Training For Less Fat, More Muscle
How To Induce A Growth Hormone Response
Human growth hormone (hGH) has been a newsmaker because of athletes’ illicit use of synthetic versions of this hormone to help them perform better on the baseball diamond, football field, or bicycle race. Bodybuilders inject synthetic hGH to help sink bodyfat levels to single digits, all the while maintaining optimal muscle mass. The last ten years of exercise science has shown what type of fitness activities induce the greatest natural growth hormone response. Specific exercise and recovery activities have a positive effect on our body’s daily hGH production.
Human growth hormone (hGH) is secreted in a pulsatile fashion throughout the day. A number of physiological stimuli can initiate hGH release, the most powerful of which are sleep and exercise. Human growth hormone has many varied roles throughout your life. For adult athletes and fitness clients, hGH helps increase fat metabolism–you get leaner, enhance muscle recovery from challenging exercise or injury, you stay stronger, and produce a healthier body composition as you age.
Resistance training produces a significant exercise-induced growth hormone response (EIGR) that can last for 24 to 36 hours. The response is greatest with full body training sessions that involve multi joint lifts and carries. EIGR is not limited to traditional barbell or dumbbell training, but is also produced with the performance of bodyweight resistance training. The post training hGH response gets better as the trainees became more proficient (gets stronger) with strength training.
The exact mechanism that causes EIGR with anaerobic exercise is not known, but it appears to be related to higher lactic acid levels in the blood. The activities that produce the greatest EIGR are high intensity exercise intervals lasting at least 30 seconds. The researchers’ current recommendations for optimal EIGR are six to eight 30 second intervals of high intensity activity. Bicycle sprints have been the most commonly used exercise modality in research studies, but other activities can be used as long as your joints and muscles can tolerate the stress. Treadmill, stairclimber, rower, as well as track sprints and hill runs are good interval training choices.
Human growth hormone is released in response to our natural circadian rhythms. If your sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, the cyclical release of hGH is blunted. Maintaining good sleep hygiene is important for optimal hGH production. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before retiring to sleep. Falling asleep and waking at consistent times creates more consistent hGH blood levels. Just a few nights of interrupted or decreased sleep duration have been shown to reduce fat metabolism, slow muscle recovery, reduce insulin sensitivity, and decrease hGH levels.
Natural HGH Production Activity
Inducing optimal human growth hormone production is easy: Get adequate and consistent sleep. Every week, perform two or three high intensity interval style training sessions for six to eight sets of 30 seconds duration. Two or three times a week perform a full body strength training program made up of full body multi joint exercises.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS