Growth Hormone

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Growth hormone (GH) is an anabolic hormone made in the pituitary gland. Secretion of GH is stimulated by exercise, trauma, sleep, acute illness, hypoglycemia, and other hormonal interactions.51 GH facilitates carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism, as well as increasing IGF-1, bone thickness, linear growth, and soft-tissue growth. Studies have shown that GH

Figure 26-2. Chrysin is a flavonoid found in many plants, such as passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and geranium (Pelargonium crispum) as well as in honey and propolis. Honeycomb is shown above.

supplementation increases strength and lean-muscle mass in individuals who are deficient in GH. However, studies are conflicting regarding the effects of supplementation for individuals with normal growth hormone levels. A study on endurance-trained adult males showed that GH supplementation caused a 50% decrease in leucine oxidation with exercise, which demonstrated the effects of GH on skeletal muscle.59 In addition, studies on elderly men show that GH injections increase lean-muscle mass and decrease fat mass more than strength training alone.60

A study on obese adults combined low-dose GH supplementation with diet restriction. The results indicated that GH produced a positive nitrogen balance, increased lean-muscle mass, increased body weight lost as fat, increased loss of visceral fat, and increased IGF-1.61 However, several other studies have not supported these findings.62,63 Supplementation with the amino acids ornithine, lysine, and arginine may increase GH levels, although studies have not supported this finding.64 GH supplementation is still debated because of its potential for causing serious side effects, such as insulin resistance, carpal-tunnel compression, and water retention.65

Chrysin

Chrysin is a flavonoid found in many plants, such as passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and geranium (Pelargonium crispum) as well as in honey and propolis. Researchers and athletes are interested in this flavonoid because of its potential for increasing testosterone by decreasing the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Several animal studies have shown that chrysin is a potent inhibitor of the enzyme aromatase.66 Aromatase converts androstenedione and testosterone to estrogen. However, human studies have not shown an increase in testosterone levels with chrysin supplementation, possibly due to its poor absorption. Studies on aging animals have also shown that chrysin supplementation increased libido, sperm count, and fertilization potential.67

Chromium

Chromium is a commonly used product for balancing blood sugar. Chromium picolinate is well-studied and is often used in the supplemented form of chromium, although other forms, such as amino acid chelates, can be used. Researchers have found chromium picolinate supplementation to be effective for treating many individuals with both diabetes and reactive hypoglycemia. Research has also shown that intense aerobic exercise increases chromium excretion.68 Data from human studies are inconsistent, and many studies do not show that chromium supplementation improves strength, lean-muscle mass, or body-fat loss. However, some studies do indicate that chromium picolinate supplementation may improve body composition as a result of the product's glucose-balancing effects.69,70

Additional Supplements

Several other nutritional and botanical supplements have been shown to increase athletic performance. Although scientific evidence is lacking, these supplements may be used to support the body in optimizing metabolism to improve body composition. These supplements include:

Pyruvate—Human studies have found pyruvate supplementation increases glucose extraction in the muscle at rest and during exercise as well as increasing overall endurance.71

Siberian ginseng—Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is believed to stimulate protein building as well as stimulating the pituitary-adrenocortical axis.72 However, studies have not found supplementation to improve endurance or athletic performance in endurance-trained individuals.73

Cordyceps—Animal studies show that cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), an adaptogenic herb, increases endogenous corticosteroid production, and provides improved glucose metabolism and increased insulin sensitivity.74 Human studies on cordyceps and athletic performance did not show improvement of endurance or oxidative capacity, however.75

Puncture vine—Puncture vine (Tribulus terrestris) is believed to act as an androgen. Animal studies indicate that Tribulus supplementation causes androgenic effects, stimulating sexual function in rats.76 However, human studies did not indicate that the herb improved athletic performance or body composition.77

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Dieting Dilemma and Skinny Solutions

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