Growth hormone is a hormone secreted from the pituitary gland that stimulates cell reproduction. It is highly anabolic to muscle tissue and catabolic to fat mass. This is an amazing combination for fat loss. It builds muscle, but it also promotes fat loss. There are not many hormones that can do both.
Growth Hormone Declines With Age
So what are the factors that lower and increase growth hormone secretion? First, let’s take a look at one of the biggest problems of growth hormone levels. That problem is that it rapidly declines with age. See the following chart.
Ever wonder why it was so easy to stay in shape when you were younger? Well, this is one of the many reasons why. Being that growth hormone declines so rapidly with age, it is even more imperative that we aren’t inhibiting what little growth hormone we’re able to produce. Outside of taking exogenous GH, you can still optimize your own body’s GH release. Growth hormone raises in response to deep sleep, high-intensity exercise, and low insulin levels.
Growth Hormone and Sleep
Growth hormone is released during REM sleep. We hit REM sleep several times during the night, starting about 90 minutes or so after falling asleep. During each of the REM periods, bursts of GH are being released. Your body then uses this hormone in cell reproduction (building muscle) and fat lipolysis (fat loss) among other things. So make sure you are getting enough sleep and you are getting it at similar times everyday.
GH and High-Intensity Exercise
Growth hormone is also released in response to high-intensity exercise. The higher the intensity of the exercise, the higher the release of GH. GH is also at its highest during the first 30 minutes of exercise. After that, it starts to decline. Take a look at the following two charts. The first shows the relationship between exercise intensity and GH release. The second chart shows how much GH is released in relation to your workout length. As you can see, keeping your workouts short and intense is best for optimal GH release.
Now that we know ways to increase GH release, what can we do to make sure we aren’t inhibiting its release.
Growth Hormone and Insulin Levels
Growth hormone release is inhibited by high insulin levels. You want your insulin levels to remain low. Fat cannot be released in the presence of high insulin because insulin is a storage hormone. Insulin and growth hormone are inversely correlated. This means when one is high, the other is low, and vice versa.
This is why it’s so important to make sure you are eating the right carbohydrates. Carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index will be digested slowly, and will provide a slow and steady release of glucose in the body. High-glycemic carbohydrates on the other hand cause a rapid digestion of sugars and a sudden influx of glucose into the bloodstream. The body cannot handle such a high amount of glucose in the blood, and so insulin is released to shuttle that glucose into either muscle glycogen, or convert it into fat for energy later if glycogen stores are full.
Your body cannot have high blood sugar levels. Take a type 1 diabetic. This is exactly what their problem is. They eat, but they have problems removing glucose from the blood. Because of this, they have to take a shot of insulin in order to get their blood sugar under control. Luckily, your body probably has a functioning insulin hormone. Don’t lower your insulin sensitivity by bombarding your body with high glycemic carbohydrates. If you stick to whole foods, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. It’s the processed foods with sugar and flour that are the cause.
With everything that gets thrown at us to make it harder to lose weight, it is even more important that we are doing the right things to optimize what little muscle building/fat loss hormones we have left. Eat a good diet, exercise hard, and get enough rest. Diet, exercise, and recovery are the cornerstones to any good fitness program. Make sure you have all three right, and your body will start functioning like the machine that it is.