Growth Hormone: Fact vs. Fiction

by Mike Arnold

It is doubtful that any other performance enhancing drug has been surrounded by as much admiration, mystique, and confusion as growth hormone. Its extravagant cost coupled with its unique cosmetic and internal effects have made it one of the most sought after drugs in all of bodybuilding…not to mention one of the most faked. Among the less informed, it has often been viewed as some type of magical elixir capable of completely transforming one’s physique within a matter of months. It is not uncommon to hear comments such as “you can eat as much as you want when using GH and not get fat”…or “GH is the reason BB’rs weigh 50 pounds more today than they did in the 80’s” (of course, all other relevant factor are discounted)…or “you can never go pro without using 15-20 IU of GH”, etc. Among the initiated, a more balanced view is typically present. In truth, GH is in many ways irreplaceable.

Its ability to induce lipolysis, increase IGF-1 levels, and strengthen/heal collagen containing tissues is unrivaled, but at the same time, it is not some super-drug capable of adding 30 pounds of lean muscle to your frame, nor will it have you down to 6% bodyfat on an ice-cream and cake diet. So, is growth hormone something you should consider adding into your program? By the end of this article, that is a question you will be able to answer for yourself.

So, what exactly does GH do? In the minds of many, GH’s most effective role is that of a fat loss agent. There are two primary steps involved in the fat loss process; lipolysis and oxidation. The 1st step in the process is lipolysis, which is the release of fatty acids from the fat cell into the bloodstream, to be used as energy. The latter is oxidation, which is the burning (or oxidizing) of that energy in the form of fat, carbohydrate, or protein. GH increases the rate of lipolysis in a dose dependent basis. In other words, the more you use, the better it works….to a point. If the rate of lipolysis ever exceeds the rate of oxidation, fat loss will cease, as all newly released fat must be burned as fuel. Otherwise, it will simply be re-deposited back into the fat cell. On the other hand, oxidation will never exceed the rate of lipolysis because as soon as the body’s energy demands exceed what is provided by the food we eat, lipolysis will automatically begin to take place as a means of supplying our body with the energy it needs to function. Therefore, lipolysis is the rate limiting step in the fat loss process.

Fortunately, rarely does one reach the point of diminishing returns in regards to GH-induced fat loss, as one would have to use a very large dose of GH for this to occur. Part of the reason for this is that the body is much more likely to burn off fat which is floating around the bloodstream in comparison to fat which is currently stored in a fat cell. We know by experience that the rate of fat loss will continue to increase up to a dosage of at least 15-20 IU per day, beyond which point diminishing returns become apparent.

Generally, when using a dosage of between 3-5 IU (very little to no results will be witnessed when using less than 3 IU per day, at least not to a significant degree), it will take between 2-3 months for fat loss to become visually noticeable. At between 5-10 IU per day, results come more quickly, with visual improvements noticeable at 6-8 weeks. At 10-15 IU per day, results are rapid, with visual improvements taking place within 1 month. As with any dose of GH, the longer the drug remains an integral part of one’s program, the more fat loss results one can expect to witness over time.

GH also promotes an environment conducive to muscle growth by increasing IGF-1 levels, which it accomplishes indirectly by signaling the liver to increase total IGF-1 output. This is the primary mechanism by which GH causes muscle growth, as the GH molecule itself has little to no impact on muscle hypertrophy. As with lipolysis, GH continues to increase IGF-1 levels in a dose dependent fashion, although in terms of cost-effectiveness, one must question the logic behind using GH solely for this purpose, as one can achieve similar elevations in IGF-1 levels by using GH peptides or through administering pure IGF-1, which is readily available in today’s market for a significantly lower cost.

There was some recent lab work conducted by a prominent physician in our community, whose screen name is Alpha6164. It was found that when administering a combination of ModGRF1-29 & GHRP-2 @ 100 mcg each, 3X per day, he experienced elevations in IGF-1 equivalent to using 3 IU of GH per day. Keep in mind that this is a rather minimalist GH peptide program, yet it still achieved an increase in total IGF-1 levels comparable to using 3 IU of GH per day. In terms of cost, the GH peptide program will run about $60 per month, while 3 IU of GH daily will normally cost around $200 per month. If this GH peptide combo had been administered 4-5X daily, we would have witnessed and even greater elevation in systematic IGF-1 levels. At this point I should take a minute to point out that there is virtually no difference between IGF-1 levels which have been elevated by exogenous GH or GH peptides. Now, in terms of serum GH, the above combo of GH peptides will only maintain GH levels about 90 minutes per inject (which is why they are typically administered several times per day), while exogenous GH will keep GH levels elevated about 12 hours per inject. However, once IGF-1 levels become elevated, those levels are maintained regardless of how one got there, whether they were achieved with the use of GH peptides or exogenous GH. Therefore, when we are talking about IGF-1 elevation, it is both far more cost-effective and equally efficacious to use GH peptides, until one exceeds about 6-7 IU of exogenous GH per day.

When we start comparing GH-induced IGF-1 to exogenous IGF-1 LR3, we are looking at a whole other ballgame. Without any doubt whatsoever, not only is LR3 significantly less expensive to use than exogenous GH, but it is a more potent form of IGF-1 and will stay active for roughly 24 hours per inject. This makes it easy to maintain LR3 levels all day long with a once daily injection. User experience shows that when using between 50-100 mcg of IGF-1 LR3 per day, results in growth are substantially greater in comparison to using exogenous GH. Of course, this is not a total judgment in favor of LR3 over GH, but only in terms of growth potential. One must remember that when assessing GH’s overall “effectiveness” we are talking about a comprehensive compound which has numerous positive effects on the user…not just muscle growth. Still, if muscle growth is the individual’s only goal, he would be better served by using LR3 instead of exogenous GH, as it is both less costly and more efficacious.

GH has often been used as a drug for healing and regeneration; a reputation which is well deserved. This is particularly true when it comes to collagen containing tissues. GH has been clinically proven to increase collagen production (again, in a dose dependent basis), which can help strength & repair tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. This is especially useful for those employing anabolic steroids, as AAS in general, including testosterone, lead to a decrease in collagen production. This is part of the reason why AAS users experience a disproportionate percentage of injuries compared to non-AAS users. GH helps to reverse this negative effect of AAS, taking a proactive role in injury prevention. More than one GH user has noticed that nagging joint and connective tissue pain seems to “go away” when using GH.

While GH is certainly effective for this purpose, allow me to play the Devil’s advocate once again. Just as other drugs can often duplicate the fat loss and muscle-building effects of GH (although sometimes through alternate mechanisms) at a lower cost, so to are there other options which can be utilized to help heal joints, tendons, ligaments, etc. TB-500, which it is most commonly known as, is a relatively new addition to the PED marketplace. Thus far, according to user feedback, it has been shown to be equally effective as GH, if not more so, at alleviating the above mentioned maladies. TB-500 originates in the horse racing community, where it has an extensive history of use. Race horses are exposed to rigorous physical demands, with a massive amount of stress applied to their connective tissues. In sport where these horses have only a few years of prime racing ability to earn their owners millions of dollars, being able to extend their racing life by even a couple of years can result in tremendous financial gain to their owners. Needless to say, it is far less costly to administer TB-500 in effective dosages, than it is to use GH at a dosage which offers comparable benefits in this area.

Before going any farther I want to clear up one common misconception, which frequently arises among those who use GH. It is well known that GH causes water retention, which can easily be seen in the swelling of the hands & feet, but what is not as well known is that GH can cause a considerable degree of intramuscular water retention, which is indistinguishable from genuine muscle growth. Therefore, if an individual ends up gaining 15 pounds over the course of a few weeks, such numbers can be deceptive in telling us how much real growth has actually taken place. Many times, the user sees nothing more than an increase in scale weight and bigger looking muscles in the mirror, which prompts him to attribute this new “growth” to GH. In reality, this initial swelling period is nearly 100% attributable to increased I.M. water retention…not muscle growth. This truth is easily confirmed through abrupt cessation of the drug, after which the user will watch all his newfound “growth” rapidly disappear over a 1-2 week period. In the end, he will end up weighing about the same as he did prior to using GH. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that GH does not promote muscle growth…it does, just very slowly and not anywhere near the ultimate potential of anabolic-androgenic steroids.

With that said, is GH a drug that you should consider making a part of your program? Well, it depends on your goals and finances. If you are financially well-off and dropping several hundred dollars or more per month is no big deal to you, then implementing this drug into your program is a no-brainer. However, if you are a bit more limited on the financial side of things (most of us are), then you will need to demonstrate a bit of discernment in your decision making process. If you fall into the 2nd category, I would begin by figuring out how much can you responsibly spend per month, followed by prioritizing your goals. If you can’t afford to drop at least $200 per month (which is the average price for one kit, or 100 IU) then GH is definitely not for you. In order to get what most would consider “good” results from using GH alone, you’re going to want to use about 5-6 IU per day, which will increase your monthly cost 75% or more.

The reason I mention prioritizing your goals when attempting to determine whether GH is right for you is because there may be more cost-effective alternatives if you are only looking for a specific effect. For example, if you are already very lean and your main goal is muscle growth, it is foolish to spend $200-$250 per month on 3 IU of GH per day when you could use IGF-1 LR3 for a fraction of the cost and get better results. Likewise, if your main goal is repair or preventative care of your connective tissues, you will be better served by utilizing TB-500 over GH, as it frequently works equally to or better than GH, yet it is much less costly even when administering maximum dosages. In my opinion, the best use for GH is fat loss (or to maintain BF levels when consuming excess calories during a bulk phase), but why spend a small fortunate on a compound when there are so many equally effective/superior fat loss drugs on the market? In short, because the overwhelming majority of fat loss drugs cause either a barrage of side effects (which makes their long-term use either intolerable or unfeasible due to health related concerns), or they adversely affect lean mass gain/maintenance. Not only is GH mild enough in the side effect department to enable long-term use, but it safety profile allows for it. In addition, GH is one of few drugs able to promote muscle growth as it enhances fat loss.

There is no single feature inherent to GH which calls for such an esteemed reputation in the BB’ing community. Every positive effect it provides, from a BB’ing standpoint, can be reproduced to a greater degree with alternative drugs. Yet, its reputation remains. GH did not earn its current status by providing a single, dramatic effect. Rather, a host of desirable effects culminate to form an end result which exceeds to sum of its parts. When evaluating the worth of GH’s positive characteristics on a case by case basis, none of them seem to be anything extraordinary, but when combined, the visual result they deliver can be impressive. For example, if you lose 7 pounds of fat over a 3 month period, it might be noticeable, but nothing noteworthy. In the same way, if you were to gain 2 pounds of lean muscle mass within 3 months, you would be happy to have it, but it wouldn’t be considered exceptional. Nevertheless, when you lose 7 pounds of bodyfat, add 2 pounds of lean muscle, and gain 8 pounds of intramuscular water simultaneously, this changes the picture entirely. When viewed from this perspective, we now see an individual who looks to have put on 10 pounds of lean mass, while lowering his bodyfat 3-4% within 12 weeks.

So, when determining if GH is right for you, try to avoid looking at it from an all-inclusive standpoint. Instead, look at each effect individually and decide whether the benefits you desire are worth the cost of the drug, or if you would be better off relying on another drug to in order to accomplish your objectives. Do not be misled into thinking that GH is indispensable or that you cannot achieve your goals without it. Some aspects of your BB’ing progress may be more difficult in its absence, but there are plenty of drugs out there, when used in combination, that can do everything GH does and more. GH is not a foundational drug, but is simply icing on the cake from a PED perspective, which should only be added once the other components of a successful BB’ing program have been put in place. The mystique has been broken. As fascinating and potentially desirable as this drug can be, we are now able to view it in its proper light and make decisions accordingly.