Sunday, September 25, 2016

Niacin turbocharges the growth hormone response to anaerobic exercise: A delayed effect

Niacin is also known as vitamin B3, or nicotinic acid. It is an essential vitamin whose deficiency leads to pellagra. In large doses of 1 to 3 g per day it has several effects on blood lipids, including an increase in HDL cholesterol and a marked decreased in fasting triglycerides. Niacin is also a powerful antioxidant.

Among niacin’s other effects, when taken in large doses of 1 to 3 g per day, is an acute elevation in growth hormone secretion. This is a delayed effect, frequently occurring 3 to 5 hours after taking niacin. This effect is independent of exercise.

It is important to note that large doses of 1 to 3 g of niacin are completely unnatural, and cannot be achieved by eating foods rich in niacin. For example, one would have to eat a toxic amount of beef liver (e.g., 15 lbs) to get even close to 1 g of niacin. Beef liver is one of the richest natural sources of niacin.

Unless we find out something completely unexpected about the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors in the future, we can safely assume that they never benefited from the niacin effects discussed in this post.

With that caveat, let us look at yet another study on niacin and its effect on growth hormone. Stokes and colleagues (2008) conducted a study suggesting that, in addition to the above mentioned beneficial effects of niacin, there is another exercise-induced effect: niacin “turbocharges” the growth hormone response to anaerobic exercise. The full reference to the study is at the end of this post. Figure 3, shown below, illustrates the effect and its magnitude. Click on it to enlarge.

The closed diamond symbols represent the treatment group. In it, participants ingested a total of 2 g of niacin in three doses: 1 g ingested at 0 min, 0.5 g at 120 min, and 0.5 g at 240 min. The control group ingested no niacin, and is represented by the open square symbols. (The researchers did not use a placebo in the control group; they justified this decision by noting that the niacin flush nullified the benefits of using a placebo.) The arrows indicate points at which all-out 30-second cycle ergometer sprints occurred.

Ignore the lines showing the serum growth hormone levels in between 120 and 300 min; they were not measured within that period.

As you can see, the peak growth hormone response to the first sprint was almost two times higher in the niacin group. In the second sprint, at 300 min, the rise in growth hormone is about 5 times higher in the niacin group.

We know that growth hormone secretion may rise 300 percent with exercise, without niacin. According to this study, this effect may be “turbocharged” up to a 600 percent rise with niacin within 300 min (5 h) of taking it, and possibly 1,500 percent soon after 300 min passed since taking niacin.

That is, not only does niacin boost growth hormone secretion anytime after it is taken, but one still gets the major niacin increase in growth hormone at around 300 min of taking it (which is about the same, whether you exercise or not). Its secretion level at this point is, by the way, higher than its highest level typically reached during deep sleep.

Let me emphasize that the peak growth hormone level achieved in the second sprint is about the same you would get without exercise, namely a bit more than 20 micrograms per liter, as long as you took niacin (see Quabbe's articles at the end of this post).

Still, if you time your exercise session to about 300 min after taking niacin you may have some extra benefits, because getting that peak growth hormone secretion at the time you are exercising may help boost some of the benefits of exercise.

For example, the excess growth hormone secretion may reduce muscle catabolism and increase muscle anabolism, at the same time, leading to an increase in muscle gain. However, there is evidence that growth hormone-induced muscle gain occurs only when testosterone levels are elevated. This explains why growth hormone levels are usually higher in young women than young men, and yet young women do not put on much muscle in response to exercise.


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.


Kindke said...

Ned, is niacin mega-dosing something that you regularly practice then?

Why does niacin cause this growth hormone surge im wondering, and what about the possible (negative) side affects? As you said, its not something evolution would be used to in anyway without biotechnological engineering.

According to Wikipedia, niacin blocks the breakdown fatty acids in adipose, perhaps the body senses this and thus counter's it with a surge in growth hormone which know boosts fat metabolism?

On the same note, im curious how the effect of niacin would differ for someone in full blown ketosis ( >2 weeks at 0g carbs/day) compared to someone following a so called normal diet of 200g+ carbs/day?

Ned Kock said...

Hi Kindke.

I take niacin, but I have not tried this yet myself, at least not systematically. Life, work etc. keep getting in the way :)

This seems like the type of thing that committed bodybuilders could try to do systematically. But I am not sure if the outcome would be as positive as some of the more usual stuff: protein powders, creatine, glutamine. I don't use these things, since all I do is some weight training to create a favorable hormonal mix.

There may be side effects, since this is not natural, but I don't know of any.

By the way, the participants in this study were on a 60 percent fat diet, so it is safe to assume that serum ketones were elevated.

Anonymous said...

For what its worth yesterday was my fasting workout day. I'm a VLC with most days less than 15g. I have been doing a BBS workout program for several weeks. So I try to fast for 15 hours before a really intense workout. Yesterday at 5am I took 1g niacin then ever hour .5g till I was at 3g. I did my workout at 10 and was able to complete my max pyramid workout.

I was concerned the niacin might limit my workout but do not feel like it did. Exercising in a fasted state I believe I know what an hgh rush feels like. I'm not sure the rush felt any more intense than normal workouts.

It went well and I plan on trying this for a few more workout days (weeks) to see if it improves my progress. For what its worth I feel more sore today than normal but not sure that means anything.

I dont mess with any of the other stuff like creatine, protein powders.... I eat paleo and workout twice a week for 30 minutes. So maybe not a body builder but high intensity lifting.

Jim Sutton said...


I'm no expert, but recently read on one of the paleo-related blogs (maybe Ned's) that taking creatine one hour before resistance exercise prevents the accumulation of lactic acid somewhat, thus reducing soreness post workout.

I've tried it the last 3 semi-BBS workouts at 4 day intervals, and it seems to help. Anyway, I'm less sore, and still progressing. Started BBS 1st week of Feb.

Kindke said...

I bought some Niacin today (Nicotinic acid) and tried 500mg, I had been fasted for approx 16 hours plus I have been on a very low carb diet for the past 2 weeks and so I was in deep ketosis.

Took about 25 minutes before the effect of the flush was well into swing, the effect seemed to start on my face, then progressed to my arms before working its way onto my chest and finally my legs.

The effect seemed more pronounced on the areas of my body that are 'lean', Im carrying a bit of abdominal fat sadly and I didnt see or feel any effect there. But the other areas of my body that are very lean, my forearms and my thighs seemed to really be in full force of the effect.

The feeling is EXACTLY like being sunburnt, I dont know why people complain about the feeling I actually enjoyed it. The Warm and prickly feeling all over was a great buzz. This is my first time doing niacin so I will increase the dose gradually.

One question though Ned, I read in one study somewhere that lipids ingested with the niacin kill off the growth hormone response?

Im worried that eating anything between the period of ingesting the niacin and the delayed GH burst will blunt the GH response completey.

Any Ideas?

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anonymous.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

3 g is at the high end of the dosage scale. It might be a good idea to get a blood exam soon, testing for liver enzymes, just to be on the safe side.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) may be an indication that you were able to work your muscles harder in your most recent workout.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Jim.

Creatine is widely used by bodybuilders, but has several possible negative side-effects. Many more than niacin.

I am generally weary of supplementing certain substances that our body produces naturally, as the body tends to down-regulate its own production in response to the supplementation.

Creatine is made by the body from amino acids that are abundant in meat, dairy, and some plant foods.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Kindke.

That idea comes from two studies by Quabbe and colleagues, which are linked at the end of this post:

Quabbe and colleagues INJECTED ketones, and lipids, into their studies' participants. This suppressed GH secretion.

That is very different from eating lipids. Dietary lipids are packaged into chylomicrons, which are lipoproteins that carry fat to fat cells, liver, and RESTING muscle cells.

There is a strong association between free fatty acids (FFAs) and ketones and GH secretion, but not between chylomicron and GH secretion.

In summary, based on the studies by Quabbe and colleagues, I don't see how one can argue that eating lipids with niacin will have any effect on the delayed GH secretion in response to niacin.

Anonymous said...

Well two days later I'm still sore. I decided to rest a couple more days. I plan on lifting again Tuesday. The last time I was this tired days after lifting was in the beginning.

I tend to agree about creatine.i.e. eat the right foods and you don't need it. I did notice my blood sugar is about 7 points higher the last 2 days. It was just enough not to ignore but not really sure it is related. (was averaging 78 pre workout and last 2 days 85) Weight has been exactly the same both days but another thing I noticed was more sleep. I slept about 1 hour more each night (9.5 hours a night).

Anonymous said...

Another great article. But, is niacin blocking the ability to burn off excess fat, yes or no? I may be missing this, but I never can seem to see a solid answer to this. I would love to try Sloniacin to help with my HDL, but I don't want to lose and fat buring. Ideas?

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anon(1).

Blood glucose fluctuates a lot, for all kinds of reasons. In fact, blood glucose variations in normal individuals are a chaotic mess:

I have heard many times that increased GH secretion leads to physiological insulin resistance in muscle cells. GH is associated with enhanced use of free fatty acids and ketones as sources of energy by muscle cells. So glucose use goes down, and glucose levels go up a bit - at least in theory.

One would want muscle cells to be insulin resistance, and also abdominal fat cells (I wish!).

What one does NOT want is insulin resistance in liver cells. That is diabetes type 2!

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anon(2).

I am not a big fan of slow release niacin of any kind. Instant release gives you the flush, which some people dislike, but that is the sign that you are getting the real thing.

Niacin decreases secretion of VLDL by the liver, but it actually increases circulating free fatty acids and ketones (with a delay of 3-5 hours). When VLDL is secreted, it ends up being secreted as big blobs that end up as big-fluffy LDL particles.

This means, at least in my mind, that your LDL is shifted to the good kind, and that you actually burn MORE body fat. Free fatty acids come primarily from your body's fat reserves, and ketones are a byproduct of free fatty acid metabolism.

Incidentally, these effects of niacin are very similar to the effects of low carbohydrate dieting. And low carbohydrate dieting is very effective at burning body fat when combined with resistance exercise.

Ed Terry said...

I've been taking immediate-release niacin for six years, and the only time I've ever experienced elevated liver enzymes is when I moved to three times a day dosing. Switching back to twice daily dosing has always returned my liver enzymes back within range. I suspect i'm not a candidate for the sustained-release form. I've also been taking 4 g a day for the period and do have periodic blood work done to ensure that everything stays within normal ranges (except for HDL).

The HDL raising effects of niacin do complement those of a low-carb diet. A low-carb diet increased my HDL by 66% and niacin raised that another 30%. Together they doubled by HDL.

I've been weight-lifting for 20 years but I can't comment on niacin's effect on muscle building. However, at 53 I can still lift the same weight I did at 40, albeit with better form now.

Niacin also has little effect on my blood glucose. A couple of months ago, I measured my blood sugar around the clock for a couple of weeks. The one thing that really elevated my blood sugar was my 35 minute leg workout (e.g. knee extensions and back squats).

Jerry said...

Anon(2)here, I could not sign in last post because i was on my cell phone.

Thanks for the reply. I think I need to give sloniacin a try. I tried instant release about a year ago for 2 months (twin labs brand)and the flush was crazy for me. It was always the same, once that pill hit my stomach, killer flush. It never got better, with or without food.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Ed.

Your experience with the 3 -> 2 times/day dose of niacin is consistent with the known fact that slow release niacin (as opposed to instant release) is usually the one that leads to liver enzymes problems.

This seems to be related to the constant suppression of VLDL, FFA and ketones by slow release niacin. The instant release formulation seem to suppress and then release those "with a push", leading to the GH secretion response that we've seen in some of these posts.

Let me know when you get your blog up and running. I want to add it to my "Interesting links" section. I am sure you'll have a lot of interesting things to say; and hopefully enough time to say them. Writing is time-consuming :)

Michael Barker said...

Just a brief caution. Growth hormone tends to be problematic for diabetics because it counter acts the effects of insulin.

Diabetics, I have known, have back away from its use because of this.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Michael, thanks.

I am reviewing a study of GH deficient folks who used GH therapy. In this study, GH therapy indeed leads to a significant rise in insulin resistance.

And these were NOT diabetic folks.

What I don't know if that is a reflection of muscle insulin resistance, which may not be so bad, or liver insulin resistance.

Of course the effect is associated with GH therapy; i.e., exogenous GH, injected. Many other studies exist, and the insulin resistance rise is often transitory.

Anonymous said...

Your articles-well thought out n researched.I wouldnt go elsewhere to crosscheck.
I've noticed you dont carry any articles about dietry supplements apart from niacin.How come?Also vit B12?
If you were asked to choose between arginine,orthinine,tyrosine,taurine,glutamine,lysine,nac,dmae etc etc n which one/2 wud you choose as the one-stop solution for max benefits?:)
Thank you for your insight.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anon.

I generally don't believe in supplements, unless one has a deficiency caused by a disease that requires supplementation.

As far as the okay ones, there are very few in my mind. Niacin is one that comes to mind. I don't see the value in fish oil even, as you can get better O-3 and nutrition value from seafood.

viagra online said...

I know enough about it, for example vitamin b3 is an organic compound with the formula C6H5NO2 and, depending on the definition used, one of the forty to eighty essential human nutrients.m10m

Anonymous said...

Netflix: "Food Matters"

Anonymous said...

Dear Author,
Is there a minimum dosage of B3 recommended for GH release? 1g seems too much to be taken all at once?
Also this article:
seems to indicate that GH released is maxed out at around 240 mins after ingestion[as per graph]? and 500g should be enough?
Just to clarify.Thanks.

Anonymous said...

''at around 240 mins after ingestion[as per graph]? ''

Edit:sorry I think its 240+30 mins after ingestion >>

Rob Carr said...

Is the flush a confounding factor or the cause for increased growth hormone? It has been show that you can maintain cholesterol advantages without the flush with the use of aspirin, slow release niacin as well as inositol hexanicotinatate.
Take home question;
Will taking an aspirin 20 minutes before taking 2 grams of niacin alleviate growth hormone benefits by taking away the flush? I have not found anything leading to one way or the other.
Always Press On

Anonymous said...

Is posible to grow taller using niacin at empty stomach before bed having done max intense run,at 19 years old?also could i get acromegaly from this gh turbobooster?

Frank J. said...

It seems that the niacin group had higher GH, but also inhibited lipolysis. So if the goal is burning fat, would niacin hurt or help?

Am I totally misunderstanding the text?


Anonymous said...

I'm 17 (male) with my height being 5'5.5''.My dad being 5'11.5'' n mom being 5'1''.Considering the fact that I am an indian,i should be happy with what i've got so far.But,human idiosyncrasies are bound to captivate the rationalist in me,they're doing great there,hence,I'm dejected,sad n miserable.
I haven't started shaving my face wid a razor,like a mechanical one,i do use an electric one,but i'd like to believe that my facial hair growth ain't that much.
Havin blabbered all this,i'd like to know,can i possibly reach to my dad's height ? should i do those 'hgh injections' ? should i hand to a bar for 3 hours or something ? rope for like 10,000 times a day ? swim like a whale for like,insane amounts of time ? i really am in a big,big,big big pickle.
Any help would be highly appreciated.

P.S - i'm obese,90 kgs to be precise.

Chiropractors Kansas City said...

The feeling is EXACTLY like being sunburnt, I dont know why people complain about the feeling I actually enjoyed it. The Warm and prickly feeling all over was a great buzz. This is my first time doing niacin so I will increase the dose gradually.
Acupuncture Kansas City

Anonymous said...

Hi Ned, thanks for the great post. I have been taking niacin in the form of nicotinic acid (500mg) every second day to get the flush and HGH increase.

I have read that abnormally high levels of HGH, especially in young people, can cause symptoms similar to acromegaly - ie. disfiguration of the skull (pronounced forehead, enlaraged jaw, gap between teeth). This has been observed in athletes that have used a lot of HGH, as well as people with Giganticism and growth hormone abnormalities.

My question is, could taking Niacin in high doses of 500mg regularly for an extended period of time cause deformation of the skull or other skeletal growth?

Thanks a lot for your time and knowledge.

desirable said...

Most people are well aware of the fact that HGH contributes to developing a very strong physical body. This is achieved through HGH’s ability to help increase a human being’s levels of lean muscle mass.

While HGH won’t help you grow massive muscles without working out, if you do work out regularly, you will discover HGH definitely contributes to building a more massive physique.

Similarly, with the right diet and exercise program, proper levels of HGH will contribute to a reduction in fat. Who would not want a lean and slim look? Most people certainly would prefer to embody such an appearance and it would be HGH that helps keep fat down to manageable levels.

Unknown said...

Well to be honest the articles and the blogs are really appreciative.

Alma Mott review here said...

When your HGH levels are naturally low, you will want to look towards acquiring a supplement that has the ability to increase your body’s production of HGH. Actually, you want to look for a natural product capable of releasing HGH into your system.

There are synthetic injections that can be used to increase HGH but would you really want to undergo injections if a natural supplement was available?

Anonymous said...

"HDL The Guardian Angle of The Artery".Kontush&Chapman,Paris France,2006
They probably meant: Growth Hormone
Niacin 100-nicotinic acid-immediate the best to metabolize the HDL2(High Density Lipoprotein No.2)
This is magic, I agree.
This will solve the crisis that medicine is in,now.

Anonymous said...

It seems to do something for sure. I am 43, and I recently rejoined gym after 2 years of absence. Since sep 2013, I went to the gym 8 times. I would do walking/running for about 30 minutes and some weight lifting for about 1 hour. I can tell you I would be out of breath when I do the weights specially the squats. After reading the niacin article, I tried the formula. Just the day before, my performance sucked but the very next day when I used the Niacin at exact interval, I felt something different. I usually do squats at the end. During each squat I had to rest for several minutes before I can resume the next set. I do 3 sets. The day I took Niacin, it was different. I was able to do squats quiet easily. Even the bench press was super easy to do. All the weight training was easy that day. I wasn't short of breath, and it felt great. The day I combined walking/light jogging with all out sprints on the treadmill. I sprinted 4 times during the 40 minutes session. As the study says, this must have triggered the high release of HGH which would explain why I felt energetic during my weight training after the treadmill. I will repeat this test again today and some more times to see how it goes.

HoneyBadger said...

I've taken Niaspan in the past, up to 1500mg 2x day. It isn't cheap,and I was wanting to take it again,to boost my HDL (not that I've had it tested lately). I bought 500gm of pure niacin for about $15. My doctor had told me that the slow/buffered forms of niacin don't get the results you want. The cost for the equivalent amount of Niaspan would be about $75 with my old insurance, and a non-insurance price of about $330.

With Niaspan I would get the flushing, but in areas, and it would be quite intense if I had a new dosage level (especially the first few times). With the pure niacin, it is everywhere, and a much more manageable level of discomfort.

I've been taking it for a couple weeks now, and have upped the dosage as I've acclimated to it. I'm probably up to about 2gm/day. I'm hardly noticing it except around my head (and inner ears) now, although I can see some flushing on my chest.

Is this normal with the pure stuff, that the noticeable effects are that much reduced after a short period of time?

I've also noticed(had no choice ;) ) that while it could take hours for the Niaspan to take effect, that it takes the pure powder about 3 minutes to start, 10 minutes to be rather strong, and about 20 minutes for the full effect.

Anonymous said...

yes pure stuff does that. you will flush in few minutes. Unless you take it on full stomach. You would still flush, but it may take a bit longer. And yes, you will get use to flushing in just a few days. The flushing is reduced. The flush effect will restart If you stop taking it for some time.

john o said...

Hi Ned!
I am just reading this post now.
I've been taking mega-doses of Nician(both plain & wax covered(enduracin)) for over 10 years. Approximately 4 grams/day. Taking only the plain niacin required me taking up to 6 grams daily to maintain a healthy lipid profile. Apart from a much improved lipid profile(my LDLs were cut to less than 1/2), at the age of 47, I feel very good, and strong. I still play hockey with young guys and score my share of goals. I am not surprised to hear & understand the HGH spiking. I've read this in the past. It suits my schedule since I also jog 4 miles each day at lunch, approximately 5 hours after I've taken 2 grams of Niacin in the morning. And if anyone is wondering, there are no negative side affects with the usage of mega-doses, I check my blood routinely and have over the years. Unlike the experiences I had with statins, and its affordable. No liver issues. I think you are on the right track, Ned, in trying to maintain a diet of things that have a biological familiarity to one's blood. Probably why the trans oils create problems the way the do.
John O

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Ned Kock said...

Several spam comments above deleted.

Ned Kock said...

This post is a revised version of a previous post. The original comments are preserved here. More comments welcome, but no spam please!

Brian Hassel said...

Ned, you mentioned in a previous comment that creatine had more potential problems than niacin. Could you point to some resources that support that claim? It is my understanding that creatine is one of the most heavily studied, and least dangerous supplements out there. The only negative I've ever seen was a small (low-n), non-replicated study that it could lead to slightly elevated DHT.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Brian. I was thinking about negative side-effects on renal and liver function, which I have seen reported, but it seems that those reports of negative side-effects have been largely contradicted by more targeted research.