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Stimulating Muscle Mass While Reducing Body Fat

By Ann de Wees Allen, D.N.

The efficacy of Growth Hormone (GH) in the manipulation of muscle-to-fat ratios in humans is well documented. Stimulation of GH is becoming the current biochemically accepted method in reducing excess body fat in athletes without sacrificing lean muscle mass or strength.

The bonus, in terms of overall health, of stimulating GH is its proven ability to improve immune function, speed the healing process, reduce susceptibility to viruses, bacteria and cancer, reduce wound healing time, reduce bone-healing time, and activate macrophages. In other words, stimulation of GH after age twenty-three would seem imperative in the control of age-driven diseases and age-deterioration of muscle mass with attendant increase in body fat.

In youth, growth hormone is abundant in the body and largely accounts for muscle building, bone and skin growth and elasticity, reduced stored body fat, energy and sexual stamina. After the age of twenty-one, humans begin to lose GH and the aging process begins. GH levels begin to diminish after long-bone growth has ceased. The steady decline in GH results in increased body fat, decreased muscle strength and tone, immune system malfunction, decreased libido and sexual performance and decreased skin thic kness. This inevitable aging process is largely but not solely caused by diminished GH.

The phenomenon of de-aging by restoring GH in humans was brought to public attention when Dr. Daniel Rudman, M.D., published his scientific study in the New England Journal of Medicine1. Dr. Rudman's study concluded that "Diminished secretion of growth hormone is responsible in part for the decrease of lean body mass, the expansion of adipose-tissue mass, and the thinning of the skin that occur in old age". Dr. Rudman states that "These changes represented the reversal of one or two decades of aging with regard to these factors. To prevent, rather than reverse the effects of aging, treatment might need to start when people are in their 30s or 40s." Calling growth hormone the "youth hormone," newspapers and magazines touted the report as the most profound Fountain-of-Youth study ever conducted.

"Diminished secretion of Growth Hormone is
responsible in part for the decrease of lean body mass,
expansion of adipose-tissue mass,
and the thinning of the skin occurr in old age".

Dr. Rudman's study centered on men aged 61-81. Within 6 months of receiving synthetic growth hormone, their body fat decreased by 14.4%, their lean mass increased by 8.8%, their bone density increased and their skin tightened, appeared younger and was less fragile. The subjects were not allowed to exercise during the research project.

The bad news is that all humans are doomed to lose GH as they age. The good news is that the pulsatile release of GH from the pituitary gland can be efficiently and safely restored. Pulsatile release of GH from age sixteen to twenty occurs naturally every few hours. After age twenty-one, and following cessation of long-bone growth, GH is plentiful within the pituitary, but release of GH into the bloodstream has begun to diminish. At age twenty, males produce about 1 mg of GH per day. By age forty, pro duction of GH drops to less than 1/2 of 1 mg per day. Prior to age twenty the pituitary releases adequate amounts of GH in pulsatile bursts. By age thirty, available GH has diminished to the point that "metabolic assistance" is required to reinstate adequate GH levels. Since storage and production of GH does not guarantee release of GH, "metabolic assistance" in the form of a growth-hormone-releasing-agent (GHRA) can be considered.

Athletes stand to gain the most from reinstating age-reduced GH levels, particularly the strength athlete or athlete concerned with muscle-to-fat body ratios. Body-builders are constantly seeking new and better methods of reducing body fat without sacrificing muscle mass. This is a tricky mechanism.

You are giving the body conflicting messages - add muscle tissue but reduce adipose tissue fat. Adiposity is a highly desirable and necessary trait in terms of evolution. If our Neanderthal ancestors did not have the ability to add and retain a minimum level of body fat, our species could not have survived. The ability to add body fat to our frames is genetically programmed into all humans.

This genetic trait is useful when caloric requirements are not met. In a society that provides food in abundance, this mechanism becomes obsolete. The human body will tolerate an extremely low percent of body fat. Levels of body fat can drop to between 2 and 5 percent without incidence, but only if the loss of body fat is balanced by sufficient lean body mass supported by adequate nutrient and caloric intake. How low can body fat drop before death ensues? The number is somewhere under 1.0 percent, but that is because the brain requires a modicum of fat. The lowest percent body fat recorded and monitored in healthy women is 6.0 %, while the lowest percent recorded and monitored in males is 2.0%. Monitored is the key word here, as many athletes have claimed to have held body fat to 1.0 % or less, but were not medic ally monitored.

"Approximately one-third
of all patients taking synthetic hGH
develop antibodies to it."

It is easier for the male of the human species to lose excess body fat than for the female. This is due to hormonal differences in the sexes. In general, the higher the testosterone, the lower the fat level and the higher the muscle mass. Since growth hormone increases testosterone, males with high GH levels (like teenagers) have bigger muscles, faster metabolisms, lower body fat levels, and greater libidos than males with lowered GH levels. Ask any male over age fifty if he remembers how he looked and felt at age sixteen, when his GH levels were soaring. Lowered levels of GH result in reduced muscle mass, reduced libido, increased adipose tissue and slowed metabolism. Wound healing and exercise-recovery times are also increased when GH levels are low.

Female hormones slow fat metabolism. When hormonal activity changes in the female body fat can suddenly increase without any change in caloric intake. The female bodybuilder has a much more complicated and obstinate machine to work with than her male counterpart. The total amount of lean muscle mass has a dramatic effect on fat metabolism. A higher percent of muscle equals a higher rate of fat metabolism. When muscle mass is lowered, fat storage increases.

This is the case in both males and females. Anorexics frequently have body fat levels higher than that of a bodybuilder, putting the anorexic in extreme physical danger. This is because anorexics lose not only body fat, but muscle mass, fluid and organ tissue. The bodybuilder, holding a lower percent of body fat than the anorexic, continues to supply his metabolism with an abundance of calories and nutrients. The anorexic is suffering from caloric and nutrient depletion. Severe and continued depletion of calories is much more dangerous than loss of body fat alone.

Calorie deprivation is not an efficient method of reducing body fat. It does not result in loss of body fat alone. It does result in loss of muscle mass, body fluids and then, some body fat. Reduction of dietary fat does reduce body fat, but it is extremely difficult to keep dietary fats low enough while enjoying a varied diet with high caloric content. Athletes must keep their caloric intake high enough to avoid muscle and strength loss, and high enough in fat to avoid long-term lethargy and compromised muscle tone. Current sophisticated methods of controlling muscle-to-fat ratios without sacrificing calories include:

Given the tremendous scientific body of evidence relating to the stimulation of GH one may ask, "Why isn't everyone taking growth hormone?". The problem lies in the availability of GH formulas that work, are affordable, and are without side effects. There are two basic forms of Growth Hormone. There are the pharmaceutical products such as Protropin, a Genentech product and Humatrope, an Eli Lilly product. These synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) drugs have been available since 1986 but side effects associated with their use prohibit the average person from obtaining them. HGH is currently available for the treatment of dwarfism and is extremely expensive.

Approximately one-third of all patients taking synthetic HGH develop antibodies to it. These antibodies are a definite threat to normal immune function as well as to the body's own supply of GH. Other documented side effects include carpal tunnel syndrome, abnormal bone growth, reduced life-span and disturbed insulin metabolism. The combination of the exorbitant prices and the severe side effects of HGH eliminate the feasibility of using the synthetic forms of GH in the average healthy human.

"The potential side effects of Ornithine,
especially in terms of liver damage, eliminate its
use as an acceptable GH releasing amino acid.

The second form of growth hormone is the group of GH stimulators and GH releasers. These nondrug classes of formulas are currently legal to buy and sell in the United States. Some countries regulate them as drugs due to their superb ability to reinstate normal GH levels in the body. A properly made GH releasing formula can produce, in a ninety-five year old man, the same GH levels as a sixteen year old.

Wound healing, immunostimulant and anabolic effects of a correctly formulated GH stimulating formula are not all due to GH release, but are, in part, due to growth stimulating substances released in response to the main GH releasing amino acids, L-arginine and L-ornithine. Other free form amino acids do release GH, but not nearly as effectively as arginine and/or ornithine. The potential side effects of ornithine, especially in terms of liver damage, eliminate its use as an acceptable GH releasing amino acid. Approximately one-half of arginine turns to ornithine in the body, so the addition of or nithine in a GH releasing formula is moot.

L-arginine also plays an important role in the body when injury, surgery or any other physical trauma is involved. Stress on the body triggers increased use of arginine. These stresses include natural activities in the body such as growth and muscle increase due to exercise as well as externally related stresses such as illness and injury.

During trauma, arginine enhances nitrogen retention by releasing the hormones GH, IGF-1 and Insulin and promoting creatine synthesis. Ligaments and tendons respond to GH by becoming stronger and less prone to injury. Clinical studies involving stimulation of GH using free form L-Arginine has proven conclusively that L-Arginine, in the proper formula, can reinstate GH levels in any age group with results equal or superior to those of synthetic growth hormone.

The objective in choosing an acceptable growth hormone product is finding one that:

  1. Contains enough L-Arginine for a GH response
  2. Has the potential side effects engineered out
  3. Contains the correct synergists
  4. Has been formulated by scientists well versed in growth hormone
  5. Contains the correct form of L-Arginine
  6. Allows for the transport of L-Arginine across the blood-brain barrier
  7. Does not contain competing amino acids
  8. Does not contain lysine (lysine antagonism has been documented by Johns Hopkins University)
  9. Does not contain high glycemic ingredients
  10. Is palatable (L-Arginine has an unbearable taste)
  11. Includes explicit directions in regard to timing and contraindications (ie diabetics).
Cost is another consideration. Free form amino acids like L-arginine are extremely expensive. Formulators in the United States have no control over amino pricing. The Japanese hold the World Patent for the process of fermentation of free form aminos. That means the Japanese dictate the price of the main raw material in any amino acid based GH releaser. When their patent expires you will see fermenters popping up across the U.S. When a manufacturer of free form amino acid products does not order enough free form aminos at any one time their cost for the raw material skyrockets. So, in order to purchase a GH releaser at a reasonable price, one must choose a manufacturer who is in the business of providing free form amino acids on a full time basis.

It is obvious that finding a GH formula that meets all of the above specifications requires some diligence. Given the fact that a growth hormone releaser will not work and may elicit side effects if not formulated properly, one must be assured that the GH formula considered meets the scientific criteria. Random oral admin-istration of L-Arginine will not result in pulsatile release of growth hormone. It would be foolish to attempt to self-prescribe L-arginine without fully under-standing the perimeters in which a GH formula can work effectively and safely. Oral use of L-arginine also requires strict but simple guidelines in terms of timing and distance in the gut from high glycemic foods and competing proteins.

Despite the strict criteria, it is still possible to find a properly made GH stimulating formula that works, is fairly priced and is safe to use. When shopping for a L-arginine/GH stimulating formula, require that the manufacturer prove to you that the necessary guidelines for an acceptable GH formula were met. New 1995 FDA guidelines require that nutrient manufacturers prove scientifically that what they say about a product is indeed valid.

The old rules were that nutrient manufacturers could not make statements, whether true or false, concerning the efficacy of their products. The new rules allow manufacturers to make said statements as long as the claims can be proven by credible, published scientific research data. If the researcher/chemist/ physician who developed the formula cannot be produced, along with his credentials, look elsewhere.

You will notice that the new generation of sports nutrition products are accompanied by a well known, well respected scientist/doctor endorsement. The necessity of scientifically valid endorsements are born from past product "scams" in which product claims had little to do with product performance. The public has grown to require the science behind the product. This makes it easier for responsible nutrient manufacturers to stand behind their products and harder for products with no representative science. The onus of responsibility is on the manufacturer to make responsible product claims and statements and be able to show research that validates said statements. If a manufacturer/marketer is offended that you would dare to question their product, move on to a more responsive manufacturer.

Growth hormone therapy is future-science available now to those professionals who wish to make it available to their clients/patients. The requirement of the professional is to educate themselves in the field of GH in order to make an informed decision as to the efficacy of GH therapy on an individual basis.

1. (N Engl J Med 1990; 323:1-6 1).

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