Also known as growth hormone (GH), it plays a key role in growth, body composition, cell repair, and metabolism (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Low HGH levels may decrease your quality of life, increase your risk of disease, and make you gain fat (9Trusted Source).
Here are 11 evidence-based ways to increase human growth hormone (HGH) levels naturally.
The amount of belly fat you carry is directly related to your HGH production (3Trusted Source).
Those with higher levels of belly fat will likely have impaired HGH production and an increased risk of disease.
One study observed that those with three times the amount of belly fat as the control group had less than half their amount of HGH (15Trusted Source).
Another study monitored the 24-hour release of HGH and found a large decline in those with more abdominal fat.
What’s more, a study found that people with obesity had lower levels of HGH and IGF-1 — a growth-related protein. After losing a significant amount of weight, their levels returned to normal (17Trusted Source).
Belly fat is the most dangerous type of stored fat and linked to many diseases. Losing belly fat will help optimize your HGH levels and other aspects of your health.
SUMMARYGet rid of excess body fat — especially around your belly — to optimize your HGH levels and improve your health.
Studies show that fasting leads to a major increase in HGH levels.
One study found that 3 days into a fast, HGH levels increased by over 300%. After 1 week of fasting, they had increased by a massive 1,250% (18Trusted Source).
However, continuous fasting is not sustainable in the long term. Intermittent fasting is a more popular dietary approach that limits eating to brief time periods.
Multiple methods of intermittent fasting are available. One common approach is a daily 8-hour eating window with a 16-hour fast. Another involves eating only 500–600 calories 2 days per week (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
Intermittent fasting can help optimize HGH levels in two main ways. First, it can help you drop body fat, which directly affects HGH production (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
Second, it’ll keep your insulin levels low for most of the day, as insulin is released when you eat. Research suggests that insulin spikes can disrupt your natural growth hormone production (28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source).
One study observed large differences in HGH levels on the fasting day compared with the eating day (30Trusted Source).
Shorter 12–16-hour fasts likely help as well, though more research is needed to compare their effects with full-day fasts.
SUMMARYFasting can significantly increase HGH levels, though more research is needed on shorter fasts.
When taken alone, arginine may boost HGH.
Other non-exercise studies also support the use of arginine to boost HGH.
One study examined the effects of taking either 45 or 114 mg of arginine per pound (100 or 250 mg per kg) of body weight, or around 6–10 or 15–20 grams per day, respectively.
It found no effect for the lower dose, but participants taking the higher dose experienced around a 60% increase in HGH levels during sleep (34Trusted Source).
SUMMARYHigher doses of arginine may improve growth hormone production, but not when taken around exercise.
An increase in insulin is associated with lower HGH levels.
One study found that healthy people had 3–4 times higher HGH levels than those with diabetes, as well as impaired carb tolerance and insulin function (35Trusted Source).
Along with directly affecting insulin levels, excess sugar intake is a key factor in weight gain and obesity, which also affect HGH levels.
That said, the occasional sweet treat will not impact your HGH levels in the long term.
Aim to achieve a balanced diet, as what you eat has a profound effect on your health, hormones, and body composition.
SUMMARYElevated insulin levels may reduce HGH production. Therefore, limit your intake of large amounts of sugar and refined carbs.
Given that most meals cause a rise in insulin levels, some experts suggest avoiding food before bedtime (25Trusted Source).
In particular, a high-carb or high-protein meal may spike your insulin and potentially block some of the HGH released at night (38Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that insufficient research exists on this theory.
Nevertheless, insulin levels normally decrease 2–3 hours after eating, so you may wish to avoid carb- or protein-based meals 2–3 hours before bedtime.
SUMMARYMore research is needed on the effects of nighttime eating on HGH. Still, it may be best to avoid food 2–3 hours before bed.
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a non-protein amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter, sending signals around your brain.
As a well-known calming agent for your brain and central nervous system, it’s often used to aid sleep. Interestingly, it may also help increase your HGH levels (39Trusted Source).
One study found that taking a GABA supplement led to a 400% increase in HGH at rest and a 200% increase following exercise (40Trusted Source).
SUMMARYGABA supplements may help increase HGH production, though this increase seems to be short-lived.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to significantly raise your HGH levels.
The increase depends on the type of exercise, intensity, food intake around the workout, and your body’s own traits (43Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source).
As with supplements, exercise mainly causes short-term spikes in HGH levels.
Nevertheless, over the long term, exercise may optimize your hormone function and decrease body fat, both of which will benefit your HGH levels.
SUMMARYExercise provides a large spike in HGH. High-intensity training is the best form of exercise to increase growth hormone levels.
Some sports supplements can optimize performance and temporarily boost your HGH levels.
In one study, taking 4.8 grams of beta-alanine before a workout increased the number of repetitions performed by 22% (52Trusted Source).
It also doubled peak power and boosted HGH levels compared with the non-supplement group (52Trusted Source).
Another study demonstrated that a sugary sports drink increased HGH levels toward the end of a workout. However, if you’re trying to lose fat, the drink’s extra calories will negate any benefit from the short-term HGH spike (53Trusted Source).
Studies have shown that protein shakes —both with and without carbs — can boost HGH levels around workouts (48Trusted Source).
However, if a casein or whey protein supplement is taken immediately before strength exercise, it may have the opposite effect.
One study found that drinking a beverage containing 25 grams (0.9 ounces) of casein or whey protein 30 minutes before strength exercise reduced levels of human growth hormone and testosterone, compared with a non-caloric placebo (49Trusted Source).
SUMMARYBeta-alanine, carbs, and protein may increase short-term growth hormone spikes during or after a workout.
The majority of HGH is released in pulses when you sleep. These pulses are based on your body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm.
Studies have shown that poor sleep can reduce the amount of HGH your body produces (42Trusted Source).
Here are a few simple strategies to help optimize your sleep:
- Avoid blue light exposure before bedtime.
- Read a book in the evening.
- Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature.
- Don’t consume caffeine late in the day.
SUMMARYFocus on optimizing sleep quality and aim for 7–10 hours of quality sleep per night.
Melatonin is a hormone that plays an important role in sleep and blood pressure regulation (54Trusted Source).
Melatonin supplements have become a popular sleep aid that can increase the quality and duration of your sleep (55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source, 57Trusted Source, 58Trusted Source, 59Trusted Source, 60Trusted Source, 61Trusted Source).
While good sleep alone may benefit HGH levels, further research has shown that a melatonin supplement can directly enhance HGH production (58Trusted Source, 62Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source, 64Trusted Source).
Melatonin is also fairly safe and non-toxic. However, it may alter your brain chemistry in some ways, so you may want to check with your healthcare provider before using it (65Trusted Source).
To maximize its effects, take 1–5 mg about 30 minutes before bed. Start with a lower dose to assess your tolerance, then increase if needed.
SUMMARYMelatonin supplements can enhance sleep and increase your body’s natural HGH production.
Several other supplements may enhance human growth hormone production, including:
- Glutamine. A 2-gram dose may temporarily increase levels up to 78% (66Trusted Source).
- Creatine. A 20-gram dose of creatine significantly increased HGH levels for 2–6 hours (67Trusted Source).
- Ornithine. One study gave participants ornithine 30 minutes after exercise and found a greater peak in HGH levels (68).
- L-dopa. In patients with Parkinson’s disease, 500 mg of L-dopa increased HGH levels for up to 2 hours (69Trusted Source).
- Glycine. Studies have found glycine can improve gym performance and provide short-term spikes in HGH (70Trusted Source).
While these supplements may increase your HGH levels, studies indicate that their effects are only temporary.
SUMMARYSeveral natural supplements can temporarily increase the production of HGH.