If you’re feeling and looking older than your years, you may be low in the quintessential foundation of youth: growth hormone. Also referred to as HGH, growth hormone affects just about every cell in the body. It’s essential for tissue repair, muscle building, bone density and healthy body composition. Not surprisingly, it also has a major effect on our feelings, actions and appearance.
To find out if you’re low in growth hormone take this simple quiz. Do you suffer from any of the following:
-Thinning skin or skin has lost its fullness
-Dry or sagging skin
-Menopause (women); andropause (men)
-Lack of exercise
-Loss of muscle tone in arms or legs
-High alcohol consumption
-Fat gain around “love handles” or abdomen
-Difficulty building or maintaining muscle
-Loss of bone density or osteoporosis
-Generalized overweight/weight gain/obesity
-Failing to sleep in total darkness
-Difficulty staying asleep (especially waking between 2 and 4 a.m.)
-Use of corticosteroids
If you answered yes to more than five of these, you’ll benefit from boosting your GH levels. Find out five ways to get them back on track below:
1. Pay attention to your belly fat
Fat around the abdomen isn’t just a sign of excess insulin, it’s also been linked to low growth hormone according to one study of postmenopausal women. After a year of growth hormone treatment, the women had improved insulin sensitivity and reduced abdominal fat plus total and low-density lipoprotein (or bad) cholesterol concentrations.
Bottom line: To boost your growth hormone levels naturally, ask your local compounding pharmacy or natural health practitioner if they carry homeopathic HGH drops or sprays such as secretrotropin. Certain amino acids (the building blocks of protein) also help support growth hormone production when taken before bed or after exercise. Try one of these before your next workout: tyrosine (500-1000 mg/day), glutamine (1 tsp or 2000 mg), arginine/ornithine combination (2000 mg of both) or glycine (1 tsp or 1000 mg).
2. Increase GH levels by sleeping deeper
When we sleep in total darkness, melatonin is released, triggering a very slight but critical cool-down in the body. As body temperature drops, growth hormone is released and works its regenerative magic. Once released into the bloodstream, growth hormone has a very short life — only half an hour or so. During that time, however, it makes its way speedily to the liver and many other cells in the body.
Bottom line: The best way to maximize your exposure to this youthful hormone is to get to sleep by 10 p.m. (and no later than 11 p.m.). My favourite sleep remedies include magnesium glycinate (to bowel tolerance) before bed in conjunction with either relora (2 capsules before bed) or melatonin (1-3mg one hour before sleep). You can also try a combination product such as Ortho Sleep (begin with one pill before bed). I have seen this product work to wean clients off of sleeping pills.
3. Boost levels with increased cardio intensity
They say variety is key and when it comes to the right type of cardio for growth hormone levels, this is certainly true. While schedules don’t always allow for twice daily bursts of cardio, short, repeated bouts of aerobic exercise have been shown to boost GH concentrations over a period of 24 hours.
Another option is to stick to interval cardio training, which increases both growth hormone and testosterone levels, getting you twice as slim in half the time. Here’s an example of how to get started with walking, jogging, running or cycling intervals:
a) 5-minute warm-up at a gentle or moderate pace of the activity of your choice.
b) 1 minute at a fast pace or high intensity followed by 1 minute at a moderate pace. Alternate 5 to 8 times.
c) 5-minute cool-down at a gentle or moderate pace.
Just remember not to do your cardio work prior to strength training. Only do it afterwards or at a separate time completely.
4. Ditch the pink dumbbells
While we know the importance of strength training to improve overall tone and metabolic health, not all workouts are made equal. One study of women found that growth hormone was responsive to moderate and heavy exercise regimens having 3-12 repetitions while varying the amount of weights used.
Bottom line: A friend of mine, who is a personal trainer, put it this way, “Always lift weights that are heavier than you purse for best results.” And since I know my bag is usually over 10 pounds, it’s certainly good advice that may keep you looking younger. Be sure to follow the timing rule from the tip above.
5. Laughter may just be the best medicine
I once prescribed watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles to a 65-year-old woman who was constantly worried about her health (although Bridesmaids is another great option). Research shows that a good chuckle can relieve stress, improve health and boost growth hormone levels. A 2006 study found that those who were told they were about to watch a funny movie had 27 percent more beta-endorphins and 87 percent more human growth hormone.
Bottom line: Make time for laughter in your life, or just think about doing it!
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.