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Growth Hormone Supplements Work for Bodybuilding?

May 04 2012

Do growth hormone supplements increase muscle or help in bodybuilding? A lot of athletes and body builders have been caught using growth hormone. But does it really work? If it works, are there any side effects?

growth hormone supplements for bodybuilding

What is growth hormone?

Growth Hormone: Growth hormone is a hormone which is required for growth, especially during adolescence.

Age Effects:  As you get older the GH levels get lower. A 60 year old male will only produce half the level produced by a 20 year old in a day.

Do growth hormone supplements really increase muscle?

What are some of the growth hormone effects on muscle and strength?

GH Deficient Children: GH has some clear beneficial effects in children who are growth hormone deficient.

Muscle Wasting Conditions: In 1990’s, Growth hormone was considered the magic pill to manage muscle loss in these diseases such as aids, sepsis and so forth But the evidence of building muscle or maintain muscle is just lacking.

GH Deficient Adults: In GH deficient adults, there is a decrease in strength and muscle. But studies (less than a year) have shown there was no increase in strength or muscle with GH supplementation. Long term studies, over 1- years have shown small increase in strength.

Healthy Adults: In healthy adults, GH shows an increase in LBM:

  • Lean Body Mass: Lean body mass consists of muscle, bone and water. So an increase in water content will also show an increase in lean body mass. But this increase in LBM was hwon to be mainly due to extracellular water and not actual muscle fiber.
  • Collagen: GH also increases lean body mass by increasing collagen in muscle and tendon. Collagen is mainly found in outer covering of muscles (connective tissue),  tendons and skin.
  • Strength: GH has also shown no increase in strength or power in healthy adults

The bottom line is growth hormone doesn’t work for bodybuilding, especially if you are a healthy adult.

Why bodybuilders use growth hormone supplement?

Tradition: GH has long been thought as an anabolic hormone. And most people are unaware of the recent scientific studies.

Other Hormones: GH is just one supplement out of tens of supplements bodybuilders take. So they got no clue if their increase muscle is due to growth hormone or testosterone. They just think it helps. And there is a beneficial effect when GH and testosterone is combined.

Body fat: GH has some beneficial effects on body fat and hence may be useful for bodybuilders.

What are the side affects of growth hormone supplements?

GH may not have many beneficial effects for bodybuilders, but Growth hormone side effect are plenty.

Acute Side Effects: Growth hormone side effect in healthy adults include, pins and needles, carpal tunnel syndrome and arthralgias. Other growth hormone side affects including sweating, fatigue and dizziness.

Long term side effects: The side effect of growth hormone in the long run include diabetes and heart problems

Acromegaly: Acromegaly is a condition where the body releases excess growth hormone.  People with acormegaly usually increased rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes,  osteoarthritis, and breast and colorectal cancer. Bodybuilders who take GH for long period of time could have similar side effects as those people with acromegaly.

Practical applications

  • Growth hormone supplements do not work to increase muscle or strength or for bodybuilding
  • Growth hormone supplements also has some pretty serious side effects
  • Case closed.

Reference 1
Reference 2

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Anatoly | Fri May 04, 2012  

excellent article, Anoop

Anoop | Fri May 04, 2012  

Thanks Anatoly!

I just wrote an article for Alan Aragon’s Research Review about the Hormone theory of muscle growth. I wrote about GH and test in there. Thought I would make an article out of GH.

gordon | Sat May 05, 2012  

i thought GH was more about recovery and healing properties in adults. i noticed professional athletes using it to overcome injuries faster and not for muscle growth directly.

FullDeplex | Sat May 05, 2012  

Nice one!

So GH increases collagen in muscle and tendon?

Isn’t that a good thing for powerlifters?

gordon | Sat May 05, 2012  

Anoop , where can i find your article on hormone therapy?

Anoop | Sat May 05, 2012  

Hi Gordon,

Thanks for the comment.

The connective tissue effect of GH is pretty recent. GH was always thought to be an anabolic hormone. Hence the whole craze of giving GH to people with wasting diseases. An mind you, we still don’t have many human studies that show that GH can prevent or heal injuries faster. This is mainly from animal studies and collagen synthesis studies.

An it will be on Alan Aragon’s Research Review in the next edition (this monday). It is subscription based though. And my article is about the hormone hypothesis of muscle growth. It has nothing to do with hormone therapy bro.

Hi Full Deplex,

Thanks! Yes. But we don’t know how good. Just increase in collagen do not mean it will translate to less injuries or faster healing. And is it worth all the side effects?

As you said, it might be more important for powerlifters than bodybuilders. High rep work can also increase GH acutely.

TheDane | Mon May 07, 2012  

Another debunk. Thanks Anoop

Anoop | Mon May 07, 2012  

Thanks Dan!

Now the question is acute increase in GH beneficial for muscle growth after a workout?

FullDeplex | Fri May 11, 2012  

He, you stole my return question! wink

Although I would have asked if the acute GH increase from doing high rep would be significantly beneficial to tendons.
(some other mechanisms may be at work or high rep may not help tendons at all, besides from the relieve from heavy loads)

Anoop | Sat May 12, 2012  

Hi Deplex,

What was your question again?

There is no much evidence for increase in GH after exercise to have an effect on muscle. Acute increase in testosterone may have some effect.

You will have to subscribe to Alan’s Research Review to read my article.

Terry | Tue May 15, 2012  

I personally would never use GH for any reason unless it was to treat some sort of medical condition, I think its effects are too unpredictable in the long term

Patrick | Wed December 26, 2012  

Hi Anoop,

I find it odd that you claim GH does not increase strength or recovery. I do not understand as much about GH as you do but, by observing the athletic community, it sure seems that GH has something to offer athletes. For example—20 year old Olympic lifter Pat Mendes recently tested positive for human growth hormone and was banned from the sport. This kid was strong, too—he could raw squat 800lbs ass-to-ground. It seems to me that there has to be more to the story… Pat was a world-class athlete and only 20 years old (he didn’t have a deficiency or anything), yet he chose to take human growth hormone because he felt it would help him.

Do you think he was combining it with testosterone, even though he didn’t test positive for it?



Anoop | Fri December 28, 2012  

Hi Patrick,

I think GH works mainly for injury prevention and healing injuries. I wrote about the increase in collagen. And most njuries are to the connective tissues.  And we know Pat had injury problems before and how he pulled out from certain competitions due to injury. I have talked to Pat in Las Vegas.

And just because he was caught for GH doesn’t mean that he is only taking that you know.

That was a bit surprising for everyone who talked about high frequency training and John Broz training methods you know.

That’s my guess. Good question, Patrick.

What do you think?



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