If there’s one thing that’s the most crucial for gaining muscle it’s growth hormone.
Boosting growth hormone levels not only helps you build muscle but it also helps many other functions in your body, which we’ll cover in detail later.
But how do you boost growth hormone? Do you have to take a supplement to increase GH?
You can, but there’s a better way…
In this post, I’m going to show you how to naturally boost your GH levels through nutrition. You’ll learn about some foods you can eat every day (and nutrient timing) that will help increase this powerful hormone without ‘taking anything.’
*If you’re a vegetarian or on a plant-based diet, this article may be more beneficial to you instead: Complete Guide to Plant-Based Muscle Gains
What is Growth Hormone?
Before we fill up our plate with GH-boosting foods, it’s important to understand what growth hormone is, how it works, and why you need it to build muscle mass and be healthy.
Human growth hormone (GH) is a substance that controls your body’s growth. GH is made by the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain. GH helps children grow taller (also called linear growth), increases muscle mass, and decreases body fat.‘What is Growth Hormone?’ Editors: Irina Bancos, M.D., Alan Rogol, M.D., Linn Goldberg, M.D., Hormone Health Network, hormone.org
In both children and adults, GH also helps control the body’s metabolism—the process by which cells change food into energy and make other substances that the body needs.
As we age our growth hormone production decreases. This can cause an array of problems, muscle loss being one of them. Bone and cardiovascular health are also impacted by growth hormone.
But there’s good news. Studies have shown that growth hormone is regulated through macro and micronutrients. In fact, research performed by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health goes into detail on how specific micronutrients affected the secretion of growth hormone in the article ‘The Association of Macro- and Micronutrient Intake with Growth Hormone Secretion.’
With that said, let’s get ready to ‘dig in’ to the foods that can help boost your growth hormone levels…
Foods that Boost GH and Build Muscle
I encourage you to read the full article and the resource pages listed (as many of these are studies and research from reliable peer-reviewed sources).
The reason is that you want to know why each food listed is important for maintaining healthy growth hormone levels. Knowing this will help you make better eating choices. And, of course, help you pack on more quality muscle.
Here’s what you’ll learn below:
- The food and related foods (this will really help diversify your diet by giving you more options!)
- What causes each food to increase GH
- A sample meal using each food
Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower
These three foods contain the highest amounts of vitamin C than any other vegetable. Right behind these are green and red peppers.
Now you may think of vitamin C as important for boosting your immune system. It is, but it’s so much more than that.
Vitamin C is also necessary for repairing muscle tissue from those tough workouts you put your body through. You simply won’t make muscle gains without proper recovery.
As vitamin C is an antioxidant, it also helps prevent or block damage caused by free-radicals per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
GH Boosting Meal Idea:
Try combining these ingredients in a soup:
- sliced beef
- beef broth
- brussels sprouts
- Optional: add noodles to make it a Vietnamese pho style meal
This will give you the protein you need for muscle growth as well as the benefits of these vitamin C-packed vegetables.
NOTE: There are also many fruits that contain high levels of vitamin C. All citrus fruits, including oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi, and several other fruits are great sources of vitamin C.
Some choose to watch their sugar intake. This doesn’t mean you should neglect these fruits altogether. You could eat fruits after your workouts, which is a great time to take in simple sugars to replenish your glycogen levels.
Nuts and Oats
Nuts and oats both have high levels of arginine in them. Arginine is an amino acid that is known to increase blood flow. This explains why so many pre-workout supplements contain arginine.
But this amino acid is also known for boosting GH. The Journal of Applied Physiology has research that concludes a positive impact that arginine has on growth hormone secretion…
Arginine has been shown to increase basal GH secretion by inhibiting endogenous somatostatin release…‘Oral arginine attenuates the growth hormone response to resistance exercise’ by S. R. Collier, E. Collins, and J. A. Kanaley on September 1st, 2006, Journal Of Applied Physiology, journals.physiology.og
Both foods also contain another powerful amino acid, glutamine. Glutamine is known to enhance muscle recovery and boost your immune system. But it’s also known for boosting growth hormone.
It is not known whether it can directly affect growth hormone release or does it act indirectly through conversion to arginine. It might convert to citrulline in the small intestine which supports renal arginine synthesis, a known stimulus for growth hormone secretion. Glutamine also converts to glutamate which provides a stimulus for directly activating somatotropic growth hormone release.‘Glutamine – Can it boost growth hormone?’ by Alan Gaspari, Nutrient Journal nutrientjournal.com
GH Boosting Meal Idea:
Nuts and oats together can make an awesome snack. This could also be a great pre-workout meal as you’re getting some protein, fats, and complex carbs that you’re body will use for energy.
- chopped or sliced nuts
- almond milk
Grass-fed Beef and Free-range Eggs
Eggs and beef are loaded with the most popular and effective muscle building ingredient on the planet: Creatine.
Creatine works by increasing ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This is the prime source of energy for your muscles. But there are so many more benefits to creatine outside of building muscle…
Creatine supplementation isn’t just beneficial for getting a few more reps under the bar. The latest research shows it can have a positive effect in a lot of places. Let’s look at some of them: neurological disease, diabetes, and cognition.‘Creatine Isn’t Just for Building Muscle’ by Kurtis Frank and Sol Orwell, November 14th, 2004, schwarzenegger.com
Eggs and beef are also loaded with minerals like zinc and magnesium, and also contain essential vitamins and other amino acids. These are excellent foods for packing on size and gaining strength.
GH Boosting Meal Idea:
Here’s a hearty meal that’s perfect for packing on muscle size and strength.
- 8 oz sirloin grass-fed steak
- 2 whole free-range eggs
- 1 serving of spinach
- Guinness stout
What?? A beer? Guinness is actually loaded with nutrients and it’s lower in calories than other beers. You can read more about this in the UK’s The Sun’s article ‘Guinness IS good for you – and here are six surprising reasons why.’
Greek Yogurt and Pineapple
Greek yogurt is another food that contains glutamine, which we know helps boost growth hormone. It’s also high in muscle-building protein.
The trick is to get plain Greek yogurt. You don’t want yogurt that already includes fruit as most of these products are loaded with other sugars and are processed.
Instead cut up some fresh pineapple to combine with Greek yogurt. Why pineapple?
Pineapple contains a natural source of melatonin. Melatonin helps you sleep, which that’s the time our bodies produce the most growth hormone, according to Sleep Help’s article ‘Sleep and Human Growth Hormone.’
Like growth hormone, melatonin is naturally produced by our body but our production decreases as we age. Eating pineapple is a natural way to get more melatonin.
The highest serum melatonin concentration was observed at 120 min after fruit consumption, and compared with before consumption levels, their values were significantly increased for pineapple (146 versus 48 pg/mL P = 0.002), orange (151 versus 40 pg/mL, P = 0.005), and banana (140 versus 32 pg/mL, P = 0.008), respectively.‘Serum melatonin levels and antioxidant capacities after consumption of pineapple, orange, or banana by healthy male volunteers’ PubMed.gov
GH Boosting Meal Idea:
This is an awesome snack to eat about an hour before bed…
- 1 serving of Greek yogurt
- 1/2 serving of fresh pineapple
Naturally Boosting GH
There are a ton of supplements out there that claim to boost growth hormone. And some of these are indeed natural.
However, the best ways to truly increase your GH levels are to follow these 2 steps:
- Find out which nutrients have the potential to increase growth hormone
- Eat the foods that contain those nutrients
It’s also important to pay attention to the timing of certain nutrients. For example, we talk about pineapple increasing melatonin. So it makes sense to eat that before bed (and you can eat that with Greek yogurt, as suggested).
You may want to have some steak and eggs for your post-workout meal as those foods contain glutamine. Glutamine is used for muscle recovery, so you get that benefit plus the benefit of growth hormone secretion.
Try to build your meal plan out to include some of these foods. And I also encourage you to do your own research on macro and micronutrients that can help increase growth hormone.
Lastly, remember that one of the key elements to increase growth hormones is getting quality sleep. There’s a specific blend of zinc, magnesium, and B6 that you can take to help with this called ZMA.
You can read more about that here: Jason’s SNAC ZMA review.
Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,