Growth hormone is sometimes dubbed the “youth hormone” because of the role it plays in reducing body fat and preserving lean body mass. Clinics have sprung up around the country that offer injections to help restore levels of growth hormone that decline with aging. No one knows the long-term safety of this practice, and growth hormone injections are too expensive for most people’s pocketbooks. So, this isn’t something most experts recommend. Fortunately you can boost growth hormone levels naturally by making simple lifestyle changes.
Growth hormone is an anabolic hormone that boosts cell and muscle growth. When you lift heavy weights at the gym, your pituitary gland pumps out more growth hormone to help muscles build and repair. Growth hormone also helps to preserve bone density and reduces body fat. No wonder bodybuilders want to increase their levels of this muscle-building, fat-burning hormone. Growth hormone has other functions too. It boosts immune function and helps to preserve cognitive function so you don’t lose your memory as you grow older.
Unfortunately, levels of growth hormone start declining as early as age 21 and continue their downward spiral as you age. This accounts for some of the common signs of aging such as loss of lean body mass and increased abdominal fat that appear during the second half of life. It also helps to reduce skin thinning. So age-related drops in growth hormone may also contribute to skin wrinkling.
One of the best ways to boost growth hormone levels naturally is by exercising. Simply going out and taking a leisurely walk won’t raise growth hormone levels significantly. The key is to workout at a higher intensity. Resistance training where you max out by lifting as heavily as you can is particularly effective for elevating growth hormone levels. This boosts muscle growth and fat burning even after your workout is over. But max out your workout no more than twice a week. Muscles need time to repair too.
What about endurance or cardiovascular exercise where you get your heart rate up for longer periods of time? Endurance exercise increases growth hormone levels too, but you’ll get more growth hormone benefits if you increase the intensity of your workout. Running is better than walking, but you need to gradually raise the intensity if you’re not conditioned. Longer duration exercise boosts growth hormone levels too, but if you’re working out at a high intensity, you won’t be able to go as long. Choose higher intensity over longer duration since this maximizes the overall metabolic effect of working out.
Another way to maximize growth hormone levels is to get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. Growth hormone is maximally secreted at the onset of deep sleep. Studies show when you skimp on sleep, you’re more likely to gain abdominal fat, which may be related to declines in growth hormone from lack of sleep. Stop those late-nights in front of the television or computer screen if you want to maximize your growth hormone levels and avoid age-related weight gain.
There are benefits to maximizing your growth hormone levels as you age, but do it safely through exercise and adequate sleep. Talk to your doctor before doing high-intensity exercise.
FOR A MORE DETAILED EXPLANATION:
Fitness Prescription. April 2007.
Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 85: 3597-3603. 2000.