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The Science Behind Sauna Use for Boosting Human Growth Hormone - Secret Saunas

The Science Behind Sauna Use for Boosting Human Growth Hormone

Saunas across various cultures for centuries for relaxation and health purposes. And while the soothing heat exposure provides its own benefits, emerging research now suggests that dry sauna use may also offer a natural way to boost human growth hormone levels. HGH plays key roles in building muscle, burning fat, and recovery. As such, understanding the sauna-HGH connection may provide simple lifestyle approaches to support fitness and health goals.

What is Human Growth Hormone and Why Does it Matter?

HGH stands for human growth hormone, which is produced naturally by the pea-sized pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. As its name implies, HGH levels normally surge during childhood development spurring growth in height. But HGH continues playing important functions even into adulthood. This includes regulating muscle growth and bone mass, sugar and fat metabolism, tissue healing, brain function, and possibly cardiovascular health.

Both deficiency and excess HGH can cause health problems. But maintaining normal physiological levels helps maintain a healthy body composition and ensures tissues get adequate regeneration. As such, lifestyle tools that support healthy pituitary function may provide holistic ways to nourish overall wellbeing.

The Sauna-HGH Connection

Numerous studies over years have hinted at links between sauna use and increased HGH levels. For example, a small study from the 1980s found 2-20 minute dry sauna sessions at 167°F boosted participants' HGH levels around 2-fold. Another experiment using 30-minute exposures at 158°F observed 5-fold HGH increases. The heat stress, relaxation response, and fluid shifts induced by sauna likely all contribute to driving elevated pituitary HGH secretion.

Insights from Dr. Andrew Huberman on Heat Stress

Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman has specifically discussed the science suggesting dry sauna heat elicits beneficial hormonal changes like HGH boosts. This aligns with research on related heat therapies. For instance, studies show increased growth hormone after using hot tubs, taking hot baths, or even just placing heating pads over the abdomen. Blood tests also often show elevated HGH following exercise, especially with heat stress added.

Of course, drastically overheating carries dangers like heat stroke. But Huberman notes the evidence indicates routine sauna sessions done properly may provide an accessible way to safely stimulate mild HGH surges that could support health, muscle building, athletic recovery, and anti-aging.

Watch the full video here

Potential Cellular Mechanisms Underlying Sauna-Induced HGH Release

Researchers believe repetitive sauna use may reprogram cells to better handle stresses and resist damage while upregulating repair processes - a phenomenon known as hormesis. Cells respond to various stresses by increasing production of heat shock proteins to bolster natural defense and restoration capacities. Therefore, heat from sauna likely repeatedly activates these innate cellular defense pathways.

In turn, the heat shock response involves shifting metabolism, cell cycling, and gene expression to restore the body back to homeostasis, including ramping up tissue regeneration. Part of this repair process requires elevated HGH. So heat stress from consistent sauna use theoretically prompts greater pituitary secretion of HGH, which then coordinates downstream rejuvenation effects.

Considerations for Sauna Bathing to Increase Human Growth Hormone

Not all saunas provide equal heating or HGH benefits. Traditional saunas use wood fired stoves or electric sauna heaters to maintain temperatures around the optimal 160-180°F target for boosting HGH.  In contrast, infrared saunas often only achieve 110°F-130°F, these utilize radiant heat that penetrates about 1.5 inches deep into tissue and thus may provide less whole-body heat stress.

To maximize growth hormone release, Dr Andrew Huberman suggests a protocol of using the sauna no more than once per week. On your sauna day, do four 30-minute sauna sessions spaced throughout the day. In between sessions, take 5-minute cool-down breaks outside the sauna. This cycling between heat exposure and cooling periods is key.

Since blood glucose directly regulates HGH, fasting before sauna may prove synergistic by further elevating HGH output during heat therapy. Huberman suggests not eating for 2-3 hours beforehand, as this lower blood sugar will encourage greater growth hormone release. This weekly protocol of multiple alternating hot-cold exposures in a semi-fasted condition provides an effective, research-backed approach to elicit large but infrequent spikes in growth hormone. More frequent sauna use will likely blunt these growth hormone-boosting effects.

Summary & Conclusions

In summary, a growing body of work implies traditional dry sauna use provides a practical way to leverage hormesis for naturally increasing HGH production and possibly augmenting a number of associated anti-aging benefits. However, each individual must weigh their own health risks and benefits when attempting any new therapy. Further research should continue investigating optimal practical home sauna recommendations tailored to support health outcomes like muscle gain, weight loss, and rejuvenation.

Next article Andrew Huberman | The Benefits of Sauna Use and Deliberate Heat Exposure Protocols
Jasper Knight the Founder of Secret Saunas photographed in an Auroom Sauna in Estonia

About the Author

I'm Jasper Knight, the founder of SecretSaunas.com. During my travels through Finland and Scandinavia in 2018 I was introduced to the thrilling local ritual of taking daily hot saunas and then cooling off by plunging into the dark icy waters of a frozen lake. This experience was so fulfilling that it felt like an addiction. My desire to return to the forests and lakes of Northern Europe led me to set up Secret Saunas with the mission of bringing that authentic Finnish sauna experiences home.

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