Human Growth Hormones, Exercise and Bodybuilding

photo of man with muscular body

The sport of bodybuilding and strongman competitions started in the 19th century in Europe but gained huge popularity across the world in the 70s with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was the symbol of manhood, and men flocked to the gym in hopes of achieving Arnold’s chiselled, muscular physique. But the human body is only capable of so much. Some people are genetically gifted and can achieve results without the help of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). However, supplemental substances became the norm for those trying to push the limits of their bodies.

In our research on the topic of human growth hormone (HGH, hGH, or GH) for bodybuilding, we found it’s a hot topic with differing opinions on whether the benefits are worth the consequences that come with non-medical use. Some studies with smaller groups of people show favourable benefits. We want to share the research here so you can make an educated decision to experiment with growth hormone or not. In our clinic, we help men overcome the negative side effects that PEDs can impose, so we highly recommend speaking to a doctor to help you on your journey. 

When Did Bodybuilding and PEDs Become Popular?

We will start by saying that we don’t advocate the use of any performance-enhancing drugs — we are just providing information. Human growth hormone, steroids, etc. are illegal for non-medical use and banned in most countries under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). However, steroid use became popular in the 60s and 70s when the number of bodybuilding competitions and organizations grew. They were legal at the time, and bodybuilders openly discussed the use of steroids. This surge of bodybuilding competitions led to the founding of Gold’s Gym across the United States, so men everywhere had a place to pump some iron and build their physique. The most well-known bodybuilding organization, the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB), was founded in 1964. The UKBFF is the British branch for bodybuilders in the UK.

Since steroids can give a competitor an advantage, “natural” bodybuilding federations were founded to let those who don’t use PEDs compete on a level playing field. Competitors are drug-tested for a host of banned substances before they are allowed to compete — and growth hormone is on that list. Of course, not everyone in the gym is using steroids or competes in bodybuilding competitions. But you can find men who use a cocktail of steroids and growth hormone for athletic or aesthetic reasons since it can help improve muscle mass and reduce body fat.

Why Use Human Growth Hormone for Bodybuilding?

The one benefit to taking growth hormone that has the most scientific evidence is an increase in lean muscle mass, which means a decrease in body fat. So if you are someone who has a hard time putting on muscle, or keeping off fat, you may see an improvement with growth hormone. A group of researchers looked at 44 studies on growth hormone use in athletes. They found that those receiving daily injections for about three weeks increased their lean body mass by an average of 4.6 pounds. There isn’t much evidence that growth hormone alone can improve speed, agility and strength, so many people tend to use them in combination with anabolic steroids. Many who use GH in combination with steroids say that if they use GH solely, they see little improvement. Results will vary, but the overall consensus is that growth hormone is not the miracle cure some claim it to be.

What Are the Side Effects of Growth Hormones?

All drugs come with the possibility of side effects. If you don’t have an actual growth hormone deficiency, you put yourself at risk of many consequences if you take too much GH. 

These include headaches, muscle aches and joint problems, nausea, changes in blood sugar insulin and more. If you overdue GH you could experience Acromegaly, which is a condition that can cause excessive growth of the face, hands and feet. Bodybuilders and gym rats who use GH regularly cycle it with steroids to try to mitigate the side effects. 

If you are taking growth hormones and experience any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor immediately. There are very few studies on the effects of long-term use of growth hormones, so please be careful and seek the guidance of a doctor. 

Do you think you have a growth hormone deficiency or are considering using hormones as a way to enhance your performance in the gym? Book a free, no-obligation consultation with our men’s health experts so we can help you through the process.

Dr. Chia Tan
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