I’m a fan of a hormonally adequate environment for health and fitness. By this, I mean that all hormones should be in a normal physiological range. Point of fact, if one was to believe the claims of supplement hucksters, all the cortisol in our body should be destroyed, when in reality only excessively high levels over a long period of time (chronically high vs. acutely high) should be of concern.
Growth hormone. GH. Maximize GH output and you should grow muscle and reduce bodyfat, right? Given a certain metabolic environment GH is certainly going to do its job promoting lipolysis and protein synthesis. But there is a limit to theses effects, especially with regard to direct manipulation without injection. More on that later, but first I have a question: if injecting GH to supra-physiological levels doesn’t do anything, why worry about elevating it post workout?
This list is long and I thank Lyle McDonald for compiling it:
1: Phys Ther. 1999 Jan;79(1):76-82.
Does growth hormone therapy in conjunction with resistance exercise increase
muscle force production and muscle mass in men and women aged 60 years or older?
Zachwieja JJ, Yarasheski KE.
Exercise and Nutrition Program, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton
Rouge, La., USA.
Improved muscle protein mass and increments in maximum voluntary muscle force
have rarely been observed in men and women aged 60 years and older who were
treated with rhGH. Although rhGH administration has been reported to increase
lean body mass in older men and women, it is doubtful that this increase is
localized to skeletal muscle contractile proteins. When rhGH administration was
combined with 16 weeks of resistance exercises, increases in muscle mass, muscle
protein synthesis, and muscle force were not greater in the rhGH-treated group
than in a weight training group that received placebo injections. Side effects of
rhGH treatment in elderly people are prevalent, not trivial, and further limit
its usefulness as an effective anabolic agent for promoting muscle protein
accretion in men and women. In particular, the induction of insulin resistance
and carpal tunnel compression reduces the efficacy of rhGH replacement therapy in
elderly individuals. The evidence for a GH-induced increase in human skeletal
muscle protein and maximum voluntary muscle force is weak. The optimum dose and
GH-replacement paradigm (GHRH, GH-secretagogues) have not been identified.
Whether rhGH therapy improves muscle protein mass and force in individuals with
severe cachexia associated with major trauma, burns, surgery, or muscular
dystrophy is controversial and under investigation.
2. Growth hormone effects on metabolism, body composition, muscle mass, and
Metabolism Division, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis,
It is clear that the anthropometric ramifications, especially with respect to
muscle mass, of the metabolic actions of GH and IGF-I treatment in intact and
GH-deficient adults require further study. At present, it appears that daily GH
or IGF-I treatment modestly increases nitrogen retention in most normal adults,
probably by separate but permissive mechanisms, but only for a short period of
time (approximately 1 month). During prolonged GH administration, resistance to
the anabolic actions of GH seems to occur, and optimizing the anabolic effects of
GH or IGF-I treatment will require a better understanding of the interactions
among GH, GHBP, IGF-I production, IGFBPs, the GH dose regimen, and other
unidentified regulatory factors. On the basis of the similar increases in muscle
protein synthesis, muscle cross-sectional area, and muscle strength observed in
placebo and GH-treated exercising young adults, it is doubtful that the nitrogen
retention associated with daily GH treatment results in an increase in
contractile protein, improved muscle function, strength and athletic performance.
Even in catabolic or GH-deficient populations, GH treatment provides only modest
increments in nitrogen retention, muscle size, strength, and exercise capacity.
Further, the side effects of GH treatment (water retention, carpal tunnel
compression, insulin resistance) would be a detriment, rather than an aid, to
athletic performance. In addition, whether prolonged (> 6 months) GH treatment
alone or in combination with other agents used by athletes (e.g., anabolic
steroids, beta-agonists) is associated with other adverse side effects (e.g.,
cancer, diabetes) has not been evaluated. Therefore, health professionals should
continue to discourage the use of GH by exercise enthusiasts.
3: Short-term growth hormone treatment does not increase muscle protein synthesis in
experienced weight lifters.
Yarasheski KE, Zachweija JJ, Angelopoulos TJ, Bier DM.
Metabolism Division, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis,
The purpose of this study was to determine whether recombinant human growth
hormone (GH) administration enhances muscle protein anabolism in experienced
weight lifters. The fractional rate of skeletal muscle protein synthesis and the
whole body rate of protein breakdown were determined during a constant
intravenous infusion of [13C]leucine in 7 young (23 +/- 2 yr; 86.2 +/- 4.6 kg)
healthy experienced male weight lifters before and at the end of 14 days of
subcutaneous GH administration (40 microgram.kg-1 x day-1). GH administration
increased fasting serum insulin-like growth factor-I (from 224 +/- 20 to 589 +/-
80 ng/ml, P = 0.002) but did not increase the fractional rate of muscle protein
synthesis (from 0.034 +/- 0.004 to 0.034 +/- 0.002%/h) or reduce the rate of
whole body protein breakdown (from 103 +/- 4 to 108 +/- 5 mumol.kg-1 x h-1).
These findings suggest that short-term GH treatment does not increase the rate of
muscle protein synthesis or reduce the rate of whole body protein breakdown,
metabolic alterations that would promote muscle protein anabolism in experienced
weight lifters attempting to further increase muscle mass.
4: Am J Physiol. 1992 Mar;262(3 Pt 1):E261-7.
Effect of growth hormone and resistance exercise on muscle growth in young men.
Yarasheski KE, Campbell JA, Smith K, Rennie MJ, Holloszy JO, Bier DM.
Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis,
The purpose of this study was to determine whether growth hormone (GH)
administration enhances the muscle anabolism associated with heavy-resistance
exercise. Sixteen men (21-34 yr) were assigned randomly to a resistance training
plus GH group (n = 7) or to a resistance training plus placebo group (n = 9). For
12 wk, both groups trained all major muscle groups in an identical fashion while
receiving 40 micrograms recombinant human GH.kg-1.day-1 or placebo. Fat-free mass
(FFM) and total body water increased (P less than 0.05) in both groups but more
(P less than 0.01) in the GH recipients. Whole body protein synthesis rate
increased more (P less than 0.03), and whole body protein balance was greater (P
= 0.01) in the GH-treated group, but quadriceps muscle protein synthesis rate,
torso and limb circumferences, and muscle strength did not increase more in the
GH-treated group. In the young men studied, resistance exercise with or without
GH resulted in similar increments in muscle size, strength, and muscle protein
synthesis, indicating that 1) the larger increase in FFM with GH treatment was
probably due to an increase in lean tissue other than skeletal muscle and 2)
resistance training supplemented with GH did not further enhance muscle anabolism
5: Growth hormone and body composition in athletes.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Vienna, Austria. firstname.lastname@example.org
The anabolic properties of growth hormone (GH) have been investigated extensively. The effects of GH on normal, hypertrophied and atrophied muscles have been studied previously in animal experiments that demonstrated an increase in muscle weight and size, but no comparable increase in performance or tension. In adults with GH deficiency, the changes in body composition can be corrected by GH treatment; lean body mass and strength increase within a few months. In children with GH deficiency, Turner’s syndrome or intrauterine growth retardation, an increase in muscle tissue is seen after treatment with GH. In acromegalics with long-standing GH hypersecretion, the muscle volume is increased, but muscle strength and performance are not improved. These observations gave rise to the interest shown by healthy subjects and athletes in using GH to increase their muscle mass and strength. The improvements in muscle strength obtained by resistance exercise training in healthy older men or young men were not enhanced by additional administration of GH. The larger increases in fat-free mass observed in the GH-treated groups were obviously not due to accretion of contractile protein, but rather to fluid retention or accumulation of connective tissue. In experienced weightlifters, the incorporation of amino acids into skeletal muscle protein was not increased and the rate of whole body protein breakdown was not decreased by short-term administration of GH. The results of a study in power athletes confirm the results of these investigations. The study used GH treatment in power athletes compared with a placebo-control group, and the results indicated no increase in maximal strength during concentric contraction of the biceps and quadriceps muscles, although levels of insulin-like growth factor-I were doubled. In highly trained power athletes with low fat mass and high lean body mass, no additional effect of GH treatment on strength is to be expected.
“But,” you say, “I have no intent of injecting GH. I’m concerned with blunting the GH spike post workout.” Basically you want to maximize your basic hormonal environments so as not to short circuit any muscle growth/fat loss going on. I can respect that. However, the notion that raising insulin reduces GH spike is inaccurate at best. Two studies from the top:
So am I suggesting a big huge spike in insulin, meaning a metric ass-load of carbs post workout? Nay, but since you no longer have to worry about blunting GH, why not ensure protein synthesis occurs:
What about GH’s role in fat loss? Doesn’t GH need to be elevated to move fatty acids for energy use?
The drastically elevated insulin *should* have blunted the GH, which *should* have trapped the FFA’s for all eternity…but it didn’t seem to matter because they were eating less.
So what’s the take home, Captain Buzzkill?
1. If injecting GH does zero, I’m not going to worry too much about maximizing it post workout. If anything, since slow wave sleep is when the largest spike in GH is going to occur, supplementing with L-Glutamine can effectively increase the magnitude of that spike.
2. GH spike isn’t blunted by insulin post workout and in fact is seemingly heightened by a protein and carb drink. At the very least, get some protein in you, or if you’re lactose tolerant, whole milk will effectively do the job.
3. Don’t think that I’m saying you need to “spike” insulin, as all the good stuff happens with a minimal rise in insulin, which whey will get done for you.
4. Better yet, let me simplify it further: just eat a nice meal sometime soon after you train.
5. Even simpler: the post-workout window is big enough to drive a truck through…just don’t decide to fast for 16 hours after the workout and you’ll cover your bases