HGH: The Ultimate Guide (for Men & Women)
HGH is a naturally occurring peptide hormone, responsible for skeletal muscle growth and cell production.
HGH also affects the metabolism and adipose tissue, causing significant subcutaneous fat loss in individuals with high levels of this hormone.
Natural HGH levels are often determined by various factors, including: genetics, sleep, age, exercise and overall health.
Adults experience a 15% drop in growth hormone every 10 years (1), contributing to weight gain, wrinkles, muscle loss and decreased energy.
Consequently, men and women around the world are taking artificial HGH to reverse the ageing process, enhance athletic performance and improve body composition.
In 1985, the FDA approved the first growth hormone compound, known as Somatrem (protropin), in an attempt to treat endogenous HGH deficiency and growth disorders.
Despite its overall success, scientists found incidents of Somatrem causing antibody reactions, reducing its biological availability and effectiveness of the drug.
In 1987, thanks to recombinant DNA technology, Somatropin was formulated; a drug with an identical structure to natural HGH secreted by the pituitary gland.
Thus, Somatropin became a purer HGH derivative than its predecessor and continues to dominate the market today, with rife production in pharmaceutical and underground labs.
- 1 HGH Benefits
- 2 HGH Side Effects
- 3 HGH Cycles
- 4 HGH Before and After (Without Insulin)
- 5 HGH Before and After (With Insulin)
- 6 HGH Before and After (Female Results)
- 7 HGH For Women
- 8 FAQ
- 9 HGH Pros and Cons
- Increase in height (during puberty)
- Muscle building
- Fat loss
- No withdrawal (post-cycle)
Children who have not experienced a standard growth spurt appropriate for their age, may be prescribed HGH by a pediatric endocrinologist, successfully accelerating growth and improving their quality of life.
However, HGH will not positively influence height during post-puberty years, due to fusing of the growth plates.
HGH is not an anabolic steroid, however it does have muscle-building properties, albeit weaker than steroids.
In medicine, HGH has been prescribed in the treatment of cachexic (muscle wasting) states, including AIDS.
HGH helps the body shift from a catabolic environment, by increasing nitrogen retention and protein synthesis in the muscle cells, and thus promoting weight gain in the form of lean mass.
HGH’s most prominent effect in terms of body composition is subcutaneous and visceral fat loss.
Generally, HGH’s results in terms of decreased adipose tissue, outweigh the anabolic effects of HGH, significantly leaning a person out and increasing muscle definition.
HGH stimulates collagen synthesis, causing anti-ageing effects.
Collagen is a protein that plumps out the skin, increasing elasticity, decreasing wrinkles and preventing sagging.
Collagen is also critical for hair and nail health, with it thickening hair follicles, inhibiting gray hairs and reducing nail breakage.
These benefits are contrary to many anabolic steroids which reduce collagen production and accelerate ageing.
Users may not only look visibly younger, but also feel it on HGH, displaying higher energy levels due to its effect on carbohydrate metabolism and spiking of blood glucose.
HGH also increases cognitive ability, due to growth hormone receptors being expressed in brain regions including: cerebral cortex, choroid plexus and hippocampus (2).
Note: Although HGH does provide anti-ageing effects, it is likely to shorten a person’s lifespan due to greater IGF-1 output (3).
HGH does not induce a come-down effect upon cycle cessation, unlike steroids, thus a PCT is not required.
A post cycle therapy aids the recovery of the HPTA (hypothalamic–pituitary–testicular axis) following a steroid cycle, enhancing endogenous testosterone production.
Without a PCT, low testosterone symptoms can prolong for several months.
Although HGH does suppress natural growth hormone levels, they often resurrect back to normal levels in a matter of days (significantly faster than HPTA axis recovery).
Thus, HGH users do not typically suffer physiologically or psychologically, such as: catabolism, increased fatigue or decreased-well being.
HGH Side Effects
There are a lack of long-term studies performed on HGH, however there is evidence of HGH causing the following:
- Heart disease
- Possibly Carcinogenic
- HGH Gut
- Tumor growth
- Bone/tissue growth
- Numbness in feet and hands
Left ventricle hypertrophy can occur when administering exogenous HGH (4), increasing the risk of heart disease.
However, there is evidence of HGH having cardiovascular benefits when used in a medical setting, treating patients deficient in endogenous growth hormone (5); thus having a paradoxical effect and causing cardiac atrophy.
HGH has diabetogenic effects related to its metabolism of carbohydrates, causing blood sugar levels to rise and thus increasing the risk of type II diabetes.
There is not enough data to unequivocally state that HGH causes cancer, however Dr. Thomas O’Connor has anecdotal evidence to suggest a possible link between HGH-use and the development of various cancers.
Dr Thomas O’Connor has seen the following cancers transpire in his patients, utilizing growth hormone:
- Esophageal cancers
- Brain cancers
- Heart tumor (single case)
- Gastrointestinal tract cancer
Such patients had used HGH for several years in combination with various anabolic steroids, causing suspicion of growth hormone being the culprit.
Ex-NFL star, Lyle Alzado, also believed performance enhancing drugs (including HGH) were the cause of the brain lymphoma he suffered, sadly leading to his death in 1992.
The concern is that HGH significantly stimulates IGF-1, a surrogate marker for cancer.
IGF-1 is used by medical doctors to detect potential cancer risk and tumor growth in patients.
Thus, by spiking HGH, users may effectively be increasing their own risk for cancer or worsening any existing (unknown) tumors.
‘HGH gut’ is a term used in bodybuilding to describe the protruding effect of the abdomen, seen in many IFBB competitors today.
This distended effect is indicative of high levels of visceral fat. It is somewhat of a myth that HGH solely causes this appearance, as HGH actually decreases visceral fat, via the stimulation of lipolysis (causing the polar opposite effect).
However, many bodybuilders combine HGH with insulin during a cycle, for more anabolism, due to its efficient shuttling of nutrients into the muscle cells.
They do this because insulin increases IGF-1 receptor upregulation and decreases IGF protein binding 1, thus creating a particularly anabolic environment when synergistically used with HGH (which has IGF-1 stimulating properties).
Insulin however promotes lipogenesis (fat storage) in users, causing a ‘fat’ look to the body, that is evident even in bodybuilders with a ‘low body fat percentage’.
Thus, ‘HGH gut’ can occur after prolonged use, but only with the presence of insulin.
Research suggests hypothyroidism may occur in HGH-users, due to the depletion of: potassium, sodium and phosphorous, causing a T3 (triiodothyronine) deficiency.
This is surprising considering T3 is a potent fat burning hormone, and HGH also stimulates lipolysis (fat loss).
Interestingly, Dr. Thomas O’Connor has not observed any reductions in T3 levels in patients utilizing HGH. Thus, it is possible such a T3-inhibiting effect may only occur in HGH deficient individuals (theory).
Acromegaly, causing the enlargement of bones and tissues, is common when taking HGH for a substantial amount of time.
One bodybuilder took HGH for 10 years continuously and reported an increase in foot hypertrophy, going from size 12-15 (6).
His skull also enlarged, having previously worn a size 7 3/8 cap and later going up to 7 5/8. He also observed growth in the hands, wrists and stomach.
Interestingly, research has shown gynecomastia (gyno) to be a possible side effect of HGH (7).
It isn’t known for certain how breast tissue accumulates in men on HGH, however it may be attributed to elevations in the female sex hormone — progesterone.
An AI (aromatase inhibitor), such as anastrozole, may be taken to safeguard HGH-users from gynecomastia, with research indicating it as an effective inhibitor of progesterone receptor expression (9).
Numbness in feet and hands
Numbness of the hands, otherwise known as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), may occur on HGH due to it increasing sodium uptake and thus extracellular fluid (water retention).
This excess fluid in the synovial tissue compresses the median nerve, resulting in reduced function (10).
When used in medicine to treat intrauterine growth retardation, dosages of 1-3 IU per day are typically used.
When used for performance enhancement purposes, 2-4 IU per day are taken, with a maximum dosage of 6 IU used by elite bodybuilders to promote further mass gain.
HGH cycles usually last anywhere from 6-24 weeks, with 16 weeks being the average duration for a standard bodybuilding cycle.
HGH is not typically taken by beginners, but more experienced PED-users, taking their muscle gains to the next level.
Beginners coveting significant muscle size, will typically take bulking steroids, such as: dianabol, anadrol, testosterone or trenbolone. Then after hitting a plateau, they may introduce HGH for further growth/fat loss.
However, if beginners do not want to experience huge muscle gains, but instead milder increases in hypertrophy (size) — the above cycle may be taken.
However, anavar or primobolan are mild steroids that can produce similar results (in a potentially safer manner), with the effects of long-term HGH-use being relatively unknown.
HGH and Testosterone Cycle
HGH and testosterone is a common cycle used to significantly enhance muscle-building, strength and fat loss. Thus, this stack could be used for bulking or cutting.
Testosterone is often taken by beginners as a first steroid cycle, to build exceptional amounts of muscle whilst reducing subcutaneous fat.
30lbs of lean mass is a typical when testosterone is taken by novices.
Adding testosterone to this stack is optimal for users wanting more pronounced muscle gains.
The addition of testosterone will not cause a considerably decline in health, with it being one of the mildest AAS.
There is minimal cardiovascular strain when taking testosterone in moderate dosages (such as 400mg) and it won’t cause any hepatic toxicity, being an injectable.
However, androgenic side effects may occur with the addition of testosterone, such as accelerated MPB (male pattern baldness), acne vulgaris and prostate enlargement.
These adverse effects occur due to heightened DHT levels damaging hair follicles on the scalp and the sebaceous glands becoming overstimulated, resulting in excess sebum secretion (blocking the pores).
Stacking HGH with testosterone will also have a transient effect on testosterone levels; initially spiking during a cycle but then crashing post-cycle. Consequently, low testosterone symptoms can prolong for several months, unless certain PCT medications are taken to restore the HPTA axis.
Note: Testosterone is not suitable for women, due to its androgenic nature.
This is a cutting cycle and one of the most potent combinations for rapid fat loss.
T3 (Cytomel) is a powerful fat burning hormone, used as a prescription medicine for treating obesity and hypothyroidism.
Bodybuilders often use T3 to raise their BMR (basil metabolic rate) and enhance lipolysis, maximizing fat burning before a competition.
The gradual tapering of T3 during this cycle (with steady increases and decreases in dosage), is optimal to reduce side effects and to prevent endogenous T3 shut down post-cycle.
Anavar is one of the most commonly used cutting steroids, dramatically enhancing fat loss, whilst retaining (or adding) lean muscle.
The presence of anavar is critical in this cycle, not only from a fat burning perspective, but also to prevent the body from shifting into a catabolic state. T3 can burn muscle tissue as well as fat stores when taken without anabolic agents, thus running T3 by itself is a potential disaster for a bodybuilder.
100mg/week of testosterone can also be added to this stack, to increase anabolism without adding any notable water retention, due to this low dose. Testosterone may be run alongside T3 and anavar for the last 8 weeks of this cycle.
Endogenous T3 levels will become suppressed post-cycle, taking approximately 3-4 weeks to restore back to normal levels. During this time, a person’s metabolism will become significantly slower, making it easier to overeat.
Thus, users must be cautious of this effect and lower their calories accordingly (as some users gain the weight back by eating in a caloric surplus).
Anavar is a very mild steroid, with few side effects reported by bodybuilders. However, a mild alteration in cholesterol levels and blood lipids is to be expected. Bodybuilders often take 4 grams of fish oil to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce any cardiovascular strain.
Anavar is an oral steroid and thus c-17 alpha alkylated, enabling maximum absorption into the bloodstream.
Oral steroids may be convenient, however they are hepatotoxic and thus AST/ALT liver enzymes often rise, indicating stress/damage to the liver. The good news is — anavar is not particularly hepatotoxic, therefore liver inflammation is likely to be minimal when sticking to moderate dosages.
The presence of anavar will also cause some natural testosterone suppression. This won’t be an aggressive shutdown of the HPTA axis, however it may take several weeks for peak testosterone function to return. A PCT may or may not be used, depending on how the user is feeling; in terms of energy, libido and mood.
Note: Women should only use 10mg of anavar for the last 4-5 weeks of this cycle, to prevent masculinization.
HGH Before and After (Without Insulin)
These are the results of a user who ‘blasted’ HGH for 10 days, taking mega doses of 16 iu per day. Blast and cruise is a method sometimes utilized by bodybuilders, involving long-term drug use (rather than cycles).
To overcome a plateau or to maximize gains in a short period of time, they will significantly up the dosage, known as a ‘blast’. This user experienced notable increases in muscle hypertrophy and fat loss from this protocol.
Long-term use of AAS or HGH however can lead to the shut down of the endocrine system and thus is not recommended.
HGH Before and After (With Insulin)
We cannot confirm whether this bodybuilder has used HGH/insulin, however these results are typical when combining these two drugs together.
He has experienced noticeable muscle growth, a decrease in subcutaneous fat, more notable muscle definition and vascularity.
However, he also displays higher levels of visceral fat, hence the increased protruding of the midsection (known as HGH gut).
HGH Before and After (Female Results)
This before and after picture is the result of long-term HGH use (several years of injections). This female user administers HGH every day for weight loss and anti ageing benefits, however the dosages utilized are unknown.
HGH For Women
Women are limited significantly in regards to what steroids they can use, as many compounds cause virilization symptoms.
However, masculinization does not occur on HGH, as it does not elevate androgen hormones, such as free testosterone.
Therefore, women can successfully use HGH to burn fat and enhance muscle tone, without forming male characteristics.
It may also be argued that HGH’s effects are more desirable for women than men, in regards to: anti-ageing, fat loss, hair, skin and nail health.
However, one downside with HGH for women, is bone and tissue enlargement (with long-term use). Females are inherently the smaller sex, thus the reality of their feet, hands and skull growing larger may not be desirable. Whereas for a man this may not be troublesome.
Is HGH Legal?
HGH is legal when prescribed for medicinal purposes i.e. dwarfism or a HGH deficiency that greatly impacts overall well-being.
However, HGH is illegal for cosmetic purposes i.e. buying it on the black market to lose fat and build muscle.
This is due to it being included in the 1990 anabolic steroids control act, meaning non-medical distribution or possession is a federal crime.
How to Get HGH?
If a person is deficient in HGH, they may be prescribed it by their doctor.
However, if a bodybuilder wants HGH to build muscle, then he/she will buy it from the black market.
People find dealers by asking around at gyms, or buying from websites online.
Users can purchase pharmaceutical or UGL (underground lab) products on the black market.
Pharmaceutical HGH is formulated in a certified lab and is sometimes sold (illicitly) by someone who has been medically prescribed this drug.
UGL HGH is typically formulated by someone with zero medical expertise or qualifications and is synthesized in a non-certified lab (usually being their own home).
UGL HGH is considerably cheaper, however it poses more risks, due to hygiene issues or possible contamination.
With UGL products, there is also a chance of the product being diluted or a counterfeit.
A typical scam on the black market is to label hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) as HGH, with both compounds sharing a similar visual resemblance. HCG is a female pregnancy hormone, but is sometimes used by bodybuilders during a PCT to stimulate endogenous testosterone production.
Bodybuilders can test the legitimacy of their HGH somatropin product, by taking a pregnancy test a few days into their cycle.
Bodybuilders will administer an injection at night, then the following morning take a pregnancy test. If positive, it indicates a counterfeit product, with hCG being detected.
How Much Does HGH Cost?
HGH can cost $4,000 and upwards per month, even when utilizing lower dosages for anti-ageing purposes.
Will HGH Show Up on a Drugs Test?
WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) list HGH as a banned susbstance, thus athletes may fail drug tests if caught with HGH in their system.
However, the accuracy of such tests have been questioned by athletes and elite doctors, including Dr. Thomas O’Connor, who branded them as ‘unreliable’ (11).
However, standard drug tests for the army, police and other employment, do not typically test for HGH or anabolic steroids.
This is because such tests are expensive, thus general tests are used to detect recreational drug-use, such as: marijuana, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines.
Steroids vs HGH
HGH is an inferior muscle-building compound, compared to most anabolic steroids.
Thus, its effects on body composition are more mild.
HGH is not going to cause as much cardiovascular risk compared to steroids, as it doesn’t cause significant fluctuations in LDL/HDL scores.
HGH is not hepatotoxic, however oral steroids are damaging to the liver (due to c-17 alpha alkylation).
HGH has much less risk of causing gynecomastia, due to no aromatization activity (converting testosterone into high amounts of estrogen). Gynecomastia remains possible on HGH due to the elevation of progesterone, however it is rare.
HGH does not cause androgenic effects, as there is no 5a-reductase conversion of testosterone into DHT. Thus, acne, oily skin, male pattern baldness and prostate growth may occur on steroids — but not with HGH.
HGH is generally administered via injection, however several anabolic steroids are available in oral form.
HGH does not produce virilization in women, whereas many anabolic steroids do.
HGH increases collagen synthesis, resulting in anti-ageing effects, whereas steroids can decrease collagen and accelerate ageing.
HGH does not require a PCT, with endogenous levels recovering quickly. However, many steroids do require a PCT, due to significant damage to the HPTA axis.
In terms of cost, anabolic steroids are a fraction of the price of HGH.
HGH when used by itself decreases visceral fat, whereas many anabolic steroids increase visceral fat (and bloating of the midsection).
HGH Pros and Cons
- Burns fat
- Builds lean muscle
- Improves hair, skin and nail health
- No PCT needed
- Does not cause virilization in women
- Increases risk of type II diabetes
- May increase the risk of cancer
- Very expensive
- HGH gut possible (when used with insulin)
For bodybuilding purposes, HGH is often not worth the risk, with it only producing mild to moderate results.
Also HGH is very expensive, making it very costly to run in lengthy cycles.
It is also worth noting that moderate fat loss and muscle gains are possible to achieve naturally, with effective training and diet.
However, HGH may be more desirable for an elite bodybuilder who has plateaued and needs to add another 10-15lbs of lean muscle to win their pro card.