Raising Growth Hormone with Exercise
Reference: Godfrey Sports Med
Date July 27, 2015
You want muscle. More is better (up to a point). And we lose a bit every year as we age. We also lose growth hormone as we age. Growth hormone is your repair hormone. Yes, it makes you grow when you are a little tyke, but it also fixes you. And it helps you grow muscle. It peaks when you are about 15-20 years old. Growth hormone is actually quite elusive and difficult to measure because we secrete it at night in tiny pulses that only last a few minutes. It is a pretty big molecule, with 191 amino acids weighing about 20 kilodaltons (not much). Now, when you exercise, you secrete a slightly altered form that weighs 22 kilodaltons and can be detected by the ratio of the 20 to the 22. The change in this ratio is how you can tell an athlete is cheating and taking extra on the side.
Growth hormone stimulates your body makes a hormone in your liver called IGF-1. We can measure IGF-1 easily as it hangs around in your blood a bit longer. It becomes our defacto measurement of growth hormones. An IGF-1 of about 450 is what you have as a teenager. It progressively declines as you age, hitting 150 by age 50 or so. Once you are below 100, bad things start to happen with reliable frequency. And at virtually any age, low IGF-1 will sort out those who are doing well, or those who aren’t with any given illness/condition/malady. And, best of all, growth hormone helps you modulate your fat/muscle ratio.
Ok, if you have such importance with growth hormone, IGF-1, how can we control it and keep it higher? That is the holy grail of wellness. Keep my growth hormone up there! This is where exercise comes in.
Turns out exercise has some of its magic mediated through growth hormone. But it takes a specific kind of exercise. Not just any will do, at least by our current standards. You have to get to the point of lactate. That means walking around the park, which will burn some calories and help you feel better, isn’t enough. You have to get to the point of “failure”, meaning pushing yourself to the limit of what you can do. One way of doing that would be to run like crazy for 30 seconds, then rest for 90 seconds. Then run like crazy for 30 seconds…..repeat, repeat, repeat for 6-7 reps. Another method would be weight lifting to the point of “failure”. Take any given weight that feels a bit heavier than you can manage, and curl it up with your biceps. Repeat the curl until you can’t do anymore. If you can do more than 10, you need a heavier weight. If you fail at about 8 or so, that’s what we want. We want your muscle to be pushing to the point of failure, because that’s when you make lactate. Lactate is the product of glucose being burned without oxygen – and is the final desperate step of making energy when all else fails. Rest and repeat. Go for at least 10 minutes. That’s it! 10 minutes. And then, growth hormone surges for a couple of days. Rest for a day or two.
Longer, aerobic type exercise doesn’t do it. Nor will just one single bout. You need repeated bouts over 24 hours. Sounds like Cross Fit to me.
WWW. What will work for me. I walk quite a lot. There is good evidence that walking does good things for you. But intense exercise is the magic for growth hormone release. You have to get sweaty. And you have to “fail”. I need to add high intensity to my jogging. I’ve started 3 bouts of intense sprinting in my 2 mile jog. The nice thing is that I get to walk for 45 seconds after the sprint. (Definition of sprint is very, very loose here.) Or, how about Yoga till “exhaustion”, or Crossfit, or spinning, or…..? You pick.
- Growth hormone declines with aging. T or F
True. The IGF – 1 measure drops from 450 to 100 or less by age 60
- Growth hormone is a protein hormone, 191 amino acids long.
True. That’s the main one, but you make several others when you exercise. The 191 model is the synthetic
- Walking around the park at a 4 mile clip will release my growth hormone. T or F
Not much. It might help a little but current research methods suggest that is not enough.
- Running 5 miles a day will raise my growth hormone. T or F
False. It will more likely lower it.
- Weight lifting to the point of failure damages my muscles. T or F
True, and that’s what makes you make growth hormone to repair them and make them stronger. That little bit of damage is what you want.