Human growth hormone (HGH) is an important hormone produced by the pituitary gland.
Also known as growth hormone (GH), it plays a key role in growth, body composition, cell repair and metabolism (, , , , , ).
HGH also boosts muscle growth, strength and exercise performance, while helping you recover from injury and disease (, , ).
Lower HGH levels may negatively impact your quality of life, increase your risk of disease and make you gain fat ().
Having optimal levels is especially important during weight loss, for recovery from injury and when trying to boost athletic performance (, , , ).
Interestingly, your diet and lifestyle choices can have a huge effect on your HGH levels (, ).
Here are 11 evidence-based ways to increase human growth hormone (HGH) levels naturally.
The amount of body fat you carry is directly related to your HGH production ().
Those with higher body fat levels or more belly fat will likely have impaired HGH production and an increased risk of disease.
In one study, individuals with 3 times the amount of belly fat had less than half the amount of HGH as lean individuals ().
As shown in the graph below, one study monitored the 24-hour release of HGH and found a large decline in those with more abdominal fat.
Interestingly, research suggests that excess body fat affects HGH levels more in men. However, lowering body fat is still key for both genders (, ).
One study found that obese individuals had lower IGF-1 and HGH levels. After losing a significant amount of weight, their levels returned to normal ().
Belly fat is the most dangerous type of stored fat and is linked to many diseases. Losing belly fat will help optimize HGH levels and other aspects of your health.
Bottom Line: Get rid of excess body fat, especially from the belly area. This will optimize human growth hormone levels and improve your health.
Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that limits eating to short time periods.
Intermittent fasting can help optimize HGH levels in several ways. First, it can help you drop body fat, which directly impacts HGH production (, , , ).
Second, it'll keep your insulin levels low for most of the day, as insulin is released when you eat. This can also provide benefits, as research suggests that insulin spikes can disrupt your natural growth hormone production (, ).
One study found that 3 days into a fast, HGH levels increased by over 300%. After one week of fasting, they had increased by a massive 1,250% ().
Other studies have found similar effects, with double or triple growth hormone levels after just 2–3 days of fasting (, , ).
As shown in the graph below, one study found large differences in HGH levels on the fasting day compared to the feeding day ().
Shorter 12–16 hour fasts likely help as well, although more research is needed to compare their effects against full-day fasts.
Bottom Line: Fasting can significantly increase human growth hormone levels, although more research is needed on shorter fasts.
Although most people tend to use amino acids like arginine around exercise, one study shows this has little or no benefit for HGH levels ().
Two other studies confirmed this, finding no difference between exercise only or exercise plus arginine. However, when arginine was taken on its own and without any exercise, they did find a significant increase in HGH (, ).
Other non-exercise studies also support the use of arginine.
One study looked at 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.
They found no effect for the lower dose, but participants taking the larger dose had around a 60% increase in HGH levels during sleep ().
Bottom Line: Higher doses of an arginine supplement may improve growth hormone production, but not when taken around exercise.
An increase in insulin can lower HGH production.
Refined carbs and sugar raise insulin levels the most, so reducing your intake may help optimize growth hormone levels (, ).
One study found that healthy non-diabetic individuals had 3-4 times higher HGH levels than diabetics, who have impaired carb tolerance and insulin function ().
That being said, the rare sugary treat on special occasions will not impact your growth hormone levels in the long-term.
Aim to achieve a healthy and balanced diet. What you eat 90% of the time will have the most profound effects on your health, hormones and body composition.
Bottom Line: Elevated insulin may reduce HGH production. Therefore, limit your intake of large amounts of sugar and refined carbs.
Your body naturally releases significant amounts of growth hormone, especially at night (, ).
Given that most meals will cause a rise in insulin levels, some experts suggest avoiding food before bedtime ().
In particular, a high-carb or high-protein meal may spike your insulin and potentially block some of the HGH released at night ().
Yet while this makes sense in theory, there is a lack of direct research.
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.
Bottom Line: More research is needed on the effects of nighttime eating on HGH. In the meantime, you may wish to avoid food 2–3 hours before bed.
GABA is a non-protein amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter, sending signals around the brain.
As a well-known calming agent for the brain and central nervous system, it's often used to aid sleep. Interestingly, it may also help increase your HGH levels ().
The most well-known study on this found a 400% increase in human growth hormone at rest and a 200% increase following exercise ().
GABA should also help increase HGH levels by improving your sleep, since your night-time growth hormone release is linked to sleep quality and depth (, ).
However, most of these increases were short-lived and GABA's long-term benefits for growth hormone levels remain unclear (, ).
Bottom Line: GABA supplements may help increase HGH production, although this increase does seem 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 the individual performing it (, , , , , , ).
As shown by the black bars in the graph below, very large increases in HGH were seen in a weight lifting session with limited rest periods (, ).
Due to its metabolic nature and increase in lactic acid, high-intensity exercise increases HGH the most. However, all forms of exercise are beneficial (, ).
You can perform repeated sprints, interval training, weight training or circuit training to spike your HGH levels and maximize fat loss (, , ).
As with the supplement methods, these increases are mainly short-term spikes.
Yet over the long-term, exercise may help you optimize your hormone function in general and decrease body fat, both of which will benefit your HGH levels.
Bottom Line: Exercise provides a large spike in HGH. High-intensity training is the best form of exercise to increase growth hormone levels.
Some exercise supplements can optimize performance and 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% ().
It also doubled peak power and boosted HGH levels, compared to the non-supplement group ().
During a workout session, a sugary sports drink increased HGH levels towards the end of the session. However, if you are trying to lose fat, the extra calories from the drink will negate any benefit from the short-term HGH spike ().
Studies have shown that protein shakes, both with and without carbs, can boost human growth hormone levels around workouts (, ).
Bottom Line: Beta-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. It is based on your body's internal clock or circadian rhythm.
As you can see from the graph below, the largest pulses occur before midnight with some smaller pulses in the early morning (, ).
Studies have shown that poor sleep can reduce the amount of HGH your body produces ().
In fact, getting an adequate amount of deep sleep is one of the best strategies to enhance your long-term HGH production (, ).
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.
Bottom Line: Focus 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 ().
Melatonin supplements have become a popular sleep aid that can increase both the quality and duration of your sleep (, , , , , , ).
While that alone may benefit HGH levels, further research has shown that a melatonin supplement can directly enhance growth hormone production (, , , ).
Melatonin is also fairly safe and non-toxic. However, it may alter brain chemistry in some ways, so you may want to check with a doctor before using it ().
To maximize its effects, take 1–5 mg (milligrams) around 30 minutes before bed. Start with a lower dose to assess your tolerance, then increase if needed.
Bottom Line: Melatonin supplements can enhance sleep and increase your body's natural growth hormone production.
Several other supplements may enhance human growth hormone production, including:
- Glutamine: A single 2-gram dose may increase short-term levels up to 78% ().
- Creatine: A 20-gram dose of creatine significantly increased HGH levels for 2–6 hours ().
- Ornithine: One study gave participants ornithine 30 minutes after exercise and found a greater peak in human growth hormone levels ().
- L-dopa: In patients with Parkinson's disease, 500 mg of L-dopa increased HGH levels for up to 2 hours ().
- Glycine: Studies have found glycine can improve gym performance and provide short-term spikes in HGH (, ).
While all of these supplements may increase your HGH levels, they have only been shown to work in the short-term.
Bottom Line: Several natural supplements can increase the short-production of human growth hormone.