Growth hormone (sometimes referred to as HGH, for “human growth hormone”) is something we all want more of. It builds muscle, burns fat, helps you resist heart disease, and protects your bones — among many other health benefits. By increasing your muscle mass, growth hormone raises your resting metabolic rate and gives you more power for your workouts. It also helps you tap into your fat stores for fuel and discourages your fat cells from absorbing or holding on to any fat floating around in your bloodstream.
In addition to these amazing feats, growth hormone helps your liver synthesize glucose, and it promotes gluconeogenesis, a really cool process that allows your body to create carbs out of protein. This helps you lose fat faster while providing your brain and other tissues with the energy they need.
As with so many other beneficial hormones, production of growth hormone declines with age, and many things we do speed the decline:
1. We deprive ourselves of good-quality sleep. Growth hormone is released in adults in an average of five pulses throughout the day, the largest of which happens during deep sleep. Shortchange yourself on sleep and you’ll shortchange yourself on growth hormone.
2. We eat too many low-quality carbs. Refined carbs, such as those in white bread and white rice, keep our blood sugar and insulin levels high, which suppresses the release of growth hormone. Protein, on the other hand, can facilitate the release of higher levels of growth hormone.
3. We don’t exercise enough. When you don’t exercise and your muscles become insulin-resistant, you increase your level of circulating insulin, which further suppresses growth hormone. We need to get off our butts and capitalize on this incredibly healthy hormone! One surefire way we can turn our bodies into growth hormone factories is with intense exercise. During intense exercise, and especially during interval training, growth hormone encourages the body to use fat as its fuel instead of glucose. Not only does this help you burn fat while you exercise, but it stabilizes your blood glucose level so that you have the energy to keep exercising.