The human growth hormone is an important growth-stimulating hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. It is crucial for osseous and cartilaginous growth in children and is responsible for the height boost in adolescence. After the closure of epiphyseal plates during adolescence, growth hormone doesn’t play an important role in height growth.
However, it does have other functions. It is responsible for managing and improving the blood sugar levels along with metabolism rates. It is also involved in muscle gains and fat burning. It also has a positive, radiating effect on skin wrinkles. Any tissue injury as an adult is managed and repaired by HGH.
Since it is needed for growth, childhood-onset growth hormone deficiency can be quite damaging to the growth of the child. It is usually associated with short stature, slow tooth development, delayed puberty and increased fat deposition around the waist.
Adult-onset growth hormone deficiency comes with its own consequences like decreased muscle mass, decreased libido, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, and increased fat deposition around the waist.
Treatment of both types of Growth hormone deficiency and also, muscle wasting associated with HIV/AIDS usually involves Growth Hormone injections. These injections are very expensive and the only treatment for these conditions.
What does the FDA say about HGH?
The FDA considers HGH, a biosynthetic form of GH, a controlled substance. This means that HGH can only be used for the treatment of the conditions, which it has been approved for. However, its use as a bodybuilding supplement or antiaging miracle worker is illegal. Furthermore, HGH only exists in the injection form and does not come in an oral form. This is because the GH will be inactivated by stomach acids.
There are also FDA approved secretagogues under the names, of sermorelin and tesamorelin (Egrifta). They are both GHRH analogs that work on the anterior pituitary to release more growth hormone.
HGH and Bodybuilding
HGH can be used for the purpose of increasing lean muscle mass and decreasing fat content in the body. However, it is not recommended to use GH injections for this purpose. FDA strictly recommends the use of HGH injections for pathologies only.
However, some bodybuilders and athletes acquire these injections on the dark web illegally and misuse these products. Sometimes, the products they obtained can be of dubious origins and result in severe harm. These injections usually are usually taken along with steroids.
One bodybuilder learned the hard way the harms of using black-market injections in 2016 when he injected himself with an injection that claimed to ‘increase muscle gain’. However, he ended up with necrotizing of the site of injection, requiring surgical debridement and plastic surgery.
Cases like this and the long ban by the World Anti-Doping Association for athletes found using HGH, has led to a decrease in athletes trying to obtain HGH injections illegally.
Some athletes use HGH pills instead of the extremely expensive, illegal injections of human growth hormone. As it is already mentioned above, HGH wouldn’t survive in the stomach. So, how can athletes benefit from HGH pills?
Athletes and bodybuilders do not consume pure HGH in an oral pill form, but instead, consume tablets containing multiple components, a lot of which collectively act on the pituitary to increase the release of natural HGH. These pills are HGH secretagogues, which is why they are less expensive and less risky than HGH injections. HGH injections are mostly associated with joint pain, but with the studies performed with HGH pills, no joint-related side effects were found.
Despite the reduced risk and increased benefits, many scientists have disregarded HGH pills as supplements, calling them inefficient. It is unclear as to what the exact reason is for the pills to be so quickly discarded, especially since they have been found to be very efficient with little side-effects.
These HGH pills, usually contain herbs, amino acids, and very potent growth factors which all work together to increase GH secretion in the body.
The HGH pills usually contain amino acids like:
and the efficacy of these amino acids on increasing muscle mass and sexual drive is already established scientifically. Furthermore, these are also associated with stimulating GH release from the pituitary, adding to the credibility of HGH pills.
For example, a study conducted by Kanaley on the effects of L-arginine supplementation on GH release described an increased release of GH with the supplements. This release could be further increased with bouts of exercise.
Another study published in the Journal of strength and conditioning research focused on the association of both arginine and ornithine supplements on GH release. This double-blind, controlled study came to the conclusion that supplementation of both these amino acids can result in increased GH and IGF-1, resulting in increased muscle growth.
Sometimes, the HGH-secretagogue pills may also include GABA, a calming neurotransmitter naturally found in the neuronal synapses. A study performed by Powers et al showed a 400% increase in GH at rest with GABA supplementation and a 200% increase with exercise.
This study proves the efficiency of GABA supplements in increasing GH. Hence, the use of HGH pills with GABA as one of the ingredients can also result in an increased level of GH.
The individual components of the ‘HGH pills’ that many have been quick to judge have been proven scientifically to increase GH. Therefore, it can be concluded that these pills on their own are efficient.
The brands that are responsible for making these HGH-secretagogue pills claim that their pills are 100% safe, with no over-the-top side-effects usually seen with HGH injections. Furthermore, the pills are more cost-effective and non-invasive when compared to the injections, and that on its own is a factor responsible for their popularity.
Although these brands are mostly not backed by any scientific evidence, they are usually supported by a few doctors who happily endorse their products.
Despite all the proof for the components individually, these pills need to be evaluated and investigated as a whole. Furthermore, scientists should perform thorough studies before rejecting or accepting these pills.
- Kanaley, Jill A. “Growth hormone, arginine and exercise.” Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care 11,1 (2008): 50-4. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e3282f2b0ad
- Friedman, Or et al. “Body Builder’s Nightmare: Black Market Steroid Injection Gone Wrong: a Case Report.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery. Global open 4,9 e1040. 29 Sep. 2016, doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000001040
- Zajac, Adam et al. “Arginine and ornithine supplementation increases growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 serum levels after heavy-resistance exercise in strength-trained athletes.” Journal of strength and conditioning research 24,4 (2010): 1082-90. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181d321ff
- Powers, Michael E et al. “Growth hormone isoform responses to GABA ingestion at rest and after exercise.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 40,1 (2008): 104-10. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e318158b518