By Isaiah Rhodes, NSCA-CPT
For the hard-training athlete, growth hormone is many a splendid thing. Produced naturally by the body, this stuff repairs tissue, builds muscle, burns fat, enhances metabolism and speeds overall recovery. It may sound too good to be true. While this hormonal fountain of youth is not without limits, there are ways you can manipulate certain aspects of training and diet to keep your natural growth-hormone levels topped off night and day.
1. Rest Less
Are you one of those “rest until I’m ready” types? Well, if you’re jacked, we’re not going to argue with your approach. But if you’re genuinely in need of some GH-induced gains, you may want to watch the clock a bit more. Studies have shown that resting one minute or less sends growth-hormone levels higher, which translates to more muscle growth. Try training in weight ranges that are heavy but still allow for adequate recovery in that time. The surge in GH may help you adapt to shorter rest over time.
2. Train High Volume
Beating up your muscle bellies with higher volume is known to produce more mass, but could the resultant spike in GH be largely to thank? A 2003 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that experienced subjects performing more sets during a strength-training workout had higher levels of growth hormone than those doing less. Try adding one set per exercise to your normal bodypart workouts to see an instant boost.
3. Positive + Negative
Another study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that a workout focusing on the concentric, or positive, portion of each rep yielded greater levels of GH than one focusing on the eccentric, or negative, portion of each rep. But when compared using a relative load (you’re stronger on the negative portion of a rep), GH increases were found to be about the same. The take-home? Don’t marginalize either part of the rep — explode on the concentric portion and take a nice, slow descent on the negative.
4. Volume Matters
A 2009 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that lactic-acid accumulation helps trigger higher levels of growth-hormone production. Lactic acid is only produced in response to intense anaerobic training. Activities like kettlebell swings, battle ropes, CrossFit-style training and Olympic lifts — all of which focus on high-intensity anaerobic activity — can crank your GH production into overdrive.
5. Take Glutamine
Glutamine boosts immunity, enhances muscular recovery and also can help you tolerate higher levels of lactic acid. (See No. 4.) But a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a relatively small amount of glutamine (2 grams) significantly increased growth-hormone levels. To keep your glutamine (and thus, your GH) levels high, mix in 5 grams of the stuff up to four times per day, with one dose before training and one before bed.