Most serious weight trainers are aware that they need to stimulate their natural production of anabolic hormones to maximize muscle gains from workouts. However, for most people — especially men — this translates to increasing testosterone levels. While that’s undoubtedly beneficial, it’s not the end of the story. If you’re trying to build quality muscle mass, you also need to focus on boosting natural levels of growth hormone.
One important difference between trying to boost your testosterone compared to growth-hormone levels is that supplements are much more crucial for boosting growth hormone. When you combine training, recovery and a healthy whole-foods program designed to support muscle building, you’ll see a natural spike in your testosterone levels. To get the absolute most growth hormone out of your body, though, it’s especially critical to focus on supplementation and training. The following list offers some of the best strategies for boosting growth-hormone levels.
TRAINING FOR GROWTH
Research has demonstrated that there are certain training techniques that increase growth-hormone levels compared to other training protocols. In general, working out with weights causes a spike in GH levels. The body releases GH to drive the anabolic effects that build muscle mass. Several hours after workouts, though, GH levels gradually return to normal preworkout levels. These training strategies help take GH levels higher for longer periods, enhancing the ability to add muscle mass.
• Warm up. To get the best GH response from your training, begin with a five- to 10-minute cardio warm-up. This will raise the body’s core temperature, which increases GH response after the workout is over. After that, perform two to three warm-up sets of your first weighted exercise (16 to 20 reps with a light weight). This, too, will improve your GH response.
* Emphasize multi-joint exercises. The body releases more GH when you train more intensely. Multi-joint exercises such as squats, pull-ups, deadlifts and bench presses require more intense effort per rep because they recruit more muscles than single-joint moves. While you also should include some single-joint exercises for adding muscular detail, build your program around these key multi-joint moves for greater GH release. Include at least one multi-joint move in every weight-training session, and perform multiple (four to six) working sets.
* Perform 12 to 20 sets per muscle group. The goal in increasing growth-hormone levels, just as it is in increasing mass, is to fatigue muscles. When muscles reach fatigue, growth-hormone levels go up (scientists believe GH levels are associated with lactic-acid levels, but they’re not sure how), and research shows that you need to perform a certain amount of work for a muscle group to sufficiently reach fatigue. Perform one set of an exercise to failure, and your body can easily buffer the amount of lactic acid produced. But fatiguing your muscles by pounding them with set after set of work produces a lactic-acid tidal wave that the body can’t do anything with. And that’s where higher GH levels begin.
* Perform eight to 12 reps per set.
Because GH levels increase with intensity, you need to lift a fairly significant amount of weight in each set to achieve that intensity. Working within the eight- to 12-rep range allows you to achieve and sustain that intensity. Be sure to reach failure on each set.
* Use short rest periods. One of the best ways to increase intensity — and, thus, GH response — is to rest for only 60 to 90 seconds between sets. Long rests allow you to recover more, but they also undercut your body’s ability to maximize GH levels. Keep your rests short, and reduce the weights a bit, if necessary, to make certain that you’re still able to reach failure in the 8- to 12-rep range for your next set.
* Perform cardio after weights. While you want to warm-up before training, you don’t want to overdo it with your cardio before you hit the weights because that will undercut your GH response. Instead, perform your cardio after your weight training. Studies have shown that GH levels are three times higher when cardio is performed after weight training compared to before weight training.
SUPPLEMENTING FOR GROWTH
While M&P recommends following a higher-protein, whole-food nutrition program for enhancing muscle gains, the reality is that your supplementation regimen will help boost growth-hormone levels more than your nutrition program. These are the supplements you should include in your daily protocol.
• Soy protein: You know that protein helps build muscle mass, but you may not know that soy protein in particular helps boost GH levels. Soy protein is especially high in arginine and lysine, two amino acids associated with higher GH levels. Researchers have demonstrated that taking soy protein leads to a greater GH response than a comparable amount of arginine and lysine.
Dose: Add 20 grams of soy protein to your whey shakes before workouts.
• Arginine: While soy protein may boost GH levels more than arginine, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also supplement with arginine. Arginine is best known for boosting nitric-oxide production, but research shows that supplementing with arginine also boosts GH levels because it reduces growth hormone-inhibiting hormone (GHIH).
Dose: Take 5 grams of arginine four times a day: upon waking, before training, after workouts and before bedtime.
* Ornithine: Less common than soy protein or arginine, ornithine is a nonessential amino acid that your body produces from arginine. Similar to arginine, ornithine helps reduce the release of GHIH, allowing your body to produce more GH.
Dose: Take 2 to 3 grams of ornithine on an empty stomach on the same schedule as arginine.
* Carnitine: Carnitine is another amino acid that can help boost natural GH levels. Interestingly, research demonstrates that it works well with ornithine.
Dose: Take a gram of acetyl-L-carnitine on an empty stomach at the same time that you take arginine and ornithine.
* GABA: A modified amino acid, gamma aminobutyric acid works as a neurotransmitter, affecting the pituitary gland, where GH is produced. GABA binds to receptors on this gland, stimulating the release of GH. GABA is also known for its calming effects.
Dose: Start by taking 2 grams about an hour before bedtime. Increase that dose by a gram every two weeks or until you’re taking the optimal dosage of 5 grams per day.
* Mucuna pruriens: Also known as cowhage or velvet bean, this herb has been shown to increase growth-hormone levels. It does so by providing the amino acid L-dopa, which converts to dopamine, the chemical responsible for proper brain function. Dopamine helps prevent muscles from becoming overly tense or trembling or twitching during (and after) workouts. In addition, it contains secretagogues that boost the natural release of GH.
Dose: Take one to two 800-milligram doses of Mucuna pruriens early in the day, with breakfast, lunch or a preworkout meal.
* Glutamine: This amino acid is the most prevalent in the human body and performs multiple physiological functions. Research has demonstrated that small supplemental doses of glutamine boost GH levels in the period immediately after consumption.
Dose: Take 5 grams of glutamine up to four times a day. The most crucial times are before workouts and before bedtime. Also consider taking it upon rising and after training.
It’s no secret that it’s more challenging for women to add muscle mass than it is for men. One of the reasons for this is obvious — women produce far less testosterone than men do. Because it’s not really possible for women to naturally increase testosterone levels, they’re automatically more dependent on growth hormone for increasing muscle mass.
All the strategies in this article are equally effective for women, and the physical benefits of elevated GH levels can be tremendous. Not only does GH assist in the building of lean muscle mass, but it also may reverse visible signs of aging because it can enhance the skin’s elasticity and overall appearance. Other benefits include improved sense of emotional well-being, increased stamina and endurance, improved sleep, and better cardiovascular health.
These supplements will help increase growth-hormone levels.
The Vitamin Shoppe L-Arginine-Ornithine
The Vitamin Shoppe 100% Soy Protein
Olympian Labs NuSoma
Dymatize Nutrition Xpand AM-PM Perpetual Pump