The Misunderstood Hormone
Hormones and Exercise
Homones are chemical messengers that regulate function and behavior of the body’s organs. Certain hormones are very important when it comes to losing fat and building muscle. One of these hormones is Human Growth Hormone or HGH. A lot of people have misconceptions of what HGH is and what it isn’t. Many associate HGH with anabolic steroids, when in fact they are very different. HGH is a vital hormone for keeping fat off your waist and maintaining or even accumulating lean body mass. It is produced naturally by your body and is influenced by factors such as exercise and sleep.
Let’s Get Rid of the Myth
HGH is a natural hormone that is in everyone’s body, anabolic steroids are not. Anabolic steroids are a synthetic version of testosterone (male sex hormone) and are not produced naturally. They are different in couple important ways.
- HGH is produced by our pituitary gland. HGH stimulates protein formation from amino acids already within your body. Anabolic steroids on the other hand bind to androgen receptors blocking natural hormones (cortisol) from binding.
- HGH supplementation has not been shown to increase sport performance. Anabolic steroids on the other hand very clearly increase sport performance.
All of that being said, HGH supplementation is banned in most sports. While there may be certain instances where a doctor prescribes HGH to treat a medical condition, there is no need and no one should attempt to use HGH supplements unless under a doctor’s recommendation.
Why is it Important?
Well for one it inhibits the storage of glucose and fat while increasing lean body mass. HGH influences changes in body composition; fat mass decreases significantly and lean body mass increases (Momaya, Fawal, & Estes, 2015). In a recent study completed by Betts, Johnson, Wise & Young (2019) they note “it can facilitate building muscle mass, it’s main role is to promote healing of muscle and other tissues after strenuous exercise.” In other words, if you are looking to lose weight, build muscle and/or recover from a musculoskeletal injury, HGH is very important.
What Factors Influence HGH Production in the Body?
Intense training over short periods of time, as little as 10 minutes, produce the greatest response in growth hormone production. Endurance training on the other hand causes a reduction of the exercise induced growth hormone response (Norris, 2010). Use of heavy acute heavy resistance training also leads to increases in HGH in both men and women. Interestingly, women respond by producing greater amounts of HGH then men, however, men produced elevated amounts of HGH for a longer period of time (Hui Ying Luk et al, 2015.)
Ever wonder why magazines, nutritionists, doctors and personal trainers tell you that getting a goodnights sleep will help with weight loss goals? Your body produces most of its HGH while you are sleeping, in men roughly 70% of HGH is secreted during the first phase of slow-wave sleep. As we get older the amount of HGH our body produces decreases significantly. Therefore, it becomes even more important that we get a goodnights sleep (Van Cauter & Plat, 1996). As we already discussed above, HGH reduces fat and increases lean body mass. If you are attempting to lose weight, HGH is a very important hormone. Therefore, in order to obtain the benefit of this hormone a goodnights sleep is very important.
Another factor that determines the amount of growth hormone your body produces is how often you eat. Fasting enhances growth hormone production. Thus, people who take long breaks between meals or eat infrequently may have higher levels of growth hormone. This makes sense as in a starvation situation the body would try to preserve lean muscle mass and burn fat for fuel; the two things that growth hormone does very well.
As mentioned above, HGH is a natural hormone that your body produces. It helps prevent accumulation of body fat, build muscle and recover after intense exercise. Factors such as exercise and sleep greatly affect the body’s ability to produce HGH. Supplementation with HGH is not necessary, studies have shown no increase in performance attributed to HGH supplementation. In addition, supplementation is banned in most sports and athletes caught using HGH supplementation face severe consequences. Despite the fact that this hormone has gotten a bad name due to its (incorrect) comparison to anabolic steroids, it is a hormone that contributes to our health and wellness. Hopefully, this breakdown of human growth hormone helps shed a little bit of light on why it is important, how our body produces it, and its benefits.
Betts, J.G., Johnson, E., Wise, J.A., Young, K.A. (2019) Anatomy and Physiology—OpenStax CNX. Retrieved August 21, 2019, from https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/10-6-exercise-and-muscle-performance
H.Y. Luk, et al., Acute resistance exercise stimulates sex-specific dimeric immunoreactive growth hormone responses, Growth Horm. IGF Res. (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ghir.2015.02.002
Momaya, A., Fawal, M., & Estes, R. (2015). Performance-enhancing substances in sports: A review of the literature. Sports Medicine, 45(4), 517-531. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/docview/1681270865?accountid=8289
Norris, D. (2010). Hormones and Exercise. Journal of the Council on Nutrition of the American Chiropractic Association.33(3). Pg: 22-23.
Van Cauter, E., Plat, L. (1996) Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep. The Journal of Pediatrics. 125(5 Pt 2): Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8627466