HGH is an important hormone produced in the pituitary gland. It’s a good predictor of overall health. Low HGH levels point to an increased risk of disease and unhealthy weight gain (1).
Optimal Growth Hormone levels are vital during recovery, training, and weight loss (2,3,4). This is because HGH regulates cell repair and other recovery-relevant metabolic functions (5,6,7).
Because this Growth Hormone is naturally synthesized in the body, it’s possible to influence its production. Let’s look at a few strategies for boosting HGH naturally and the science behind why they work.
1. Deep Sleep
Growth hormone production isn’t linear. HGH levels are highest when you sleep, and even then, they are greatly influenced by your sleep cycles. Production typically peaks before midnight, followed by a few weak pulses before the crack of dawn (8,9).
To get the best out of these cycles, you need to be sound asleep before midnight. Go to bed about two hours, no less than an hour, before midnight.
Research has shown that your growth hormone levels begin to increase after about an hour of sleep (10). This is, arguably, when you’re most likely to be in deep slumber (11).
Linking Sleep Cycles and Growth
Human sleep cycles occur in two main phases: NREM and REM.
- NREM (Non-REM) Sleep: This is the stage that’s associated with high hormone levels. It is characterized by four main phases: stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, and stage 4. Stage 3 and 4 are deep sleep stages, also known as Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). HGH production peaks during these two cycles.
- REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement): You typically enter the REM stage an hour and a half after you sleep. This stage may last for as long as an hour. It’s characterized by vivid dreams and a lot of brain activity.
Stages of NREM
NREM precedes REM (12). The interesting bit is that NREM cycles shorten as the night progresses (13). This is why it’s so important to sleep a few hours before midnight. You want to have as many long NREM cycles as possible.
Let’s look at the three stages therein:
- Stage 1: Immediately you sleep, your brain starts to slow down. It lasts for about 5–10 minutes.
- Stage 2: Your heart rate slows, and body temperature drops, as the brain prepares to enter into SWS. You spend about 50 percent of your sleep in this cycle.
- Stage 3 and 4: These stages are longest in the first half of the night and shorten with each consequent cycle. Typically, this stage lasts anywhere between 45–90 minutes.
So, how do you optimize your sleep for maximum growth hormone production?
Optimizing Sleep for SWS
Structure your sleeping habits to make the most of SWS. Research shows that poor sleeping habits negatively affect your Human Growth Hormone levels (14). Ensuring you get adequate sleep is a proven strategy for continued high HGH production (9).
Here are a few tips:
- Keep your bedroom comfortable and well-ventilated.
- Try and read a book before going to bed.
- No caffeine in the evening.
- Keep away from your phone and computer for a few hours before hitting the sack.
2. Manage Insulin Levels
Insulin has been linked to low growth hormone levels (15). To maximize
HGH production, ensure that your insulin levels are lowest at night.
How do you do that?
Watch Your Sugar Intake
Sugar and refined carbs—like white bread, white rice, and pasta—are documented to spike your insulin levels (16). Reduced intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar has shown great potential in optimizing HGH production (8,9).
A study compared HGH levels between healthy people, and four other groups with insulin problems (diabetes, impaired carbohydrate tolerance, impaired insulin function). Growth hormone production was 3–4 times higher in healthy people (17). Clearly showing the link between insulin and HGH.
Sweet Drinks Are the Worst
Sugary beverages are especially harmful. Interestingly, the body doesn’t respond to sweet drinks in the manner it responds to solid food (18). These beverages aren’t as satiating as solid foods (19).
You end up taking more liquids than in solids form because you don’t feel as full—independent of caloric intake (20). Avoid sweet drinks like sodas and sweetened yogurt before bedtime.
Time Meals Appropriately
Insulin levels spike immediately after a meal and stabilize after 2–3 hours (21). Eat all your meals at least 2 hours before bedtime.
Some research suggests that a high-protein meal before bed could potentially inhibit HGH activity (22). Even though the research on that isn’t conclusive, we know for sure that all late-night snacks will trigger insulin production (23).
3. Shed Body Fat
Excessive fat is strongly linked to low HGH production (24). This is another reason why you should avoid sugary meals, especially before going to sleep. The consumption of high-sugar meals at night is closely associated with weight gain (25). Avoiding sweet treats at night regulates your insulin, and also keeps your weight in check.
One study found that losing fat around the abdominal area leads to a significant boost in growth hormone levels (26).
In another study, participants who had 3x the amount of body fat as the control group were found to have half their growth hormones (27). It’s well-documented that obese people return to normal HGH levels after losing weight. (28).
Interestingly, the impact of body fat on HGH production is strongest in men. Both sexes experience an increase in growth hormone levels after shedding off some weight, though (27,29). This is probably because fat distribution in men favors the belly, where it’s most harmful (30,31).
4. Eat to Boost HGH Levels
Healthy eating is beneficial to your overall well-being. Every balanced diet optimizes HGH production by keeping your insulin and body fat levels in check. That said, some special foods are directly linked to enhanced Growth Hormone secretion.
Let’s look at a few of the best documented H G H-boosting foods.
5. Hormone Growth: The Melatonin Factor
This hormone is released as you sleep. It regulates your sleep cycles and helps you get longer and deeper sleep associated with enhanced HGH production (9). A melatonin-rich breakfast increases melatonin secretion in the night. Melatonin-Rich Foods :
- Mustard seeds
Another study found that a tryptophan-rich breakfast coupled with exposure to bright light in the day significantly boosted HGH levels (32). Tryptophan-dense foods include eggs, milk, grains, beans, and meat. Work these foods into your breakfast and take a short stroll in the bright of day for a good night’s sleep.
Melatonin supplements happen to be very popular sleeping aids in the US. It’s one of the most commonly used supplements (33).
Research shows that a little melatonin supplementation directly boosts the production of Human Growth Hormones (34,35,36).
Being a naturally-occurring hormone, it’s non-toxic. However, these supplements have been shown to affect brain chemistry, so you should only take them under medical supervision (37).
You should also contact a medical professional before taking these supplements if you are pregnant. One animal study found that melatonin lowers birth weight and increases baby mortality (38).
6. Arginine and Hormones for Growth
Arginine is one of the amino acids that boost the synthesis of the Human Growth Hormone (38,39). Arginine-rich foods include:
- Red meat
- Brown rice
Many people take arginine supplements to complement their exercises. That’s a mistake. When taken alongside exercise, there’s no significant increase in HGH production. You are better off taking the supplement alone (38,39,40).
Per recent research, higher doses, 15–20 grams of Arginine per day boosts nighttime HGH production by up by about 60 percent. That’s the equivalent of taking 114 mg per pound of body weight. Lower doses, 6–10 grams per day, about 45 mg for every pound in body-weight, didn’t show any significant impact on growth hormone production (41).
If you are looking for something to boost your HGH levels alongside exercise, take sport drinks. They are rich in beta-alanine, which boosts growth hormone levels, and it’s been documented to double your peak workout power (42).
Protein shakes are also an option if you want an HGH-friendly supplement to complement exercise. These shakes boost the secretion of Growth Hormones around workouts (43).
Glutamine: Does it Increase HGH Hormones Growth?
Glutamine is a potent amino acid that has been shown to increase HGH production even at small doses, significantly. A 2 mg dose has been documented to boost GH secretion by up to 78 percent (44).
Glutamine-rich foods include:
- Yogurts (avoid sweetened variants, they have a lot of processed sugar)
Ornithine is one of the amino acids responsible for protein synthesis and muscle mass (45). Research has shown that people who take ornithine about half an hour after working out experience increased HGH synthesis (46).
Foods rich in ornithine include:
- Soya beans
Exercise at High Intensity
All forms of exercise will increase your levels of Human Growth Hormone, but high-intensity activity produces the most significant boosts (46,47). There’s no universal session duration, but workouts typically last about an hour. Weight training, sprinting, and interval training have shown a lot of promise increasing HGH levels (48,49,50).
The benefits of exercise extend beyond short-term spurts in Human Growth Hormone. In the long-term, it will help you cut down your body fat, increasing GH production (27,29).
HGH levels increase by about 300 percent when you fast for 3 days. After fasting for a week, HGH secretion is at 1,250 percent (51). These results have been replicated in other studies with researchers observing a doubling or tripling of HGH levels just 2–3 days into a fast (52,53,54).
The trick is to find the right balance between when to eat and when to fast.
Intermittent fasting impacts HGH secretion both in the short-term and in the long-term. In the short-term, fasting keeps your insulin low. Since this hormone is associated with low GH levels, keeping it low boosts HGH production (23,55).
In the long-term, it lowers your body fat, resulting in a long-term boost in growth hormone production(23,56).
In a Nutshell
HGH, a hormone produced in the pituitary gland, is vital for cell repair and other essential metabolic functions. It’s production typically peaks when we are deep asleep (SWS).
Like other hormones, it’s greatly influenced by body fat. Mind your lifestyle and diet.
By following the outlined tips, you can increase GH production to optimal levels with very little effort. The endocrine system—the system that regulates growth hormones—performs at its peak when you eat and live healthily.