Human growth hormone (HGH) is an important hormone produced by your 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 ().
Optimal levels are especially important during weight loss, injury recovery and athletic training (, , , ).
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.
One study observed that individuals with three times the amount of belly fat as the control group had less than half their amount of HGH ().
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 levels of IGF-1 — a growth-related protein — as well as HGH. After losing a significant amount of weight, their levels returned to normal ().
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.
Summary Get 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 three 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 HGH levels after just 2–3 days of fasting (, , ).
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 eight-hour eating window with a 16-hour fast. Another involves eating only 500–600 calories two days per week (, ).
Intermittent fasting can help optimize HGH levels in two main ways. First, it can help you drop body fat, which directly affects HGH production (, , , ).
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 (, ).
As shown in the graph below, one study found large differences in HGH levels on the fasting day compared to the eating day ().
Shorter 12–16-hour fasts likely help as well, though more research is needed to compare their effects against full-day fasts.
Summary Fasting can significantly increase HGH levels, though more research is needed on shorter fasts.
When taken alone, arginine may boost HGH.
Though most people tend to use amino acids like arginine alongside exercise, several studies show little or no increase in HGH levels (, , ).
However, when arginine was taken on its own — without any exercise — there was a significant increase in this hormone (, ).
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.
They found no effect for the lower dose, but participants taking the higher dose saw around a 60% increase in HGH levels during sleep ().
Summary Higher doses of arginine may improve growth hormone production, but not when taken to coincide with 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 individuals had 3–4 times higher HGH levels than people with diabetes, as well as impaired carb tolerance and insulin function ().
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 — since what you eat has a profound effect on your health, hormones and body composition.
Summary Elevated insulin levels may reduce HGH production. Therefore, limit your intake of large amounts of sugar and refined carbs.
Your body naturally releases significant amounts of HGH, especially at night (, ).
Given that most meals 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 ().
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.
Summary More research is needed on the effects of nighttime eating on HGH. Still, it may be best to avoid food 2–3 hours before bed.
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 ().
One study found that taking a GABA supplement led to a 400% increase in HGH at rest and a 200% increase following exercise ().
GABA may also 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 (, ).
Summary GABA 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 (, , , , , , ).
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 (, ).
As with the supplement methods, exercise mainly provides short-term spikes.
Then again, over the long term, exercise may optimize your hormone function and decrease body fat, both of which will benefit your HGH levels.
Summary 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, 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 ().
Another study demonstrated that a sugary sports drink increased HGH levels towards 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 ().
Studies have shown that protein shakes, both with and without carbs, can boost HGH levels around workouts (, ).
Summary 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. These pulses are 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.
Summary 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 good sleep alone may benefit HGH levels, further research has shown that a melatonin supplement can directly enhance HGH production (, , , ).
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 a doctor before using it ().
To maximize its effects, take 1–5 mg around 30 minutes before bed. Start with a lower dose to assess your tolerance, then increase if needed.
Summary Melatonin supplements can enhance sleep and increase your body's natural HGH 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 HGH levels (68).
- L-dopa: In patients with Parkinson's disease, 500 mg of L-dopa increased HGH levels for up to two 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, studies indicate they’re only effective in the short term.
Summary Several natural supplements can temporarily increase the production of HGH.
As with other key hormones — such as testosterone and estrogen — having healthy levels of growth hormone is important.
HGH helps your body with metabolism, cell repair and other vital functions.
By following the tips above, you can increase your HGH levels fairly easily.