Human Growth Hormone, more commonly referred to as HGH, is a substance which is produced naturally within the body by the pituitary gland.
It plays an important function both during the formative years when it helps organs, muscles and bones to grow and also during adulthood when it’s responsible for keeping the same areas strong and healthy. HGH also plays a role in metabolic function, skin health and the immune system.
Because it’s such a vital element to the growth of the body – hence the name! – it’s perhaps not surprising to discover that levels of HGH peak during adolescence. By the time you reach your 30’s, levels of it start to rapidly decline. The drop in HGH is what leads to some of the signs of ageing such as loss of bone density, fatigue, decreased muscle, rise in body fat and deterioration in the skin.
Some individuals suffer from a deficiency of HGH and replacement therapy is given via injection in these cases. HGH can be given to both children and adults. Other medical causes for which HGH is prescribed include organ transplants and muscle wasting related to AIDS.
HGH originally was harvested from cadavers for treatment but in 1985 a synthetic version was created which is what is now used.
Because HGH plays such a fundamental role in so many processes within the body, it has been used as a supplement by the bodybuilding community. The drug has been used to assist with recovery times and to improve bone density but more recently it has been promoted as an aid to quick weight loss. The use of HGH in this capacity remains controversial with no definitive proof that it can achieve true weight loss, even when taken at a higher dose.
The weight loss theory
Over the years, lots of wonder drugs have been explored, all of which claim to promote weight loss. This is interesting to the general population but also bodybuilders who are looking to get really shredded.
As well as providing additional strength, muscular growth and a competitive edge, HGH can also help with fat loss.
When HGH is produced by the body it is transformed into a substance known as IGF1. This substance competes with insulin at the receptor sites, causing less glucose to be carried to the cells for energy and instead forcing the body to burn off fat.
This is very different from the usual biological process where the body first burns off all the available glucose before turning to fat stores for the surplus required.
Because the body needs energy all of the time, even while you’re sleeping, you don’t need to do copious amounts of energy to see the fat-burning effect. HGH will continue to burn off fat stores even if you’re immobile.
You won’t need to follow a particularly strict diet to lose while using HGH you will need to ensure you eat foods which have a low glycaemic index – which means low carb diets. This is because an excess of glucose circulating around your body can lead to a pre diabetic condition known as impaired glucose tolerance. Over time, this can change into full-blown diabetes. It’s therefore sensible not to overload the body with foods with a high glycemic index. A high protein diet will not only assist with muscle gain but will also reduce the likelihood of these kind of weight loss products causing more serious problems.
Does it work for weight loss?
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that the FDA have never granted approval for HGH to be used for weight loss although it does have a license for a number of other conditions. Therefore, it’s not been deemed as unsafe for human consumption, but it’s not been formally recognised as being able to effectively aid weight loss.
In 1990 a study was published in an established medical journal which seemed to suggest that HGH could lead to weight loss, with individuals shedding 14% of body fat with no changes to their diet or exercise. At the same time individuals gained just under 9% in muscle mass.
This study is often cited as proof that HGH for weight loss really works, but subsequent research has failed to demonstrate the same effect. The journal that published the original study has since warned about the dangers in using the results, given subsequent research.
There are a number of diet programs which claim human growth hormone supplements hold the key to rapid weight loss. However, none of the HGH weight loss drugs have been clinically proven to help to lose weight. Despite these types of diet programs claiming to promote natural weight loss, no evidence is yet available to back them up.
However, there does seem to be some suggestion that even if human growth hormone for weight loss isn’t a success, it can change the overall composition of the body. Fat loss seems to increase while muscle mass simultaneously increases, but only to a small degree.
Positive effects of HGH
Although there remains a question about whether HGH can actually lead to any weight loss, there are some other positive effects.
There’s no question that HGH can help to grow muscle mass which makes it a popular supplement in the bodybuilding community. And in addition to increasing strength, it can also shorten recovery times too. Tissue which has become damaged can be healed more quickly with HGH while ligaments and joints receive extra support.
There is limited evidence to show that HGH can help with fat loss too and the composition of the body, even if the overall weight remains the same.
For those who choose to take HGH, it is necessary to administer it via injection. This is because HGH is a protein which if taken orally, will be broken down by the stomach and won’t reach the bloodstream.
Some companies will market HGH powder or HGH pills and claim the same rate of effectiveness. However, due to the metabolic process, the only way to take HGH is via injection. Some of the HGH tablets claim to be releasers instead, rather than the actual substance. These claim to trigger the body’s own system into producing more HGH rather than introducing it directly.
There is the choice of injecting HGH either subcutaneously or intramuscularly. The former has a greater bioavailability at about 75%, dropping to 63% when injected intramuscularly.
To avoid side effects, it’s a good idea to ease gently when you start a HGH cycle for weight loss. Users should begin with 1-2 IU and gradually increase this to between 2-4 IU taken twice a day. The time of the dosage isn’t as important as with stimulant drugs so can fit in with the rest of your cycle.
The half life for HGH is short, which means frequent administration is necessary. The half life varies between 3-5 hours depending on whether the injection is made subcutaneously or intramuscularly. The latter has the longer half life, lasting on average 4.9 hours.
Use in women
HGH can be used safely in women without any of the virilization risks which are present with the use of anabolic steroids. However, the dose must be much lower to prevent overdosing, as squaring of the jaw can be a much more common side effect in women.
For this reason, it’s recommended that just 1-2 IU is taken at first, and any increase on this is introduced very slowly and with caution. A maximum dose of 3-4 IU can be taken for bodybuilders and those seeking out extreme results but the effects on the body must be carefully monitored at this level.
Although HGH has an extremely short half life, it takes an extended period before any effects on the body become evident.
When HGH is taken for weight loss, a cycle of between 12-16 weeks is required. No fat loss will be seen in cycles which are shorter.
For an anabolic effect and an increase in athletic performance, cycles of 6 months at the maximum dose are common.
Unlike anabolic steroids, the side effects of HGH are relatively mild.
One of the most common problems seen with the use of HGH is water retention and pain in the joints. It doesn’t affect everyone and for those who are afflicted, it should be relatively mild.
Although water retention is an undesirable side effect, especially for those trying to lose weight, the good news is that once the cycle is over, the surplus fluids will be lost.
The joint pain is usually relatively mild and bearable for most people. Occasionally cold and flu-type symptoms such as headaches and fatigue can also occur.
HGH has been linked to the squaring off and thickening of fingers, toes and the jaw, a condition known medically as acromegaly. However, this side effect is usually only seen in those who abuse HGH at abnormally high levels for an extended period of time. If you follow the recommended dose, you shouldn’t ever experience this.
One area you do need to take care is if you have any history of abnormal cell growth within your body, such as prostate tumors. A benign prostatic growth wouldn’t normally be cause for concern but because HGH encourages the growth of cells it can become dangerous. Anyone with either a personal history of strong family history of cancer should therefore steer clear of HGH.
The other proven side effect is carpal tunnel syndrome; anyone who takes HGH is at an increased risk of this.
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