Many bodybuilders become frustrated with the slow progress of natural bodybuilding, and others are unsatisfied with their bodies' natural capabilities. In the interest of competition with their own expectations or the sheer desire to achieve, some turn to steroids to enhance their body's response to exercise. Human chorionic gonadotropin and insulin-like growth factor-1 are two hormones that occur naturally in the body and are used to treat certain conditions. They have also both been co-opted as athletic performance enhancers.
HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone that is produced by the placenta in pregnant women. The pituitary gland also produces small amounts, so men and premenopausal women may also have low levels of it in their blood. HCG is also marketed as a weight loss supplement by diet centers, which may combine injections of the hormone with extremely low-calorie diets to induce weight loss. According to Mayo Clinic nutritionist Jennifer K. Nelson, the weight returns once the hormone supplementation is stopped. HCG is also used by bodybuilders in an attempt to alter their normal hormone concentration to allow them to build more muscle mass, and is frequently combined with IGF-1 supplementation.
IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor 1, is a growth hormone produced by the liver, and small amounts are also found in the testes. It is an important hormone, involved in blood cell production and the growth of blood vessels, but a 2008 study done by the Schneider Children's Medical Center of Israel showed that a natural deficiency can actually help to increase the life span, possibly by reducing the risk of certain cancers. People who use HCG as a bodybuilding supplement sometimes use IGF-1 in conjunction, hoping to increase their body's ability to absorb and use the HCg. When IGF-1 is isolated from milk, it resists breakdown by digestion.
Studies show both a positive and negative effect of using HCG and IGF-1 together, and the mechanism by which they work together is not fully understood. A 2003 study in "The Biology of Reproduction" found that the hormones work together to stimulate the growth of blood vessel tissue. A 1996 study in "Fertility and Sterility" found that HCG supplementation did not affect IGF-1 concentrations at all and showed weak steroid-like effects. A 1994 study in the French journal "Contraception, Fertilite, Sexualite," however, found that IGF-1 increased the body's receptors for HCG, producing a greater steroidogenic response. That same year, a study in "Endocrinology" showed that although IGF-1 and HCG produce a steroidogenic effect, the HCG can inhibit the body's natural production of IGF-1.
General Side Effects
IGF-1 and HCG are steroids, and as such, have the potential to cause many undesirable side effects, regardless of whether they are taken together or separately. They can damage your liver and kidneys and keep your body from producing its own hormones. They can cause acne, aggressive behavior and can trigger baldness in people who are genetically predisposed. Because hormones are heavily involved in gender differentiation, IGF-1 and HCG supplementation can cause the development of male breast tissue and the masculinization of women. The masculinization includes the growth of excess body and facial hair and the deepening of the voice, and the male breast tissue may need to be surgically removed.
Hormone supplements are designed to be medical treatments for people with measurable deficiencies. As such, safe, clean, reliable formulas are only available by prescription and are usually injected. Be careful with over-the-counter supplements. The supplement industry is unregulated, so there is no guarantee that the formula you are using is safe or effective. It may not even contain what the label says it does, and it could possibly contain contaminants or other ingredients that could counter the effects of the hormone. The safest thing is to consult your doctor about the use of IGF-1 and HCG. If he thinks that these supplements could benefit you medically, he will prescribe a carefully calculated dose and monitor your progress. The outcome is likely to be much better than just taking a pill of unknown origins.
- IGF-1 Hormone, Review of Supplement Inquiries by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
- "Biology of Reproduction"; Martinez-Chequer JC, et. al., 2003
- "Fertility and Sterility"; Anapliotou MG, et. al., 1996
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Blood Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) Assays: What Laboratorians Should Know about False-Positive Results
- MayoClinic.com: HCG Diet: Is It Safe and Effective?
- "Contraception, Fertilite, Sexualite"; Grizard G., 1994