The Definitive Growth Hormone Post

Such is the cascade

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

Yarasheski KE.

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,
Missouri 63110.

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 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 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,
Missouri 63110.

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 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
and function.

5: Growth hormone and body composition in athletes.
Frisch H.

Department of Pediatrics, University of Vienna, Austria.

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:

1. Shows Protein + carbs pre and post workout led to a nearly 50% increase in post-workout GH versus a placebo.

2. Shows Protein + carbs post workout increases GH for 6 hours post workout versus placebo.

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:

1. A very small increase in insulin is needed to start protein synthesis.

2. A whey shake would get the job done very adequately.


What about GH’s role in fat loss? Doesn’t GH need to be elevated to move fatty acids for energy use?

1. Well, take a look at this study of individuals with hyperinsulimia in which they lost 20lbs in 60 days.

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

10 thoughts on “The Definitive Growth Hormone Post

  1. Skyler,

    Great post as usual.

    I think you’ve done a fine job dismantling the notion that going through hoops to maximize GH is the secret to optimum muscle growth.

    But, for a guy like me who doesn’t strive for hypertrophy, the fatty acid mobilization effects of GH still seem to be beneficial. All the studies you cite deal with whether or not GH affects muscle growth/strength, but don’t really seem to deal with whether or not it stimulates fat release for use as energy. Unless I’m mistaken, no one disputes that GH causes fatty acid mobilization, and that working out in a fasted state leads to a little extra GH being produced.

    Even if carbs right after a workout, and the resulting insulin they illicit, don’t affect how much GH is produced, they would certainly affect how much fat is released. It is my understanding that insulin inhibits fatty acid mobilization.

    When I workout in the middle of a 24 hour fast, not only is this when I always get my best and most amped workouts, but I find my energy levels go up dramatically afterwards, along with any shred of hunger disappearing for a few extra hours. Am I mistaken in attributing this in part to Growth Hormone being released which, in turn, is causes extra fat to be mobilized. This seems like a good thing to me, from a purely fat loss driven perspective.


    1. Bryce,

      You’re correct that I’ve focus on the GH release aspect I’ve focused on is specific to hypertrophy/protein synthesis. You’re not mistaken regarding GH mobilizing fatty acids. However, I recall Lyle Mcdonald talking about how during the start of the refeed period one could continue to burn fat whilst ingesting massive, massive amounts of carbohydrates. Far above the amount I’m suggesting and specific to a certain level of depletion.

      What I take away from it, though, is that further elevating GH will further release FFA; if that’s true or not I’m unsure and will look into. Thanks for the inquiry!


    2. One more quick reply, Bryce. Considering most paleo-types are low carb to begin with, liver and muscle glycogen will be depleted to a certain degree, which increases CPT, which increases fat burning. Also take home that we’re not adding any carbs back into the system with just the whey shake (at least not directly) so any slight reduction in FFA burning will be made up for with the greatly elevated GH and recovery will be improved through the insulin.

      However, whether this is going to make any difference at all for you and your goals is really a wash. If your training started to stall, it would be something to explore. If things are swimming, don’t rock the boat! I tend toward being hungry after my training but since finding that I didn’t need to elevate insulin much, I’ve just cut back to whey. It’s worked for me and my goals.


  2. Sylvester Stallone has touted the benefits of growth hormone. Wonder if he was taking something else to get his phenomenal physique (considering his age), or does he just work out like a maniac?


    1. Steve,

      First, thank you for dropping by my corner of the net! Second, I suspect that Sly was a creature of old habits: Testosterone and the addition of GH make a potent combination. Also add to that the fact that many of these guys inject insulin with their GH (often referred to in such corners of the net as “GH/Slin”). The “cocktail” makes the story very different.


  3. Skyler,

    Thanks much for the detailed reply. I’ll certainly consider changing things up if/when I plateau. It could certainly be psychological, but I keep enjoying the sensation of the “perfect storm” when I workout fasted.

    I don’t always make an effort to avoid eating right after I train. Only on the days when I do fast (maybe once a week?), and when I work out between noon and 3, do I find that the mid-fast workout makes finishing the fast a manageable and even enjoyable experience.

    On a side note, perhaps I simply enjoy being able to say that I fast after working out because it illicits the most humorous reactions. “your body is going to fall apart,” “your muscles are going to waste away.” The idea that there is some precious opportunity for muscular repair that can never be had again, if missed, is something that seems a just little too good, for the supplement companies, to be true.


  4. Two things I’ve noticed (in reference to this discussion) nice I’ve gone Paleo: (1) my hunger is blunted for a few hours post workout, but (2) when it does come on, what I crave is fat – and not just any old fat, but *saturated* fat. I’m not sure where this might point in a physiological and/or scientific sense, but I’ve incorporated it into my n=1 experimentation with, from what I can tell, good success thusfar. My recovery post-workout (even after blistering sessions) since incorporating an increased satfat intake post workout, has been exceptional – both mentally and physically. Just a little food for thought.

    1. Keith,

      What it ultimately comes down to isn’t it? That’s also why I like the last study: mixed meal, protein synthesis going on, glucose uptake is *mildly* inhibited. To quote Alan Aragon:

      When speaking of nutrition for improving body composition or performance, it’s crucial to realize there’s an underlying hierarchy of importance. At the top of the hierarchy of effects is the total amount of the macronutrients by the end of the day. Below that – and I mean distantly below that – is the precise timing of those nutrients.

      It works both ways: “I HAVE to get a post workout shake or my muscles will fall off!” is just as bad as ” I HAVE to fast or gene expression won’t take place and GH response will be blunted and my muscles won’t remodel and I’ll store a shitload of bodyfat!” Same neurosis, different wording; get the diet right first and don’t worry so much about everything else…that’s the message.

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