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Does the Ketogenic Diet Improve HGH Levels?

During your keto adventures, you may have come across intermittent fasting. It has many great compliments to the ketogenic diet.  Intermittent fasting (IF) has been known to increase Growth Hormone by up 2000% percent in men (and by up to 1300% in women). But, here is the question. Since the Ketogenic Diet can induce ketosis, does this mean that it will increase GH as well?

The answer to this question is not in the research available today. But, I believe we can answer it, and here is why…

Based on what we know about Growth Hormone, it requires an almost hypoglycemic state to be released into the bloodstream.  what does hypoglycemic mean?  It means that we need VERY low blood sugar levels.

The ketogenic diet puts us in a great position here. We can infer that as long as we are strictly following the diet, there will be some degree of an increase in HGH. In the post below, I cover the reason for this. You’ll also receive a few helpful tips on how to increase growth hormone naturally.

Why Do We Need HGH?

In the body, we have both Catabolic and Anabolic hormones. Growth Hormone is a type of Anabolic hormone, meaning it promotes growth. Catabolic hormones are the exact opposite. They break down matter in the body as opposed to building it up. Cortisol would be a prime example of a catabolic hormone. When we work out in the gym, cortisol is the hormone breaking muscle tissue down. Later on, Growth Hormone comes to the rescue and builds damaged muscles back up.

Growth Hormone is responsible for creating lean body mass. Since it is pro-muscle, it also encourages fat burning. It acts to mobilize fat from our adipose tissue and assist in weight loss.

Growth Hormone may have certain anti-aging properties. For example, It preserves protein. Parts of the body that are mainly protein based are kept healthy by growth hormone. This includes not only muscle but also hair, skin, nails, collagen, tendons and even bones.

People who are deficient in growth hormone have been shown to be at an increased risk of feeling chronically tired.

Growth hormone has also been attributed to feeling a general sense of well being.[1]

Hypoglycemia Encourages HGH

Also referred to as “Low Blood Glucose”, hypoglycemia is a state where the body is running low on sugar to use as energy. The body protects itself from low blood sugar levels in one of two ways. It can either release cortisol to aid in the break down of proteins (amino acids) for sugar production (gluconeogenesis), or it can release Growth Hormone to trigger the breakdown of fats stored in the body (lipolysis).

Hypoglycemia encourages the release of growth hormone. When we are consuming low amounts of sugar and carbohydrates on a ketogenic diet, we get closer to this hypoglycemic state. The body releases growth hormone to assist in switching to fat burning. Fasting gets us even closer since our sugar intake is at zero. [2]

Because of growth hormone, you would generally need to be on at least 4 days into a fast before muscle breakdown becomes a serious concern.

So, to answer the question – Yes, the ketogenic diet can AND WILL increase growth hormone levels (as long as you are keeping your carbs very low).

What Else Can We Do To Increase HGH?

Get to Bed On Time

This may seem like a no-brainer, but getting to bed early makes a difference with growth hormone. This has to do with your body’s circadian rhythm. Growth hormone starts to be released between 10:00pm and 12:00am while you sleep. The highest levels of growth hormone have been shown to occur between 12:00am and 3:00am. [3]

So, if you are always up late and skipping out on sleep, it may come at a price!

Go to Bed on an Empty Stomach

It takes a lot of energy to break down food. If you ingest carbs right before sleep, your body is going to be working through peristalses instead of going into repair mode which is not what we want. Growth hormone is released when we are very low on sugar. So, if you want to maximize the growth hormone release that occurs during sleep, avoid eating for at least two hours before bed. [4]

Intense Resistance Workouts

Resistance training is key. Studies have shown that intense resistance training effectively increases GH levels. [5]

Take Naps


When we nap, the body still releases small amounts of growth hormone.

If you are sore after a workout, take a nap. Napping will allow your body to enter repair mode even if it isn’t in full blown REM.

The optimal time for taking a nap is between 1:00pm and 4:00pm – which is again based around the body’s natural circadian rhythm. [6]

Naps are the body’s way to facilitate physical recovery after a long or hard workout. During sleep, different hormones are released such as testosterone and growth hormone which helps repair and build muscles and other tissues in the body. – Amy Bender Clinical Program Director of Athlete Services at the Center for Sleep & Human Performance.

Reduce Stress

Stress lowers GH in the body. Elevated levels of cortisol actually block Growth Hormone from being released.

Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cor-
tisol are related to lower growth hormone levels in children,
possibly resulting in delayed, impaired and even stunted
growth – BMC Pediatrics

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Niacin has been proven to increase growth hormone. [8]

While niacin can actually prevent fat burning for 3 – 5 hours immediately following ingestion, after this period it greatly boosts growth hormone which in itself will PROMOTE fat burning.

Because Niacin has a strong calming effect, it may also help with getting a restful sleep (further increasing growth hormone production) [9]

Further Reading

Interested in further reading on this topic? Check out our similar post discussing Why Keto Athletes Can be Very Competitive. There are 5 main reasons why this is the case.


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