Diet & Nutrition
Health & Fitness
7 Strategies to Optimize Your Growth Hormone
“My husband and I had the most amazing sex in years,” Martha began, slightly cautious she was oversharing.
When my facial expressions suggested otherwise, she continued:
In my last article on ThirdAge.com, How to Boost Your Fountain of Youth Hormone in 5 Simple Steps, I shared five natural strategies that helped my 42-year-old patient nearly double her levels of growth hormone (GH), a super-crucial hormone that – among its numerous roles – keeps you lean, energized, and feeling sexy.
Inspired by her example, some readers asked for more. “There’s so much misinformation out there,” one follower wrote. “Just give me the science and a hands-on plan to make it happen.”
As a medical doctor and hard-science junkie, I’m cautious about creating those It’s so easy! action guides. You know the ones: Rock-hard abs in five days; better sex overnight; fabulous fat loss by this weekend. You and I know change doesn’t occur so quickly, nor does it happen linearly or without hard work.
Before I provide a strategy-by-strategy plan to optimize GH levels, let’s be honest with each other. These seven strategies may take some time to fully implement. You’re not going to master them by this weekend.
Don’t tackle them all full-throttle all at once or you’ll crash and burn. Maybe take one strategy every few months and make 2014 the year you optimize GH.
The cool thing is when you put this plan into action, other things simultaneously happen. You balance other hormones to burn fat, feel and look better, have better sex, and regain your joie de vivre.
Stop using age as an excuse to hold you back. Even though growing older can diminish GH levels, the ball still lies in your court to become your best no matter what your birth year.
Think of tackling these strategies as a buy-one-get-10-free sale: You come to optimize GH and get all these cool bonuses like fat loss and better energy.
Strategy #1: Dump the sugar.
Indulging in too many mocha chip brownies or whatever sugary concoction your favorite coworker brought in raises your blood sugar, sending your hormone insulin to clean up the mess. Insulin is a powerful, overeager guy: Keep him around too long and other hormones like GH become out of whack as your muffin top expands. One study with obese adults found high insulin levels stifled GH levels.
Action plan: Eliminate added sugar in your diet and, especially if you’re insulin resistance, be mindful about higher-sugar whole foods like bananas and grapes. Focus instead on lean protein, healthy fats, and high-fiber foods like leafy greens, lower-glycemic fruits, and legumes. Besides optimizing hormone levels, this whole food, organic diet helps you burn more fat. One study with older overweight and obese women found fat loss increased GH levels.
Strategy #2: Sleep more.
Studies show decreased sleep crashes GH levels. That’s because while your body secretes GH every three to five hours, you make most GH in deep sleep. If you’re a light sleeper or otherwise don’t get that replenishing stage 3 and 4 sleep, you might not be making enough GH. Studies show by time you hit 30, GH secretion decreases two- to threefold. Bummer. Could there be a connection between sleep disorders, which become more common as you grow older, and decreased GH levels?
Action plan: Aim for eight hours of high quality, uninterrupted sleep every night to optimize GH. Nearly every hormone is released in response to your circadian clock and the sleep/wake cycle, so be consistent about bedtime and getting up.
Some practical tips can help you sleep better. Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake. Supplementing with melatonin can help adjust your circadian rhythm for steady, consistent sleep; it can also help increase GH. Unwind about an hour before bed with a hot lavender-infused bath and some deep breathing or meditation.
While a few simple lifestyle adjustments can help most people sleep better, insomnia and other more serious issues demand professional support and can require time and effort to remedy. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
Strategy #3: De-stress.
Chronic stress isn’t doing you any favors. No kidding. Beyond the immediate misery, you’re setting the stage for metabolic and hormonal havoc that crashes and burns your energy, stamina, libido, and lots more. One study involving adolescent females found high levels of your stress hormone cortisol and lower GH levels contributed to insulin resistance and obesity.
Action plan: Studies show massage therapy can reduce cortisol while boosting feel-good hormones like serotonin. You can’t get massages every day (if only!), but deep breathing, meditation, yoga (my favorite), and a green tea date with your bestie can similarly de-stress you. Figure out what de-stressors work for you and prioritize them.
Strategy #4: Consider modified intermittent fasting (IF).
As its name implies, intermittent fasting (IF) involves alternate periods of feasting and fasting. Google the term and you’ll find numerous bloggers waxing poetic about its supposed benefits, including fat loss, increased stamina, and improved cardiovascular health. Some science supports IF: One study found a 24-hour fasting period boosted GH an average of 1,300 percent in women and almost 2,000 percent in men.
Action plan: IF isn’t for everyone and could create potential long-term problems. For women, IF can potentially crash your metabolism and even lead to hormonal imbalances. In other words, proceed with caution. You can get most of IF’s benefits without hunger or deprivation by closing your kitchen after dinner, thereby creating an approximate 12 – 14 hour window where you shift into fat-burning, GH-optimizing mode. (Don’t worry: Most of that fasting will occur while you sleep.)
Strategy #5: Exercise differently.
No surprise here: After sleep, exercise might be your biggest GH booster. Don’t think a 20-minute stroll on your elliptical machine will cut it. Increasing GH demands intensity. Burst training, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is your GH-boosting ticket. Studies show HIIT proves incredibly effective to reduce fat, improve insulin sensitivity, and build more muscle. Intense anaerobic training (a hallmark of HIIT) can also increase lactic acid to boost GH.
Action plan: Burst training can be an adjustment if you’re out of shape, so start slowly and build from there. For some people it becomes a mindset shift. Working out should be intense; it should leave you breathless. The good news is that you’ll get far better results in less time. Plus you don’t need any special equipment. You can burst train on hotel stairs or a park hill. Ideally you’ll want to combine HIIT with weight resistance to optimize GH and other hormonal levels.
Strategy #6: Up your aminos.
Dietary protein stabilizes insulin levels, thereby balancing other hormones like GH. About 35 percent of muscle protein is the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, together known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). One study found supplementing with BCAAs before exercise boosted testosterone and GH levels.
Action plan: Get optimal amounts of high-quality protein from grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, and free-range poultry. Vegans and vegetarians, choose high-quality plant-based proteins like legumes, quinoa, and raw nuts. Protein powders, especially pea or grass-fed whey, provide high amounts of BCAAs. You can also supplement with BCAA powder or capsules.
Strategy #7: Detoxify.
A huge array of chemicals can disrupt your body’s endocrine system, triggering massive detrimental effects including serious whacks to your brain and immune system. Chief among those endocrine disrupters include pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and bisphenol A (BPA). Unfortunately, it’s hard to completely avoid them: endocrine disrupters exist in plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, food, toys, and cosmetics. One sheep study found BPA suppresses GH synthesis and release.
Action plan: Avoid toxins whenever possible. Providing your body the right nutrients to effectively detoxify can reduce endocrine disruption and optimize GH synthesis.
Among your detoxification protocol should include:
• Clean, lean protein – without sufficient dietary protein, your liver cannot complete phase 2 detoxification, where toxins are excreted.
• Fiber-rich foods – among its roles, fiber binds BPA and other toxins, helping your body excrete them. Smart high-fiber choices include avocado, organic raspberries, leafy greens, and legumes.
• Sulfur-rich foods – detoxification pathways require this mineral, abundant in cruciferous veggies (broccoli and cauliflower among them), onions, barnyard eggs, and garlic.
• Healthy fat – inflammation forces your body to hoard toxins and contributes to nearly every disease on the planet. Wild-caught fish and flax or chia seeds are among the many anti-inflammatory foods that also help your body detoxify.
• Filtered water – among its duties, water helps eliminate toxins. Choose filtered water so you’re not flooding your body with more pollutants: heavy metals, pollutants, and other substances abound in tap water.
You can see these strategies demand some work, but your effort will be rewarded with optimal GH (and other hormonal) levels, fat loss, increased energy and stamina, and lots more.
Maybe you’ve decided 2014 will be the year you tackle GH. Or perhaps you’ve got another health or fitness plan to implement throughout the year. I want to hear from you: How are you going to make 2014 your best health year ever?