A Basic guide to Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
The intention of this guide is to give you a good basic working knowledge of HGH and how to intelligently use it. While this is not intended to cover every conceivable nuance of HGH use, it should provide you with a solid enough background to create your cycle around. Few other hormones have generated more excitement and hype in recent years than HGH. From reports of incredible fat loss to tales of increases in lean muscle to levels that defy genetics, HGH has been touted as one of the panaceas to all bodybuilding woes. Depending on which statistics you trust, reports of as many as 80% of professional athletes have experimented with, have used, or are actively using HGH as a supplement to their training program.
WHAT EXACTLY IS HGH?
Human Growth Hormone (somatotropin – also referred to as rHGH, HGH, or GH) is created by the pituitary gland, the primary form consisting of a 191 amino acid chain. When we are young, HGH is in big part responsible for the proper growth of bones, muscle, and other tissues. Too little of this hormone and we remain dwarfs … too much and we become giants and/or suffer from abnormal growth deformities. As we become adults, HGH is responsible for keeping muscles from wasting away, supports healthy immune system response, regulates aspects of our metabolic function dealing with increased fat metabolism and healthy body composition in later life, and maintains and repairs our skin and other tissues.
Our levels of HGH peak while we are adolescents and then begin to drop off sharply beginning in our 30’s. By our 60’s, our daily HGH secretion can be as little as 10% of what it was during our youth. Many of the markers of aging are affected by this decrease in HGH. Some of the results of this are:
· Increase in fat.
· Decrease in muscle and lean body structures.
· Decreased skin texture resulting in a less youthful appearance.
· Decreased bone density, onset of osteoporosis.
· Decreased brain function, loss of intellect with aging.
· Decreased sex drive.
· Decrease in overall physical and mental well being.
· Increase in sleep disorders, lower quality of sleep.
· Depression and fatigue.
The addition of supplemental HGH beginning in the latter 30’s can reverse or improve these symptoms in the majority of people attempting therapy. This is why you will often hear references with respect to HGH as “the fountain of youth” and other similar terms. It can present a better quality of life for those aging.
HOW IS HGH RELEASED IN YOUR BODY?
HGH is secreted from the pituitary in a pulsatile fashion, generally following a circadian rhythm. A number of stimuli can initiate an HGH secretion, the most powerful being short duration, high intensity exercise and sleep. During the first few hours of sleep (deep sleep stages – about 2 hours after you fall asleep), Somatostatin is turned off and GHRH is turned on, resulting in HGH pulses.
Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH) produced by the hypothalamus stimulates HGH secretion. HGH, and IGF-1 create a negative feedback loop, meaning when their levels are high; it blunts release of GHRH, which in turn blunts the release of more HGH.
Somatostatin (SS), secreted by the hypothalamus as well as other tissues inhibits the secretion of HGH Somatostatin in response to GHRH and to other stimulatory factors such as low blood glucose concentration. High levels of IGF-1 also stimulate Somatostatin secretion.
Ghrelin is a peptide hormone secreted from the stomach. Ghrelin binds to receptors on somatotrophs and potently stimulates secretion of growth hormone. Ghrelin, as the stimulator for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor, potently stimulates secretion of growth hormone. The ghrelin signal is integrated with that of growth hormone releasing hormone and somatostatin to control the timing and magnitude of growth hormone secretion.
Once HGH is released, it is very short lived. It is generally metabolized and gone within a half-hour. During this half-hour, it travels to the liver and other tissues and induces them to secrete a polypeptide hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor One (IGF-1).
HOW DOES HGH DO ITS WORK?
As mentioned above, HGH is short lived, but during its short half-hour or so activity per burst from the pituitary, it exerts itself through direct and indirect effects.
Its direct effects are the result of the HGH binding its receptor on target cells. Fat cells (adipocytes) as well as myocytes (muscle cells) have HGH receptors. On fat cells, HGH stimulates them to break down triglyceride and suppresses the fat cells ability to uptake circulating lipids.
Its indirect effects are in the process we described in the section above. When HGH travels to the liver, one of the results of its pass through the liver is the livers secretion of IGF-1. When this IGF-1 is secreted, it stimulates proliferation of chondrocytes (cartilage cells), which result in bone growth. It also plays a part in stimulating both the proliferation and differentiation of myoblasts (the precursor to skeletal muscle fibers). IGF-1 also stimulates amino acid uptake and protein synthesis in muscle and other tissues. Other tissues (muscle, etc.) are acted on by the presence of HGH, also inducing their release of IGF-1.
HGH stimulates protein anabolism in many tissues. This reflects increased protein synthesis, decreased oxidation of proteins, and increased amino acid uptake. As mentioned above, HGH enhances fat utilization by stimulating triglyceride breakdown and oxidation in fat cells (adipocytes).
HGH can affect the function of other hormones. HGH can suppress the abilities of insulin to stimulate the uptake of glucose in tissues and enhance glucose synthesis in the liver, though administering HGH actually stimulates insulin secretion and can create a state of hyperinsulinemia. This combination can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity, which in turn can lead to hyperglycemia. HGH can in the right circumstances also have a slight inhibitory effect on the function of our thyroid hormones (and actually vice versa as well), though this varies greatly from individual to individual. The vast majority of users have no need to worry about this at all. Others wishing to increase their metabolism or enhance certain of HGH’s functions may wish to consider low dose thyroid to their HGH cycle. We’ll offer some strategies later in this guide.
So, we are looking at a hormone that can assist with maintenance and healing of most of the body’s systems, can create new cartilage, bone, and muscle cells, can assist with protein uptake, decrease the oxidation of proteins, and can accelerate the rate at which fat is utilized. This paints the picture of the excitement that follows HGH. How then do we utilize this to our advantage? Let’s take a look at some strategies.
HOW DO I INCREASE MY LEVELS OF HGH?
There are a few strategies for increasing your own endogenous production of HGH. For the most part these aren’t going to give us a significant enough increase that would be necessary to promote all of the benefits mentioned above in their full measure, but for some (those still young) they will prove to be sufficient.
By adding several grams of Arginine and Glutamine to our daily supplement program, we can increase our levels of HGH. If we are very young or we are only in need of a modest jump in production, this may well do the trick. Short duration, high-intensity exercise (think heavy leg day – puking and all), will trigger our bodies to secrete a significant amount of HGH
Another possibility is to inject various related hormones or peptides. There are many available, such as GHRH, GHRP (and all of its analogs), and the like. These peptides are available from research companies and when injected at doses of 100mcgs per day, sub-q it does seem to show promise in increasing levels of HGH. At this stage the game, there isn’t a significant cost advantage to this over rHGH, but if we are trying to promote some of the other forms of HGH in addition to the primary form, or have no hope of securing a prescription for HGH (or other means of access) there may be an advantage to this course of action. Aside from these strategies, what are we left with? To state it simply, we need to inject exogenous rHGH.
INJECTIBLE HGH AND ITS USE
True HGH only comes in the form of a lyophilized powder. Any other form that you see advertised or run across is NOT the real deal. The only way to administer true HGH is by sub-q or intramuscular injection. You will see studies that use IV as their method of administration, but that is certainly NOT recommended (in fact it is just outright crazy), nor necessary in any way for getting all of the benefits HGH has to offer.
HGH is somewhat fragile by nature, and it needs to be protected from light and heat. HGH should be stored between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit at all times both before and after its reconstitution.
There are a couple of American brands of HGH that can survive in normal room temperature for a reasonable amount of time BEFORE reconstitution (Genotropin – 3 months, Saizen – until expiration), but for the most part it is better to err on the side of safe rather than sorry. All brands of HGH should be refrigerated after being reconstituted, and all brands should be protected from light at all times.
RECONSTITUTING AND MEASURING YOUR HGH
So you now have a vial HGH in the form of lyophilized powder. The amount of this powder should be indicated on the vial somewhere. It will either be stated in Units (IU’s) or in Milligrams (mg). If it is stated in milligrams, the conversion is most commonly stated as 1mg = ~3IU’s (its really more precisely 1mg=2.7IU). We will use this 1mg = 3IU’s for our guide since this is the standard most commonly referenced by manufacturers.
What we need to do with this lyophilized powder is add some Bacteriostatic water (BW), Sterile Water, or even liquid vitamin B12 to reconstitute it and make it ready to inject.
What we choose to reconstitute it with should depend on how rapidly we use the GH. Bacteriostatic water is basically sterile water with 0.9% Benzyl Alcohol added, and this Alcohol keeps anything from growing in the water, thus making it safe for injection for the longest amount of time, up to three weeks. If the amount of GH in our vial is enough to last for a few weeks at our desired daily dosage, BW is the wisest choice. For the common use for bodybuilding (2-5 IU’s a day) and the more commonly used vial size (10 IU’s), it isn’t really as critical which of the above listed dilutents are used … the vial will be used up long before bacteria or anything begins to grow in our reconstituted HGH. It is really personal preference outside of the considerations listed above.
1.) Take an alcohol swab and swab the stopper of both your HGH vial and the vial of the dilutent (BW, sterile water, B12).
2.) Take a 3cc syringe with a 23 or 25 gauge needle (1″ or 1.5″) and draw up and amount of your preferred dilutent. The amount isn’t critical, other than making sure you know exactly how much you have used. The best rule of thumb is choose an amount that will make measuring the final product easy
example- 1ml(cc) per 10 IU vial of HGH would mean each 10 mark on a U100 slin syringe would equal 1 IU of HGH
2ml(cc) added to a 10 IU vial of HGH would mean that the 20 mark on a U100 syringe would equal 1 IU of HGH
3ml(cc) added to a 10 IU vial of HGH would mean that the 30 mark on a U100 syringe would equal 1 IU of HGH
3.) Take this syringe with the dilutent and push it into the vial of lyophilized powder, angling so that the needle touches the side of the vial, and avoiding shooting the dilutent directly on the lyophilized powder. Make it run slowly down the side of the vial (don’t let it forcefully rush in).
4.) After all of the dilutent has been added to the HGH vial, gentling swirl (do NOT agitate or violently shake the vial) until the lyophilized powder has dissolved and you are left with a clear liquid. The HGH is now ready for use. Store your now reconstituted HGH in the refrigerator. If you used BW to reconstitute it will be good for three weeks. If you used sterile water, it will be good for about 5 days.
After you have successfully reconstituted your HGH, now you need to know how to measure the desired amount out for injection. You will want to use a U100 insulin syringe to draw out and inject your HGH.
Here is the way to figure out how much to draw out. Since you know the amount of IU’s in your HGH vial, and you also know how much water you have diluted it with, we just divide this out as follows:
You will need to know the following to be successful –
1ml = 1cc = 100 IU’s
So we take our number of IU’s of HGH from the label of the dry lyophilized powder (most commonly 10 IU’s for all of the Jintropin users), and we divide that into the amount of dilutent we used.
example- We used 1cc(ml) of water. We have a 10 IU vial of HGH.
From our formula above we know that 1cc = 100 IU’s, so we have 100 IU’s of water.
We now divide the 100 IU’s (the amount of our water) by 10 IU’s (the amount of our HGH)
100 IU / 10 IU = 10
This 10 will perfectly correspond with the markings on a U100 insulin syringe. In our example every 10 mark on our syringe will equal 1 IU of HGH. Want to draw out 2 IU’s of GH? ….draw out to the 20 mark on the syringe.
This is about all there is to it. So to recap, just keep straight:
1.) How much actual HGH you are dealing with (read from the vial)
2.) How much water (dilutent) you are using to add to the actual HGH.
3.) Divide the amount of water in units by the amount of GH in units.
4.) This result will equal the measurement on your U100 Insulin syringe per unit of GH.
5.) multiply the number you get it step 4 by how many units you want to inject. This is the number to draw to on your syringe.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what HGH is, how it does its work, and how to reconstitute and measure it, lets look at some strategies for using this hormone to our best advantage.
STRATEGIES FOR USING HGH
There are many different approaches to taking HGH. The right approach for your particular situation will depend on your goals. For many, HGH is a general supplement to help maintain low bodyfat percentages and reasonable levels of lean body mass. For others who have reached their genetic potential for growth, HGH is a supplement that can assist in continued growth beyond what your parents gave you to work with. For yet others, it is a supplement that is used for general health and healing of injuries. Let’s look at each of these uses with respect to a reasonable HGH program.
For bodybuilders, HGH (and the IGF-1 that is a result of its use) is the only substance that can actually initiate hyperplasia, which in the interest of our use in bodybuilding equates to new muscle cells. While use of anabolic steroids can cause hypertrophy (the enlargement of existing muscle cells), steroids do not offer the ability to recruit and mature more muscle cells. HGH can. HGH also increases protein synthesis, which can be responsible for hypertrophy. HGH also strengthens and heals connective tissues, cartilage, and tendons. These uses are what make it so attractive to athletes in all sports, and in bodybuilding in particular.
To begin with, it should be stated that for the vast majority of HGH users, results are not rapid and earthshaking in nature. If your idea of using HGH is to get ripped in a few weeks, gaining 20 pounds of muscle in a matter of a month or two, or being miraculously healed in a matter of a few injections … you are likely in for a BIG disappointment. HGH does some pretty incredible things, but it HAS to be viewed as a long-term endeavor. A reasonable length HGH cycle would be 20-30 weeks in length. While you will always be able to find the one or two individuals who will make great strides in a short amount of time, the majority of us need to be dedicated to its use for the long haul for it to be a worthy venture.
As mentioned in our introduction to HGH, one of the major roles it plays in growth is by its acting on the liver, muscle cells, and other tissues, which in turn secretes IGF-1. This process is cumulative in nature, and it will take some time for your exogenous HGH use to bring your IGF-1 levels to create an environment conducive to optimal growth. While it is true that HGH begins shuttling nutrients to your muscles, and begins mobilizing fat from the first injection, these behind the scenes benefits will only be VISIBLE several weeks (up to 12) down the road.
For anti-aging, general health & healing, fat mobilization
And other purposes such as these –
A dose of 2-3 IU’s per day (~10 – 15 IU’s per week) will be sufficient. A dose of 1.5 – 2.0 IU’s is considered to be a full replacement dose for those in their middle age. Given we will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-80% absorption and utilization from our subQ injections, our 2-3 IU’s will for all intents and purposes equate to a full replacement measure of HGH.
For gaining lean muscle and substantially improving body composition:
For this purpose a dose of 5-10 IU’s per day (~25-50 IU’s per week) will be necessary. Most people that still have an alive and kicking pituitary will respond very well at a dose of 5 IU’s per day, though advanced bodybuilders and other large strength athletes will find that dose approaching 10 IU’s per day will be in order.
For maximum benefit in this regard, the addition of Testosterone and/or other anabolic should strongly be considered. For advanced use, other supplements like Insulin, and low-dose T3 or T4 would also be considerations.
Regardless of your goal, as a general rule the best way to begin your HGH program is to start with a low dose and ease your body into the higher doses. This will allow you to avoid (or at least minimize) many of the more common (and unpleasant) sides of HGH such as bloating and joint pain & swelling. Most people can tolerate up to approximately 2 IU’s per day with few sides, so that would be a good place to start.
For many using this as a general health supplement, that is as high as you will need to go. For others this will be only the start. Above 2.5 – 3 IU’s, I would definitely suggest that your split your injections into two per day instead of one unless it is just not feasible to do so. In my experiences, I have ran doses as high as 10 IU’s per injection, but at those doses I have suffered greatly with joint pain and bloating to the point of feeling like a Goodyear blimp. Also in my experimentation it seems that at least for me, keeping my individual doses down to 3-3.5 IU’s a piece, I more effectively elevate my IGF-1 levels while minimizing the need for mega-doses of HGH.
Here is what a good ramp up strategy would look like:
Weeks 1-4 = HGH 2 IU’s one injection
Week 5 = HGH 2.5 IU’s one injection
Week 6 = HGH 3.0 IU’s split into two injections of 1.5 IU’s each
Week 7 = HGH 3.5 IU’s split into two injections of 1.75 IU’s each
And so forth until you reach your desired dose.
If at any point in this progression you begin to have unbearable bloating or joint pain, drop the dose by 25% and hold it at this lower dosage for a couple of weeks. If the sides subside, begin your progression back up toward your desired level. If the sides remain, lower your dose again and hold it at the lower level for two weeks before beginning the upward progression. This method will keep your HGH experience a good one and side free for the most part.
For a normal cycle of 5-8 months in length, injecting once or twice a day, 7 days a week should be fine. While there are studies that suggest that the suppression and negative feedback from exogenous HGH is short lived (about 4 hours from time of injection), there are no large-scale studies to indicate safety of everyday injections in long-term use. There are studies by anti-aging groups demonstrating that a day or two off per week is adequate to protect the pituitary and its triggers over long cycles. If your use of HGH becomes more a lifestyle than a single cycle, I would consider running it 5 on/2 off, or 6 on/ 1 off until such time as we have reliable data demonstrating long-term safety sans any degradation of your own output or the triggers initiating that output. I have personally experimented with just about every conceivable injection strategy I could devise. What I can say about the anti-aging doctor’s supposition is that it panned out for me. I have recently come off of a 7-year run of HGH. I personally pull my own blood panels every six weeks routinely. After many months of being off of HGH, I now have the same profile I had before I began its use many years ago … high normal for my age. All levels and markers are perfectly normal.
Another option would be to run your HGH cycle everyday for the first two months to get your IGF-1 levels elevated quickly and to a level to assist you in an anabolic way, then drop back to 5 days a week. If you can tolerate the sides of higher doses, running the same weekly dose divided every other day is fine as well. The list goes on and frankly is an individual proposition. What seems to be of greatest import is that your weekly supplement of HGH is respectable enough to provide the desired benefit.
As described above, the body produces HGH is a pulsatile fashion throughout the day with the heaviest pulses occurring approximately 2 hours or so after going to bed and as you fall into a deep sleep. Injectible HGH is completely absorbed and put to use within approximately 3 hours. The strategy with respect to timing depends somewhat on our age and the other elements of our cycle. As you will see below, there is no single best strategy … it depends a lot on your individual situation.
For those that are between their late 20’s and early 50’s, there is still a reasonable chance that your own endogenous production of HGH is at a reasonable level. The best time to take and injection, this being the case, would be early morning …. After your body’s own release of HGH in the night. If you get up to go to the bathroom in the early morning (3 -5am), this is probably the perfect time to take a couple of units of HGH. This will be the least disruptive time to take an injection of HGH. The second best time would be first thing in the morning when you wake up.
If you are splitting your doses, the two times of the day when your cortisol levels are at peak are when you wake up and in the early afternoon. This being the case, another good strategy is to take your HGH injections at these times. Cortisol is very catabolic by nature and a well -timed HGH injection can go a long way toward blunting this effect.
If you are in your late 50’s or beyond, or if for some reason you have a condition that has rendered your pituitary incapable of a normal release of HGH, a great time to take HGH is right before bed. This allows you to closely mimic the natural pattern that would occur if your pituitary were functioning properly. For the rest of us, taking your HGH right before bed is going to end up creating a negative feedback loop, robbing you of your body’s own nightly pulse of HGH. While the jury is still out (conflicting studies) as to the absolute nature of the negative feedback time, it is clear that the closer we push our injection to the time our body is ready to give us its biggest pulses of HGH, we are going to end up derailing our own triggers and secretion.
Yet another strategy should be considered if you are using insulin with your HGH. Insulin should be used immediately post workout. HGH and insulin do some great things together – they shuttle nutrients in a very complimentary way with each other, and the combination of HGH and Insulin create the best environment for IGF-1 production from the liver. If you are using insulin immediately post workout, taking a few IU’s of HGH pre-workout will allow HGH to offer all of its fat mobilizing effects while getting your HGH and Insulin to the liver at about the right time for huge IGF-1 releases.
SIDE EFFECTS – HOW TO MANAGE THEM
While HGH for the most part is well tolerated, there are some minor, mostly nuisance side effects that can occur. The biggest and most common side effect is bloating and joint pain. The chances of getting these can be minimized or even eliminated by utilizing the ramp up method discussed above in this guide.
If you are younger than your late 20’s, it would be very wise to enter an HGH cycle under the guidance of an MD, who can monitor and confirm whether your growth plates have fused. While abnormal bone growth with HGH use is not common, if used at the wrong point in your body’s development, it could cause disproportionate growth.
If you have a history of cancer or other tumors (at any age), it would be wise to get a complete checkup and be monitored by an MD to make sure that there are no active tumors before your HGH cycle. While HGH (and IGF-1) won’t cause cancer or tumors, they can create an environment that can allow already existing, active tumors to grow at an accelerated rate. We intentionally keep growth factor levels to a minimum in cancer patients. While tumors can create their own growth factors, we really don’t want to throw gas on the fire and allow them to grow any faster than they otherwise could.
Beyond these considerations, there really isn’t anything specific that you would HAVE to take with HGH. There are supplements that you could take for specific conditions that are possible with HGH use. The way people react to HGH is a pretty individual thing. Some people get very little suppression of any kind; others don’t see any gains from adding HGH because of significant enough suppression of one kind or another. Here’s a general rundown of a few of the bigger ones.
For the slight thyroid support that may be desired:
conservative – take nothing
moderate – t-100x, bladderwrack, coleus forskolin, selenium, zinc, chromium, copper
aggressive – T3 at a dose of 12.5 – 25 mcgs or T4 at 100mcgs per day.
For the insulin resistance that is possible:
- conservative – 300mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid and 200 – 300mcgs of Chromium Piccinolate
- moderate – 15mg of Actos – a prescription med to increase insulin sensitivity, Glucophage (Metformin) to dispose of excess glucose and increase uptake in muscles.
- aggressive – add a few IU’s of insulin to your HGH cycle
For healthy test levels to best utilize HGH:
- conservative – do nothing
- moderate – use Tongkat or Tribulus
- aggressive – add 200-300 milligrams (or more) of testosterone weekly to your HGH cycle
For protection against prostate growth:
- conservative – do nothing
- moderate – use Saw Palmetto (approx 2000mg)
- aggressive – use Proscar or equivalent
For those that have a problem with breast tissue growth while on HGH:
For those that suffer from this, there is a difference of opinion as to the cause. In the presence of adequate estrogen, HGH can prompt growth of breast tissue. Also of consideration is that growth hormone, prolactin, and placental lactogen are a subfamily of a large 2-class cytokine superfamily of proteins. The amino acid sequences of hGH and hPL are similar (85% homology). In humans, each of these three proteins can bind hPRL receptors and promote a variety of physiological actions, including breast growth, lactation, and the like.
The current consensus seems to be that the best approach for those with this problem is twofold – Take 200mg of B6 (or Bromo if B6 is not sufficient) and also use 20-40mg of Tamoxifen (Nolva) to control this. If all else fails, a couple of months of Letro and Bromo will most certainly (and aggressively) deal with the problem. This is a pretty rare condition, but I have talked with more than a few bros that have reported this sort of problem.
Once again, I wouldn’t say that all (or any) of these are necessary for everyone. I would use these supplements as necessary to correct whatever conditions arise with your own HGH use. As stated above, reaction to HGH (and just about anything else we use) is very individual.