only, but this result allows the athlete to train harder. Harder training begets greater results. The effects of growth hormone don’t stop there.
This compound is one of the most powerful fat burners known to natural science. It facilitates the mobilization of fat from fat cells—this fat is then used for the production of energy: fat burning.
This is crucial for people seeking physique development because more growth hormone means a lower body fat percentage.
It’s clear that to the muscle building athlete, elevating the circulating levels of growth hormone is a much desired goal. The big question then is: What is the best way to increase growth hormone levels naturally?
This is accomplished by exercise—a certain breed of exercise in particular: bodybuilding.
The classic scheme for bodybuilding is lifting loads for an 8-12 rep max (meaning, a ninth to 13th rep is not possible), with 45-60 seconds of rest in between sets (some schools of thought include rests up to 90 seconds).
This is why savvy fitness professionals prescribe this protocol to clients whose No. 1 goal is to slash body fat.
The boost in growth hormone with this training protocol is tremendous.
Anecdotal evidence of the power of growth hormone for burning fat is that, typically, the muscle building athlete has visibly far less fat in the waist and abdominal area than does the person who either concentrates more on power lifting (very heavy weight, low reps), or who focuses on long-distance running or lengthy and frequent aerobics sessions.
It also explains why women who bodybuild (and eat accordingly) have such tiny, tight waists, while a woman can do all the training in the world with light weights and still have a pudgy waistline—light weights will not boost growth hormone, the mighty fat burner.
Other Exercise That Increases Growth Hormone
High intensity interval training (HIIT) substantially elevates this hormone.
Long slow (steady state) cardio such as an hour-long jog at 5 mph does not unleash this fat burner.
The general rule in HIIT is to forcefully do cardio (sprinting, running up hills, fast and furious pedaling, jumping) enough to bring on exhaustion within 30 seconds, and alternate this with a few minutes of casual pacing, for eight cycles of work/casual pacing.
The third way to expedite growth hormone release is through sleep. Though this chemical messenger is normally produced during sleep, one must not assume that any ‘ol sleep will release maximal amounts.
If eight hours of sound sleep are accomplished after midnight, less growth hormone will be released than if some of those eight hours occur prior to midnight.
For greater growth hormone release, sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. rather than midnight to 8 a.m. and especially rather than from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., whenever possible. Think of how primitive man slept; the absence of oil lamps meant he lived by sunlight and moonlight.
He pretty much had no choice but to go to sleep once it was pitch dark outside, which occurred hours before midnight, and he arose once daylight broke at dawn.
Modern man is up way past the time his body has been programmed by nature to start sleeping, living by the artificial light of light bulbs, the TV and the computer, and this disrupts the natural circadian rhythm.
If one falls asleep at around 10 p.m., growth hormone production will sharply rise and peak, then start dropping off at around 1 a.m., and sharply drop off by 3 a.m. Part of optimizing muscle building should be trying to fall asleep by 10 p.m.
Eating For Growth Hormone Release
Workouts should be at least 2-3 hours after eating a meal, since the presence of higher insulin levels (triggered by food) stunts growth hormone release. Optimal growth hormone secretion will occur if workouts are conducted in this fashion.
To unleash growth hormone, there is no need to rely upon extraneous sources; the proper exercise and sleeping habits will do the job wonderfully.