There was an interesting article in the latest edition of Triathlete Magazine that deals with the topic of Human Growth Hormone or HGH.
HGH has been in the news the last few years for the wrong reasons. It is crucial in the development of lean muscle tissue, and has artificially manufactured HGH has become the drug of choice for strength athletes, and sometimes even baseball players. But naturally produced HGH is critical for an endurance athlete because it directly affects recovery.
HGH is secreted by the body and is affected by diet, exercise and rest. HGH production is hampered by insulin, so it doesn’t get secreted until after your body has dealt with the glucose spike after that huge platter of fettuccini from dinner.
It has been shown to peak after a hard session of resistance training, or for an endurance athlete, hard interval training. And the highest levels appear to be produced as the body enters the first stages of deep sleep, about an hour after you turn down for the night.
Those conditions are contrary to traditional high volume, low intensity, Ironman training programs so many people follow. Add a high carb diet and sleep deprivation suffered by most weekend warriors trying to maintain 20 to 30 training hours per week with a full time career and family, and HGH production, and subsequent recovery is severely hampered.
If you find yourself in that situation, it might be worth tweaking your program a little. Add in some mid week interval sessions, maybe some hill climbs, or speed work at the local track. Back off on the pasta, and add in some more protein, especially for the evening meal. And finally, get at least 8 hours in the sack each night. 9 or 10 is better if doable. In fact Gordo Byrne rates sleep as probably the most important factor when you sign up for an ironman.
So climb them hills, eat your chicken, and go to bed early.