Growth Hormone Back StoryI've been exercising for years. Not because I love it but because I need it for my brain and weight. I need the serotonin boost. Exercise is my ritalin for my ADD-fortysomething brain. Exercise is my Zoloft for my tendency toward depression. Even though I believe that food accounts for 70% of your issues with weight, exercise is an important piece. And growth hormone, along with my BFF, cortisol, determines how much fat you deposit on your belly, your confidence, your sense of inner peace (who doesn't want more of that?), your ability to multitask, your stress tolerance, your capacity for deep sleep.
My BenchmarkI started tracking my growth hormone level a few years back, as IGF-1. It holds a sacred spot in my neuro-endocrine dashboard as one of my top 10 items to track. My IGF-1 in March, 2011 was 241 ng/ml. At that time, a friend suggested a supplement that is supposed to raise growth hormone, and I had my doubts. After all, I'm a Harvard/MIT- educated physician scientist, and I'm a serious skeptic especially when it comes to supplements and neuroendocrine biohacking. You can take the girl out of the lab, but you can't take the lab out of the girl. Like a dutiful n=1 experimenter, I ordered the magic supplement, and measured my baseline growth hormone. I was at 241, and then I took the supplement, which shall remain nameless, for 6 weeks and retested. My growth hormone went down, to 219 ng/ml. Goodbye, magic supplement. You may ask about other independent variables that mediate growth hormone, and nothing gladdens my heart like that question. I tested at the same time in my menstrual cycle. My food plan was exactly the same. My stress level was about the same (high! and high cortisol lowers growth hormone). My exercise, at the time, was held constant, with yoga daily for 30 minutes, Dailey Method twice per week for one hour, and running for 25 to 60 minutes twice per week. Grand total 380 to 400 minutes of exercise per week, or 6 to 7 hours.
"Even with my agro lifestyle, I leveraged the most important hormone associated with aging to vaulted heights of elite athletes with minimal exercise. Twenty minutes, four days per week, to be exact." - Dr. Sara
Meet Biohacker XX (Double X for a Girl Biohacker)I've always loved interval training, and have done as advised by thought leaders like Mark Hyman to exercise like a caveman. In December while hanging with friends in Hong Kong, I got turned onto Sprint 8, a system for high intensity interval training (HIIT) that's super efficient with eight rounds of burst training interspersed with recovery at your usual moderate level of exercise. As a fellow biohacker who draws inspiration from the work of geniuses like Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey, I was intrigued. Would Sprint 8 work well for women? Given that I was on book tour and had very little time to exercise, I decided to design another n=1 experiment. I cut back on exercise and stuck with Sprint 8 as either a running protocol or an eliptical protocol (rare). I began to do Sprint 8 four times per week.
Exercise for the Anti-CheerleaderAs I confided a few weeks back, I'm not one of those rah-rah exercise girls. It took a major mindset shift for me to get exercise regularly in my life, and to hack the best place, frequency, and duration for the matrix of my body. (If you missed that post, please click here and let me know your thoughts!) You could take it a step further and say that I'm the anti-cheerleader. When people ask me if I was a cheerleader in high school, I try to breathe and stay non reactive, because clearly the person asking has no idea of my personality and behavioral traits. I'm not a joiner. I'm not a group person. I love to tinker in the lab of my home office with grand theories of the human body and how to live a better life. I love dialogue, but usually one-on-one or one-on-six, or even one-on-twenty as we had at a recent Passover Seder at our home in the Berkeley Hills. But cheering on a crowd? Uh, no. Not for me. When it comes to exercise, I love the more solitary experiences: running, dancing, walks in nature. Yes, nothing makes me happier than my weekly jog with my dear friend, Dr. Jo Ilfeld. Bonus prize is that she is a brilliant coach, and while we've agreed not to take on each other as clients, we can't help but laser coach each other on occasion. But I digress. Starting last December, I began experimenting with Sprint 8.
Lather, Rinse, RepeatHere's my Biohacker XX Sprint 8 Protocol. I began in February to perform Sprint 8 four times per week, and nothing else.
- Jog at moderate pace for 3 to 5 minutes. I have a genetic tendency toward an achilles injury, so I warm up for 5 minutes and stretch my achilles briefly. For me, the pace is a 12 minute mile or 5mph on a treadmill.
- Sprint all out for 30 seconds, so hard you can't go more than 30 seconds.
- Recover for 75 to 90 seconds. If you have trouble with math and/or have more time to spare, I encourage 90 seconds.
- Lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat the sprint for a total of 8 cycles. (Currently, I'm researching if 5 to 7 cycles are enough to maintain my progress.)
- Cool down at your moderate pace. Done, Baby.
Growth Hormone Rose 53 percentI like it. My body fat is lower. My waist is thinning. Weight about the same, but my lean body mass is higher, which is a key biomarker of de-aging. Sprint 8. Good for the Biohacking Man, and good for the Biohacking XX. Want to learn more about my research into growth hormone? Learn more about your fountain-of-youth hormone right here. Check out my article on 7 strategies to optimize your growth hormone. Gotta go sprint!
Sara Gottfried, M.D. Sara Gottfried, M.D. teaches women how to balance their hormones naturally so they can rock their mission. She is a Harvard-educated physician, speaker and New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure (Simon & Schuster, 2013). She is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and is regularly featured in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, O Magazine, and Yoga Journal, and TV including The Ricki Lake Show and 20/20. Known for effortlessly blending the seriousness of women’s health with playfulness and humor, Dr. Sara’s mission is to help women lose weight, feel great and vital from their cells to their soul.