Human growth hormone, or HGH, is key to a toned physique because it's involved in muscle building and fat loss. As a peptide hormone, HGH is made in your cells just like any other protein, so you can't get HGH directly as part of your diet. Simply eat well-balanced meals rich in protein, and you'll get the amino acids you need to make HGH.
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Meats and Fish
Meat and fish are among the richest sources of amino acids, and they're complete proteins that provide all of the amino acids you need to make proteins like HGH. A 3-ounce portion of tuna or salmon offers 22 grams of protein, while equivalent servings of chicken breast, steak and roast turkey contain 28, 26 and 25 grams of protein, respectively. Shrimp has 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, while pork offers 22 grams.
Dairy and Eggs
Dairy and eggs also offer complete protein, so they provide all the amino acids needed to make HGH. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are among the best sources of protein – a 6-ounce container of Greek yogurt has 18 grams of protein, while a 4-ounce serving of cottage cheese contains 14 grams. Dairy milk and soy milk each contain 8 grams of protein per serving, while a piece of string cheese or a large egg each has 6 grams.
You can also eat plant-based protein sources to get the amino acids needed for HGH production. Most plant-derived proteins have some but not all of the essential amino acids, so you'll need to eat a variety of protein foods throughout the day to get all the amino acids you need. A 1/2-cup serving of beans contains between 6 and 11 grams of protein, with pinto beans, black beans and red kidney beans at the high end of the scale. Lentils and edamame contain 9 grams of protein per half-cup serving, while pistachios, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds each offer 6 grams per ounce.
Soy nuts also help boost your amino acid intake -- they have 12 grams of protein per ounce -- and, as a plant source of complete protein, the nuts contain all the amino acids needed to make HGH.
Calculating Your Needs
If you want to maximize your HGH levels, you'll need to pair your protein-rich diet with a well-planned exercise program that includes resistance training. Athletes who strength-train need between 0.6 and 0.8 gram of protein for each pound of body weight. For a 140-pound athlete, that means between 84 and 112 grams daily; if you weigh 180 pounds, you'll need 108 to 144 grams daily. For a personalized diet plan to boost HGH levels, consult a nutritionist or registered dietitian.