For most of us the mere mention of the words “growth hormone” conjures up images of body builders and scary needles. But the truth about of this hormone is a far cry from that. As the name implies it is involved in growth, but not in the way many assume.
Growth hormone is actually the body’s messenger hormone that helps us grow rapidly throughout childhood and adolescence. It’s why many children and teenagers could eat whatever they want and still look lean. Because their bones are lengthening and organs developing, fat is being used as a fuel source much more readily than when they’re adults.
Growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland (nestled deep in the brain) and after about the age of 20, that release declines significantly. This miracle hormone signals the regeneration and replication of cells, the use of fat stores for energy and the preservation (but not necessarily growth) of muscle fibres.
So while this hormone has been inappropriately used by body builders, instead we should be focussing on its ability to burn fat, preserve muscle tone and its anti-ageing effect on cells.
But how do we get all the benefits of growth hormone naturally? Luckily, there are still plenty of natural ways you can prompt your body to release more of this magic stuff.
Intermittent fasting is a dietary practice that is starting to take off in the paleo and CrossFit communities. And by eating a diet low in refined carbs and then fasting for periods of 16 hours at a time, we can prompt our pituitary to give us a growth hormone surge.
My fasting recommendation? There’s no need to skip meals. Just stop eating at 5pm and don’t have breakfast until 9am the next morning. Do that a couple of times a week to enjoy the benefits of a growth hormone “pulse”. In fact, there are some that argue that one of the reasons fasting is a part of so many religious practices (and has been for centuries) is because you can experience renewed vitality due to the boost of growth hormone!
I don’t necessarily mean quit your day job and sleep in until midday! But a longer and deeper sleep has been shown to improve your growth hormone release. So go to bed well before midnight – nine or ten o’clock is ideal. Allow yourself a restful sleep by avoiding stimulants like caffeine and bright screens, including TVs, computers and mobiles, before bed. A good melatonin supplement can work wonders here, too.
Being a diehard herb-nerd, I can’t write any article without at least slipping in a little note on herbal medicine. Velvet Bean (or Mucuna pruriens) is my favourite herb in this instance. It can be tricky to get your hands on and be sure to consult your local naturopath. However, after only a couple of days of Velvet Bean supplementation, you’ll really start to feel the difference.
So whether you’re interested in more energy, a brighter complexion, weight loss, or increased muscle tone, telling your body that you’d like another hit of natural growth hormone might just be the way to go about it.