Growth Hormone De-Mystified

May 19, 2003


1- Featured Article: Growth Hormone De-Mystified.

2- Invited Article: Why Traditional Dieting Fails.

3- Anthony’s Training Tip: The Skinny-Fat Syndrome.

In this 20th issue of the Creatine Newsletter we change gears a bit from previous issues and talk about something other than creatine. In this issue I clarify some common misconceptions about one of our principle anabolic hormones, Growth Hormone. Hopefully by the end of this article you’ll know how to better optimize your growth hormone levels.

Also in this issue I post an article by Hank Johnson, weight-loss expert. In this article Hank explains why traditional dieting schemes often fail and how to lose weight smartly and effectively.

This month Anthony Ellis also addresses the skinny-fat syndrome and explains how to gain muscle mass while keeping your body fat in check. Click here for more of Anthony’s expert muscle-building advice.

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This Month’s Featured Article:

Growth Hormone De-Mystified

Consciously, or not, what most of us strive for by training is to increase our levels of anabolic (growth-promoting) hormones. If we are successful in elevating our anabolic hormone levels and follow up this condition with proper nutrition then the amount of muscle tissue we amass should be greater. Obviously, this is the desired situation for many athletes.

What is GH?

Growth hormone (GH) is our most important anabolic hormone, particularly during puberty when we are growing most rapidly. GH is responsible for muscle development, fat absorption and bone elongation. There is also some indication that GH has psycho-physiological effects contributing to feelings of well-being. GH exerts its growth-promoting effect by either coming directly into contact with cells, or through the effects of an intermediate agent known as Insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. IGF-1 is produced by the liver in response to GH present in the blood stream. Interestingly, IGF-1 is responsible for most of the effects induced by GH release. IGF-1 levels are hence used as an indictor of GH release. Interest in GH is growing with the advent of genetically engineered GH. Since naturally occurring conditions of GH deficiency are associated with stunted growth (children), or losses of lean muscle mass (adults), the possibility of artificially augmenting our GH levels as an anti-aging measure or fitness enhancer seems like an obvious use of available technology. Nevertheless, despite recent advances GH Replacement Therapy is still a field in its infancy.

What regulates GH release?

Two competing agents regulate the release of GH from the anterior pituitary. GH-stimulatory factor, also known as Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH), is produced by the Hypothalamus and induces the Anterior Pituitary to release GH. GH-inhibitory factor, also known as Somatostatin, is similarly produced by the Hypothalamus and acts upon the Anterior Pituitary to halt GH release.

How does the Hypothalamus know which to release?

Environmental and physiological factors control whether GHRH or Somatostatin is released.

1. GH:

GH inhibits its own release through a process known as negative feedback. This is a physiologically economic measure on the part of the body – It doesn’t make sense for the pituitary gland to release GH if it is already present in sufficient amounts.

2. Age:

This is the part that always gets to me since I’m now over 40. GH levels are highest during our growth spurt at puberty and decline steadily from then on. Stated differently, we release about 20-times less GH at 80 than we did at 20!! Surprisingly, the amount of GH produced by the body isn’t greatly reduced as we grow older, just the amount that is released into the blood stream. It has been proposed that an age-related rise in somatostatin levels underlies the observed drop in GH with age past puberty. The pot-belly that characterizes most older males is often the result of reduced GH. Interestingly, there are those that attribute many of the normal sign of aging to an inevitable decline in GH levels. These include a thinning of the skin, muscle loss, bone fragility, worsened blood cholesterol, inability to sleep, and lack of energy, to name just a few of the more common symptoms of aging typically ascribed to a reduction in GH.

3. Sleep:

GH is released during moments of deep sleep. In particular, during a mode of deep sleep known as Slow Wave Sleep, or SWS.SWS is most pronounced during our first few hours of sleep. It should therefore be of no surprise that not getting sufficient sleep, or maintaining a lifestyle that impedes SSW, reduces the amount of GH that is available for muscle growth.

4. Exercise:

Sensible exercise releases GH. This GH is extremely important for the repair and recovery of our muscles following exercise. It has been shown that athletes maintain more youthful GH levels for longer into later life. CAUTION: Overtraining also causes the production of somatostatin that inhibits the release of GH. We therefore recommend that you allow a particular muscle group at least two days rest before pounding it again.

5. Protein:

GH is released after the consumption of protein. This might signify to the body that it is now an opportune moment to build. Oddly, high glucose has been shown to decrease GH release.

6. Alcohol:

Alcohol is the nemesis of GH. Especially if it is consumed right before sleep. Recall that GH is predominantly released during the initial phases of deep sleep; alcohol interferes with this aspect of GH release. CAUTION: There is some indication that alcohol and some commercial GH enhancers are a dangerous combination. Verification of this threat requires further scientific investigation. If in doubt – don’t mix the two.

Can’t I just take more GH?

GH is a polypeptide and thus has the same basic makeup of proteins. What happens when you eat a piece of steak? The answer is that you breakdown the steak into its basic constituents, aka amino acids. The same would occur if you ate GH. Digestion of GH into amino acids would render it useless by the body. Therefore, eating GH isn’t the answer. You could inject GH, but why. It is expensive, requires a doctors approval and in some instances can lead to bone and internal organ deformations.

Take Home

Sensible exercise, plenty of rest, and good nutrition all work in cohort to enhance GH production. By contrast, missing sleep and alcohol consumption stymie GH release. That’s it. This was my quick and dirty outline of GH’s effects. Get more detailed information about growth hormone

Scientific Reference:

Conceicao F.L., Bojensen A., Lunde Jorgensen J.O., Christiansen J.S. (July 2001) Growth hormone therapy in adults. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology Volume 22 (3): pages 213-246.

Invited Article:

Why Traditional Dieting Fails.

by Hank Johnson

Do you realize that 60% of Americans are either overweight or obese?

And that most of those people have been on numerous types of diets – many of which have failed?

Do you think the diet failed them or that they failed the diet?

Traditional dieting doesn’t work — here’s why…


When you diet (by simply lowering your calories), your brain – in an act of self-defense against perceived starvation – signals your body that you need more food (you get hungry)…and lowers your metabolism, making it easier for you to store more fat. Both actions make it virtually impossible to lose bodyfat and reach your dieting goals.

With each repeated cycle of dieting, it takes longer to lose weight and it comes back quicker. What’s more, you are likely to accumulate extra fat pounds each time.

Important: Taking off weight isn’t the main problem — keeping it off is. Despite the best nutrition, exercise regimens and diet plans in the world, 90% of dieters regain one- to two- thirds of lost weight within one year and almost all of it within five years.

Getting out of the diet mode requires that you accept that obesity is a complex problem that requires a multipronged solution. Being very overweight is not a result of a lack of will-power or discipline. So stop beating yourself up for your size and stop deluding yourself that you won’t wake up hungry tomorrow. You will, because your brain sabotages your best efforts at psychological control and makes it impossible to resist cravings.

Also recognize that constant dieting can perpetuate your weight problem by adversely affecting your metabolism.


A chronic overweight problem can only be managed, never cured. To keep your weight in ‘remission,’ you must be constantly vigilant, eating healthfully and exercising regularly.


Here’s how to start on a healthy eating plan for life…

* STOP OBSESSING OVER YOUR WEIGHT AND YOUR APPETITE. Rather than keeping you ‘in control,’ mental preoccupation with dieting is practically guaranteed to keep you overweight because you’re constantly thinking of food.



People that are overweight need to reduce their carbohydrate intake the majority of the time. And eat mostly ‘fibrous’ carbohydrates (brocolli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, you get the picture) and fruits that are ‘tart’ in taste such as apples, grapefruit, raspberries, and blueberries, to name a few. Many have a hard time eating this much fat reasoning it’s not possible to lose fat by eating this way. It’s not only possible but certain you will because you are forcing your body to burn fat as fuel instead of the carbohydrates it prefers.


Eating this way only 2 days per week can help you to lose fat even quicker than if you stayed on the high protein, high fat, low carb approach indefinitely. Without getting too complicated, your primary fat-burning hormones are kept optimized when you eat this way twice per week. I usually tell my clients to eat this way on Mondays and Thursdays. Also, try and eat about 50% more calories on these days than you normally do. The most important point to remember is to KEEP YOUR FAT INTAKE LOW.

If you don’t then this eating technique will backfire on you. The best part about these high carb days is you can eat a lot of your favorite foods AND STILL LOSE FAT. Bread, jelly, low-fat frozen yogurt, low-fat sorbets, spaghetti, oatmeal mixed with a small amount of protein powder (my personal favorite), rice are all acceptable only on these 2 days of the week.

This alternating way of eating can easily be applied for life. Because you’re not depriving yourself on a long-term basis, you will less likely succumb to the dreariness of traditional dieting because of its limitations on allowing you to eat your favorite foods.

* DON’T SKIP MEALS. Not eating at regular intervals is a foolproof way to get fat – it convinces your body you’re starving and need to conserve fat. This doesn’t give you a license to pig out at each meal however. You need to practice portion control if your efforts at losing fat and weight are to be successful.

* DON’T EAT TOO FEW CALORIES. Almost as bad as eating too many, when you go on a very low-calorie diet, your body starts to break down muscle tissue to use for energy so it doesn’t have to dip into its fat stores (the last thing it wants to do). You’ll lose weight, but you’ll lose muscle as well as fat, which means that after your diet you’ll end up with a higher percentage of body fat to muscle mass. That will make your metabolism slow even more.

* START OR CONTINUE AN EXERCISE PROGRAM. In order for this eating program to work best you’re going to have to exercise such that your preferred muscle fuel, glycogen or stored carbohydrate, is depleted. The best way to do that is by moderate amounts of weight training and specific high-intensity forms of cardiovascular exercise. Weight-training is the only form of exercise that can actually change the way your body looks. Most other forms of exercise only reduce your overall size but keep your starting ‘shape’ the same. In addition, weight-training can help you speed up your metabolism which can quicken the rate at which you burn off fat, and help you ward off osteoporosis as you age.

IMPORTANT: Unless you are willing to exercise regularly, you will not succeed in keeping weight off.






Anthony’s Training Tips: The Skinny-Fat Syndrome.

Question: I really want to gain more muscle, but I’m afraid I will gain fat. I’m not your typical skinny guy. I’m thin, but I also have a large stomach and some love handles. I recently got my body fat measured and it’s 28%. Is it possible to be skinny and fat? What should I do?

Answer: Yes it is possible to be thin and still have high body fat levels. Being slim doesn’t necessarily mean you have low body fat levels.

I have seen many results from many different types of people on high calorie diets. From my experience, individuals starting a high calorie diet with a high body fat level will tend to gain more fat than muscle. This could quite possibly be due to a sluggish fat storer metabolism. On the flipside, individuals starting a high calorie diet with already low body fat levels tend to gain more muscle than fat.

Since you have a fairly high body fat level, you should first go on a fat loss diet to lower your body fat. This will increase your chances of gaining more muscle than fat when you do start a higher calorie diet. It will also help you to keep your body fat levels in check. It is very easy to let your body fat levels get out of hand when trying to bulk up. This is a mistake. The more body fat you have, the more difficult it becomes to remove later on.

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