Human growth hormone (HGH) is an important hormone produced by your pituitary gland.
Lower HGH levels may negatively impact your quality of life, increase your risk of disease and make you gain fat (9).
Here are 11 evidence-based ways to increase human growth hormone (HGH) levels naturally.
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 (15).
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.
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 (17).
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% (18).
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 (22, 23).
As shown in the graph below, one study found large differences in HGH levels on the fasting day compared to the eating day (30).
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.
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 (34).
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.
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 (35).
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.
Given that most meals cause a rise in insulin levels, some experts suggest avoiding food before bedtime (25).
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 (39).
One study found that taking a GABA supplement led to a 400% increase in HGH at rest and a 200% increase following exercise (40).
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.
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.
It also doubled peak power and boosted HGH levels compared to the non-supplement group (52).
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 (53).
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.
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 (54).
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 (65).
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% (66).
- Creatine: A 20-gram dose of creatine significantly increased HGH levels for 2–6 hours (67).
- 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 (69).
- Glycine: Studies have found glycine can improve gym performance and provide short-term spikes in HGH (70).
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.