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Fasting and Growth Hormone

Fasting and Growth Hormone
Human Growth Hormone, also known by the shorthand of HGH, is a hormone made by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is known as the master gland of the body, and hormone secreted from this gland control things like growth, blood pressure, certain functions of sex organs, thyroid glands, and metabolism as well as some aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, water/salt concentration in the kidneys, temperature regulation, and pain relief.  Needless to say, it plays a huge role in the normal development of children and adolescents, but it also plays a role in adult bodies. HGH deficiency in adults leads to higher levels of body fat, lower amounts of lean body mass, and decreased bone mass, also known as osteopenia. 

HGH lasts a short amount of time in the bloodstream, and moves to the liver for metabolism, and is converted into a number of other growth factors, the most important of which is Insulin Growth Factor 1, also known as IGF 1. 

HGH was previously in short supply, and was first harvested by scientists in the 1950s, and was only attainable by being harvested from cadavers. Gathering the drug meant isolating it from the pituitary gland of someone who had passed away. Production of the drug was primarily this way for about twenty years, but came to a dead (excuse the pun) stop when a batch of the drug was infected after being harvested from a contaminated cadaver, and lead the the passing of about twenty six people. Since then, all distribution of cadaver-derived HGH was put to a stop. It the 1980s, scientists began to synthesize it in labs, and soon afterwards it became a popular anti-aging and performance enhancing drug. 

Normal levels of HGH peak during puberty, and begin to taper off soon after. Growth hormone is typically secreted from the pituitary during sleep, and is one of the counter-regulatory hormones. Counter-regulatory hormones are hormones that oppose the actions of an other, for example; the exercise-induced reduction in blood glucose is counterregulated by increase in levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, and growth hormone.  The rise in blood concentrations of these counterregulatory hormones is dependent upon both exercise intensity and duration, and is proportional to the rate of glucose uptake by the contracting skeletal muscle.

HGH along with cortisol and adrenaline tell the body to increase the availability of glucose to counter the rate of insulin, to put it simply. High doses of cortisol will produce higher levels of blood sugar. These hormones are typically secreted in a pulse just before waking during the counter-regulatory surge. All hormones exhibit pulsatile secretion to prevent the development of resistance to the effects of the hormones. 

Since HGH typically goes down with age, there is benefit to taking HGH as you get older thanks to it's anti-aging effects. Some of these benefits include things like  an increase in muscle strength, better recovery from injuries and fracture healing, and enhance in weight loss speed, reduced risk of Cardiovascular disease, stronger bones, and even better moods and cognitive function. 

HGH levels are difficult to measure since it is a pulsatile hormone, so IGF1 can be measured in it's place. Healthy men with low levels of IGF1 were given HGH for six months and had it's effects measured in a 1990 study by the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Group one received the treatment, and group, the control group, two did not. Overall, through the six months study the actual weight of the groups did not vary much, but the lean body mass did. Compared to the control group, the Human Growth Hormone group packed on 8.8% more lean mass, which was about eight pounds. And not only did they get stronger and more muscular, but their fat mass decreased by about 5.3 pounds, a decrease of 14.2%, and even skin thickness improved in the HGH group over the course of the study. 

In a 2002 article, similar results were obtained also in women. There was a decrease in fat mass and an increase in lean muscle, more so than could really be achieved on a normal diet. 

But artificial injections aren't the only way to achieve a spike in HGH. While they may be the most effective, there are other ways as well. In 1982, Kerndt et al published a study of a patient who decided to undergo a fast for religious purposes. They measured numerous metabolic indices over that forty days to see what happened. Blood pressure slightly decreased, and glucose went down, from an initial ninety six to fifty six. Insulin also dropped about eighty percent. 

But his levels of Human Growth Hormone rose dramatically, increasing by a little over a thousand percent at it's peak. Other studies have also shown a similar increase in growth hormone. In 1988, Ho KY et al studied fasting and HGH. On the control days, meals very effectively suppressed HGH secretion, proving that moderate fasting is a great stimulus to the hormone. During the fasting, there is a spike early in the morning, but also regular secretion throughout the day. One study showed an increase by a factor of five in HGH in response to a two day fast.  

HGH is crucial in the maintaining of lean mass, muscle AND bone. One of the major concerns regarding fasting diets, like the HGH diet for example, is the loss of lean mass. But it's shown that this does not happen, and you're likely to increase in lean mass. 

To put it simply, imagine you're a caveman. During spring and summer, you eat a lot of food and store it as fat. When winter comes around, and there's no more food to eat, the body starts burning this stored fat. 

This has enormous implications for both athletes and your average joe. While there certainly needs to be more studies into the field of fasting and HGH, it's quite possible that the elevated levels of human growth hormone stimulated by fasting on something like the HCG diet can actually increase muscle mass as seen in earlier studies regarding HGH administration. 

The recovery from hard weight training workouts would also be improved, as the increased levels of adrenaline that are also stimulated during fasting will allow you to work out harder, while also increasing the levels of recovery for your muscular tears, allowing you to work out quicker. 

Many proponents of training while fasted are bodybuilders, such as Brad Pilon and Martin Berkhan. And both of these men compete in muscle building competition, so it stands to reason that they aren't losing too much muscle during their fasting periods. 

Fasting has been shown to have the potential to unleash anti-aging benefits, and alongside treatment such as HGH therapy or HCG diet protocol, can really help to lose fat and pack on muscle.

About the author

Dr. Constance Odom, MD

4 min read