I felt it was prudent to revive a previous study conducted in 2008 that found an interesting correlation between the common B-vitamin Niacin and the secretion of Growth Hormone in vivo.
Before diving into the nitty gritty of this article, be wary that niacin in the doses proposed by the studies included herein ARE NOT ACHIEVABLE FROM FOOD SOURCES ALONE.
Humans would require toxic amounts of beef (>15lbs per day) to achieve the nominal amount of niacin that potentiates GH release. So no, you can't just eat niacin-rich foods to achieve the effect observed by these studies.
The study conducted by Stokes et. al found that subjects that ingested significantly large boluses (roughly 1-3g)
of niacin (
nicotinic acid/vitamin B3) exhibited a "supercharged" release of growth hormone in a somewhat delayed fashion (e.g. roughly 300 minutes after the dose was taken).
In the figure above, you can see the exponential increase in GH levels that occurred in the niacin-treated group vs. the control group that ingested nothing. Keep in mind, this study was examining individuals who completed bouts of anaerobic intervals on bicycles. Thus, it was concluded that niacin provided a bolstering effect of the GH release we normally achieve with appropriate exercise.
Also note how significantly large the increases in GH were. At the peak time interval (300 min post-treatment), the niacin-treated individuals were between 600 and 1500% greater increases in GH then the control group. In fact, these levels were larger secretions than we normally achieve during our deepest phase of sleep, which is otherwise the largest natural endogenous release of GH humans ever elicit.
Thus, we can extrapolate from this study the finding that niacin can still be useful for individuals even without exercising since it will stimulate a significant secretion of GH even in the absence of exercise.
What this means then is that with some smart timing and incorporation into your training/cardio regimen, niacin can provide a simple, safe, and legal way to naturally reap the benefits of your body's own GH secretion.
Many people will argue that GH in physiological ranges is worthless, but I have to disagree with such a postulation. GH is one of the most potent anti-catabolic hormones
in humans and serves as an upstream regulator of a medley of anabolic hormones. GH is also thought to be a potent fat-burning agent
, especially in people in the fasted state since it has indirect effects on various gut peptides like leptin and ghrelin.
Furthermore, the endogenous levels of GH achieved post-niacin ingestion are actually significant enough to be considered "supra-physiological" range amounts. I tread lightly about using the term "pharmacological" here because I don't want people to get the idea that taking niacin will incur the same effects as taking exogenous hGH (because frankly, it won't).
The take home message from the studies included herein, however, are that we can still reap that extra "edge" from a simple, safe, and legal OTC supplement--that being niacin/Vit. B3/nicotinic acid. Keep in mind THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS NIACINAMIDE!
You want the pure niacin (acidic form) supplement, not the amide form. Yes, you will get "niacin flushes" from the pure form of niacin, but that's a rather trivial side effect.
Possible Niacin Utilization:
For people who follow IF/train fasted:
--Ingest 1-3g (start at the low end and work up if necessary) roughly 3-4 hours (180-240 minutes pre-exercise).
--My reasoning for such a time-gap between niacin ingestion and exercise is that GH is a rather latent/"laggy" hormone in its lipolytic and anti-catabolic effects. Optimally, we would want to spike GH early on or even before initating exercise and give the body a good 20-30 minutes to attenuate it's response.
--Furthermore, this option should present fasting trainees with maximal benefit of their own GH secretion and provide plenty of time to train then ramp up insulin in the post training phase (which is an antagonist to GH, for the most part).
For trainees who train in the fed state (especially after insulinogenic/carb-heavy meals):
--Ingest niacin (same doses as prescribed above) roughly 1.5-2 hours after your last meal prior to training.
--Hypothesis for this dosing is that this should find the "sweetspot" between allowing insulin to return to baseline levels while allowing GH to exhibit its effects just in time for you to train or do cardio.
If you are a low-carb dieter/keto dieter, you can follow a similar protocol to the fasting group since your insulin levels should be relatively "under control" throughout the day.
For non-training days and/or bedtime:
--Personally, I think one of the most prudent times to take niacin given these findings would be about 60-90 minutes before you hit the hay.
--The postulation here is that you could reap some significantly "supercharged" (hyperbole anybody?) endogenous GH secretion during your sleep with the compounding effect of the niacin. In fact, I would consider making this a "staple" supplement at night for this reason.
As always, I'm still young and learning the physiological basis of many bodily processes, so this is just me specuating and having some fun doing what I love (researching and trying to improve health/body/athletic performance).
The plus side to niacin supplementation is that it is readily available, cheap, safe, and actually has some clinical evidence to back it up. In no way is this article suggesting you should label niacin as some "wonder-pill" because at the end of the day OTC supplementation pales in comparison to proper diet and training.
Sure, supplements can help propel your efforts, but don't expect a miracle to happen overnight from the, either.
Hopefully this helps the MAB hombres, let me know if you have any questions or comments
1.Stokes, K.A., Tyler, C., & Gilbert, K.L. (2008). The growth hormone response to repeated bouts of sprint exercise with and without suppression of lipolysis in men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 104(3), 724-728.
2. Quabbe, H.J., Luyckx, A.S., L'age M., & Schwarz, C. (1983). Growth hormone, cortisol, and glucagon concentrations during plasma free fatty acid depression: different effects of nicotinic acid and an adenosine derivative (BM 11.189). J. Clin Endocrinol Metab., 57(2):410-4.