Health and Wellness
FitSmart: October 2009
By Brad Lawrence
Technology has evolved dramatically in recent years and the fitness industry is no exception. The world of supplementation has exploded to the point where there is a supplement for everything. Whether these supplements make a noticeable difference is up for discussion but it seems that scientists are trying to create a remedy for just about everything people seek.
By Brad Lawrence
Technology has evolved dramatically in recent years and the fitness industry is no exception. The world of supplementation has exploded to the point where there is a supplement for everything. Whether these supplements make a noticeable difference is up for discussion but it seems that scientists are trying to create a remedy for just about everything people seek. Today there is no shortage of supplements claiming to reduce your body fat, enhance the immune system, increase strength and stamina and help build muscle mass. But what if there were something that our bodies produced naturally that could benefit us in all these ways and more? Well, there is, and the benefits above just scratch the surface of the upside to the natural growth hormone (GH), which is produced every day in our bodies.
There are two types of growth hormone – the kind our bodies produce naturally every day and the world famous synthetic HGH (human growth hormone), which is a banned substance commonly used to increase athletic performance. Synthetic HGH supplementation became famous through positive tests at the Olympics in Athens 2004, and through much of the controversy surrounding Major League Baseball over the past five seasons.
Naturally, the growth hormone is produced within each and of us. Scientists long ago discovered that GH contributes far more than just growth to our systems. Our natural GH increases lean muscle mass, strength, stamina, immune function and bone density, sharpens memory and mind and decreases body fat and disease. One thing scientists also discovered is that our GH production declines with age (once we hit 30 our GH levels will slowly decline), and that GH production occurs only during certain times. On paper, this hormone is perfect, which is why we can focus our training on maximizing its release.
There are two times during the day that our bodies produce GH. Production occurs primarily during training and secondly during sleep. Unfortunately, there is no trick to increasing our bodies’ production of GH but there are a few simple guidelines to follow in our training regimes and lifestyles to maximize our GH production in a safe, natural way. You may be already doing it, without even knowing.
When you’re designing a workout program for yourself consider that one of the biggest mistakes people make in the gym is to neglect the bigger muscles. By far the largest GH release will come from training your legs and your back, two major muscles commonly neglected. In fact, a lot of traditional bodybuilders live and die by the saying if you want to get big, get big legs.
When you decide to train your legs and your back, train them heavy and with purpose. Your largest GH releases will be with heavier loads and under complete muscle failure. Muscle failure is being unable to complete another rep with proper form. When you train your biggest muscles to their max it will result in your biggest gains because of the huge GH release that follows your workout. It’s thought that these
muscles create a spillover-type effect with growth hormone that will benefit the neighbouring muscles as well. This means if you wanted big arms you’d benefit far more from 30 minutes of arms, and 30 minutes of squats, than simply one hour of arms.
Any cardio is good cardio. Dragging yourself on to a treadmill has never been easy but, at the very least, get your money’s worth for your efforts. Every modern study has shown high-intensity anaerobic exercise is better for weight loss than long, steady, low intensity workouts. The reason is your hormone release, namely your GH. Anaerobic training – sprinting and intervals – provide the most benefit in the shortest duration. This is the reason Olympic sprinters also look like Olympic power lifters. Try adding sprinting intervals to your workout once or twice a week and try sprinting for at least 15 to 30 seconds at a time.
If you choose to do cardio on the same day you do weights make sure you work in the correct
order. If you plan to train on weights and cardio on the same day, do your weight training first. Studies have shown that growth hormone can increase 500 per cent if you do your cardio before weight training. That’s not bad, until you learn that if you lift weights before your cardio, GH release can increase 1,600 per cent.
Nutrition plays an important role in any fitness goal and GH production is no exception. Stick to a strong, balanced nutrition program, giving your muscles every opportunity to recover. Smart nutritional choices will help all bodily functions including GH levels. One variable that highly affects GH levels is the glycemic index (GI) of food. Foods that are high on the glycemic index suppress GH release. Stick to a low GI with your foods to optimize conditions in your body.
Finally make sure you get enough rest GH production starts three to four hours into your sleep cycle. When it finally does start, the release will be higher if your body isn’t digesting food. Try to allow for a 10-to-12 hour fasting period during your sleep. If breakfast needs to be at 8 a.m., try to make your last meal between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
With all the money people will throw into supplements it’s worth knowing that the most powerful supplement available is caged up inside you. Get the most out of yourself, each and every day. Eat, sleep and train with a purpose.
Brad Lawrence is a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department, and a certified personal trainer. Brad specializes in training and nutrition for the fire service and all emergency responders. Brad has trained and coached countless firefighters through all aspects of fitness and overall well-being. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org