Discover the science of the human brain

Growth hormone sounds like it ought to be the secret ingredient in a sci-fi villain’s plot to take over the world. In reality, human growth hormone (HGH) is an essential part of children’s growth and development. However, if you listen to some people, growth hormone can benefit everyone in many ways.

Fitness junkies claim HGH is like a better form of anabolic steroids, helping to shed body fat and build lean muscle mass. Others say growth hormone has anti-aging properties. Some of those claims are pretty outrageous. So you have to ask yourself, is human growth hormone actually that effective, or is it all just science fiction?

Key Takeaways:

  • Human growth hormone (HGH) is part of physical development in children and adolescents.
  • Growth hormone is made in the pituitary gland.
  • Synthetic human growth hormone has been around since the 80s.
  • There are claims HGH can aid in building muscle and burning fat, as well as having anti-aging benefits.
  • It’s approved by the FDA for a few specific ailments, most of which involve HGH deficiency.
  • Synthetic HGH has to be administered by injection to be effective.
  • There is no evidence supporting fitness and anti-aging claims about HGH products.

What Does HGH Do For Males?

Claims about the benefits of taking HGH supplements have been going around for decades [1]. Synthetic HGH has been around since the 80s, but the hype about its effects really got going in 1990 when a study using HGH injections on older men was published [2].

HGH treatment showed to slightly increase lean body mass in older males, particularly in group 1

That study had a few problems [3]. However, it did find that men over 60 who received regular injections had more muscle, denser bones, a healthier immune system, and thicker skin. Since the aging process often involves loss of bone density and muscle mass, you could say the study shows HGH will slow aging [4].

Other benefits are based on the properties of HGH itself. It is both anabolic, meaning it encourages the building of new cells, and lipolytic, meaning it helps your cells use energy more efficiently [5]. The use of HGH to build muscle mass, boost muscle tone, and improve athletic performance is based on those properties [6].

When tested directly, HGH didn’t have those effects, however. Athletes who supplemented their HGH did find that it could reduce body fat, changing body composition. It added lean muscle mass but didn’t noticeably improve athletic performance, however [7].

It’s important to note, also, that all of the medical trials used injectable HGH.

What Is HGH?

Naturally, HGH production takes place in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces many of the hormones that regulate your body. It’s used by your body to encourage growth. When you’re young, that means growing and developing. As we grow older, it’s more about keeping bones and muscles strong.

HGH levels are usually higher when you’re young, peaking as you finish growing. After that, HGH levels tend to drop off steadily as you grow older. Too much HGH can lead to cancer and an increased chance of diabetes, as well as many other problems. The natural drop in HGH levels is thought to help prevent these issues.

Some people are born with or develop a growth hormone deficiency. It can have a significant impact on a person’s life. Growth hormone deficiency is treated by HGH injections up to age 25 and potentially for their whole lives.

Is Taking HGH Safe?

As with many supplements or drugs, the safety of using growth hormones depends on a lot of factors. However, there is one simple rule to follow that will keep you safe. Only use human growth hormone under the direction of a doctor.

HGH products come in two general forms. The first is as an HGH supplement, usually HGH pills. The other is in injectable form, which legally has to be obtained by prescription. It can also be obtained illicitly for use as a performance-enhancing drug.

Illicit HGH can sometimes be counterfeit. It may be cut with other substances or may not be HGH at all. This can make it extremely dangerous to use.

Most HGH supplements are marketed as human growth hormone boosters or HGH releasers. It’s not really clear whether that means an HGH booster stimulates the body’s natural production of HGH or somehow makes it more effective. Even with the best HGH supplements, there’s no real evidence that they have any effect.

Too Much, Too Little, or Just Enough

People using an HGH supplement for fitness will probably take it regularly over a longer period of time. If you’re taking it orally, it may be fine. If you’re illicitly using HGH injections, you may be more likely to experience serious side effects.

One of the most common side effects to HGH is soft tissue edema followed by impaired fasting glucose

This is important to keep in mind if you’re using injectable HGH to supercharge your workouts because you risk losing those lean muscle gains when you stop taking injections. On the other hand, not stopping puts your overall health at risk.

Most aspects of the human body operate in a constantly shifting balance called homeostasis [8]. If you don’t have enough of certain compounds, that lack can be made up by dietary supplements. HGH supplements help those with HGH deficiency.

Too much of some compounds can cause just as much of a problem. More growth hormone isn’t necessarily better. Even when taken under the direction of a doctor, HGH supplements can have some severe side effects.

Side Effects of HGH

All medications can have side effects. Growth hormone can alter the body in significant ways, so the side effects tend to be somewhat extreme. Even the less serious side effects are still pretty serious. Side effects might include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • Insulin resistance.
  • Edema, or swelling in extremities.
  • Joint and muscle pain.
  • Possible enlargement of the breasts in men.

There are also several more possible severe side effects for men. The insulin-like growth factor, in addition to upping insulin resistance, can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Out of control tissue growth or muscle growth in the body has another name: cancer. One of the more serious HGH side effects is an increased risk of cancer.

Is It Illegal to Use HGH?

Approved prescription use of HGH is limited to treating just a few conditions, usually associated with HGH deficiency. Most people taking HGH are more interested in its ability to improve athletic performance or help shed belly fat. Are all those other people breaking the law?

They could be. HGH is illegal if obtained in just a couple of ways. If you take, are given, or buy someone else’s prescription HGH for your own use, you are breaking the law [9]. If you buy HGH online without a prescription, you may also be breaking the law [10].

In most other situations, you’re probably in the clear.

Prescriptions are written for synthetic HGH, which is injected. The supplements you buy at the health food store are therefore completely legal. Supplements bought over-the-counter may or may not actually have any HGH in them in any case.

How to Increase Human Growth Hormone Naturally

It might be better to steer clear of even the best HGH supplements. There are better ways to burn fat, change your body fat composition, encourage muscle development, or increase your exercise capacity.

In fact, while HGH is at its peak in your younger years, your body produces its own supply of HGH throughout your life. It’s possible you’re better off supporting your natural production of HGH through a healthy diet and working out to increase your exercise capacity.

What Are the Best Human Growth Hormone Supplements?

An important thing to note is that a prescription dose of human growth hormone is always given by injection. When ingested, growth hormone is broken down in the stomach before it can be absorbed by the body. That means that taking pills or an oral spray is not an effective way to raise human growth hormone levels.

As a result, the only sort of supplement worth your money is the kind that can be injected. However, that comes with a whole host of other potential problems.

Ultimately, it may not be worth the hassle or expense. There isn’t a lot of evidence that supplementing human growth hormone does any good, outside of a few specific cases.

What Is the Best Diet to Increase Human Growth Hormone?

It’s difficult to increase the release of one specific hormone through your diet. The best thing to do may be to work to improve your overall health, which your diet can definitely affect.

In general, the healthiest diet is one that features a lot of fruits and vegetables, less meat and cheese, and a very little bit of sugar and processed foods. This sort of diet can help reduce the chance of heart disease and give increased vitality, among other benefits.

As part of that diet, there are a few fruits and vegetables that might support HGH production in men, along with other foods [11]:

  • Raspberries: Melatonin is known to trigger a large HGH release, so foods like raspberries that are high in melatonin are an excellent option.
  • Fish: Lean meat like fish can supply vitamin D, which is vital for healthy free testosterone levels, among other things.
  • Coconut oil: Eaten with dietary supplements, it can up your HGH before a workout.
  • Yogurt: Amino acids like glutamine, found in yogurt and other foods, can lead to higher levels of HGH [12].
  • Soybeans: Another source of important amino acids that can increase HGH in your system [13].

How to Increase Human Growth Hormone: Other Tips

Beyond diet, there are a number of things you can do that will encourage your body to make more HGH. The secret diet tip for supporting HGH was a healthy diet. In a similar way, other strategies are part of improving your health generally, so that an increase in HGH is just one of the health benefits you’ll experience.

  • Physical activity: Moving around more and increasing your physical stamina can prompt your body to make more HGH.
  • Losing body fat: This may seem backward, but a lower amount of body fat can lead to higher HGH.
  • Healthy sleep habits: Your body releases HGH as part of its normal sleep cycle [14].
  • Intermittent fasting: Fasting may encourage higher HGH levels [15].

Excessive intra-abdominal fat showed to significantly reduce GH secretion


What Are the Symptoms of Human Growth Hormone Deficiency?

A deficiency in human growth hormone (HGH) is unlikely to appear unprompted in adulthood. It can sometimes be caused by damage to the pituitary gland. Some people may also have a genetic condition or illness that is the cause of the deficiency [16].

Symptoms can include:

  • Weight gain.
  • Poor growth.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Reduced bone density.

Men experiencing male menopause may have lower levels of HGH. Low testosterone in women is also a potential aspect of female menopause. Testosterone supplements are sometimes recommended in both situations. Check out our Nugenix Total T review for an example of a testosterone supplement.

How Much HGH Should a Man Take?

Men should only take prescription HGH according to a doctor’s direction. When taking HGH as a supplement, the amounts can vary. The best HGH supplement for men would have melatonin and amino acids like glutamine and l-arginine. HGH supplements should be used according to their directions.

Does Human Growth Hormone Increase Muscle Mass?

Athletes given injectable HGH did experience a few benefits. One of those was increased muscle mass. Muscle building doesn’t always lead to increased athletic performance, however. HGH may help you build muscle, but it’s lean muscle. Power and muscular endurance weren’t noticeably improved.



Many supplements seem to fall into one of two categories. The first kind makes big promises but generally fails to deliver. The second might be strong enough to have a real effect but come along with discouragingly dangerous side effects. HGH somehow manages to fall into both of those categories.

Its anti-aging promises for men can’t quite be trusted. Its benefit in fitness is limited. Most people maintain healthy levels of HGH throughout their lives without ever needing a supplement.


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  5. Editors, By: BD, et al. “Lipolysis – Definition, Mechanism and Process.” Biology Dictionary, 18 Sept. 2018,
  6. Hermansen, Kasper, et al. “Impact of GH Administration on Athletic Performance in Healthy Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Placebo-Controlled Trials.” Growth Hormone & IGF Research, Churchill Livingstone, 10 May 2017,
  7. Holt, Richard I G, and Ken K Y Ho. “Use and Abuse of Growth Hormone in Sports.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 10 June 2019,
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  11. Person. “Boost Human Growth Hormone with These Foods.” Men’s Health, Men’s Health, 23 Nov. 2018,
  12. JA;, Kanaley. “Growth Hormone, Arginine and Exercise.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  13. Tam CS;Johnson WD;Rood J;Heaton AL;Greenway FL; “Increased Human Growth Hormone After Oral Consumption of an Amino Acid Supplement: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind, Crossover Study in Healthy Subjects.” American Journal of Therapeutics, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  14. L;, Van Cauter E;Plat. “Physiology of Growth Hormone Secretion during Sleep.” The Journal of Pediatrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  15. Horne, Benjamin D, et al. “Health Effects of Intermittent Fasting: Hormesis or Harm? A Systematic Review.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 July 2015,
  16. “Adult Growth Homone Deficiency.” Cedars,

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