The endocrine system is the body’s complex web of hormones that perform various functions. Hormones are responsible for signaling single cells or whole tissues to perform or stop performing certain activities. A well-functioning endocrine system catalyzes smooth biological processes such as muscle building/repair, food metabolism, strong sexual function, and mood maintenance – all in the service of preventing disease and maintaining optimal health.
What is HGH?
One of the most important hormones is human growth hormone (HGH), manufactured in the pituitary gland. In people with too little circulating HGH, a broad range of negative effects include anxiety, depression, poor muscle growth, tiredness, and increased risk of heart disease, among others.
Researchers in recent years have increasingly recognized HGH as a performance driver for athletes. In fact, many sports science experts have discussed the impact of illegal artificial HGH “doping”, citing its “potential anabolic effect on the muscle growth”.
Due to similarities in the experiences of people undergoing a natural aging process and those with HGH deficiency, scientists are also examining the potential relationship between HGH levels and how slow or fast individual ages.
What is IGF-1?
The human liver creates another crucial hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). When HGH directs the liver to synthesize this hormone and release it into the blood. For this reason, IGF-1 deficiency is dependent on enough human growth hormone to trigger its creation.
IGF-1 is integrally involved in metabolism, working to control insulin levels and promote fat burning.
What’s the difference between HGH and IGF-1?
Growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 are two similar steroid hormones that work synergistically. While the creation of IGF-1 depends on signaling from HGH to the liver, the activities of IGF-1 enhance and promote the work of HGH, significantly increasing its potency.
Often, IGF-1 and growth hormone (GH) work together – for example, they “interact with insulin to modulate its control of carbohydrate metabolism” in the liver and in the regulation of muscle mass in throughout the body.
In terms of their differences, insulin-like growth factor-1 is made in the liver while HGH is made in the pituitary gland. The Journal of Clinical Investigation notes in a comparison study between GH and IGF-1 as therapeutic supplements that “metabolic effects of these two hormones, however, are different… Whereas growth hormone treatment leads to elevated insulin and glucose levels…IGF-I treatment leads to reduced insulin”. This shows a mediating effect by IGF-1 on the effects of HGH, moderating its muscle-growth promotion and changes to insulin.
Who needs HGH?
Abnormally low levels of HGH have several causes. Adults with significantly low levels are often diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency, the medical term for the condition. Sometimes a tumor in or near the pituitary gland can suppress the secretion of human growth hormone. Less often, injury or low blood supply to the region of the brain containing the pituitary gland can reduce human growth hormone levels.
Lifestyle modifications have been proven to increase HGH. For example, fasting (the practice of ingesting no calories for an extended period of time) “enhances growth hormone secretion”. Additionally, dietary practices that strictly limit carbohydrates to less than 20 grams per day, called the “ketogenic diet”, keep insulin levels consistently low and therefore stimulate increased growth hormone levels. Also, high-intensity exercise has been shown to boost circulating HGH. The best way to stimulate higher HGH levels is through natural methods such as these.
Occasionally, though, doctors may recommend growth hormone therapy. To avoid negative side effects, it is always necessary to take therapy under the supervision of a qualified, knowledgeable health care provider.
Who needs IGF-1?
Children diagnosed with Primary IGF-1 Deficiency, caused by Growth Hormone Deficiency, require intervention to increase IGF-1 levels. Pediatric doctors will investigate the underlying causes of slow growth or other concerning symptoms if GH or IGF-1 deficiency is suspected to rule out other diseases in addition to taking blood samples for measurement.
Adults who experience these deficiencies as well may require IGF-1 supplementation.
In diabetics, IGF-1, when taken as a supplement, “prevents diabetes-induced alterations in coenzymes Q9 and Q10“. Researchers continue to discover new potential medical applications for insulin-like growth factor-1.
Is it ok to use HGH and IGF-1 together?
Serious bodybuilders often use HGH and IGF-1 concurrently as part of a “stack” of supplements. Because of the modulating effects mentioned earlier, using them in tandem could actually be an intelligent strategy to prevent the often negative side effects of too much growth intake. Of course, careful consideration must be paid to the overall dose as well as the ratio of IGF-1 to HGH to optimize results and reduce the incidence of adverse health events.
Whether to increase performance or out of medical necessity, a combination of GH and IGF-1 as supplementation is relatively common. With proper planning, you should be able to successfully integrate them into your life with positive outcomes.