The NBA Conference Finals are nearly upon us, which means LeBron James has taken it upon himself to remind us he’s a basketball demigod. LeBron’s current playoff performance might be his best yet. He heads to the Eastern Conference Finals, his ninth in 11 years, having just dispatched the Toronto Raptors (again) in devastating fashion — including a 40-point game, a triple-double and one of the most majestic game-winning buzzer beaters ever scored.
Yes, once again LeBron has re-asserted his dominion over the NBA (at least until he faces the Golden State Warriors in the Finals). And with that re-assertion comes a fresh batch of accusations that LeBron is on human growth hormone.
Perhaps you’ve heard these allegations before. LeBron HGH Truthers have accused him of using the banned substance since 2008, the same year he mounted his first MVP campaign. It should be noted, though, that LeBron has never tested positive for the substance, both as an NBA player and while playing in the Olympics, whose anti-doping standards are far more strict.
But enough about the greatest basketball player who’s ever lived. What could this HGH stuff you’ve heard so much about do for you, the Average Guy Who Just Wants to Look Better Naked? Fear not, my potato-shaped friend, for here is everything you need to know about the magical elixir known as HGH.
What is this HGH stuff anyway?
Human growth hormone has an exceptionally self-explanatory name — it’s a naturally occurring hormone, released by your pituitary gland, that aids bone and muscle growth. As you can imagine, HGH is instrumental in a child’s physical development. In fact, doctors often prescribe HGH to adolescents who are well behind their peers in height and size, though the practice is controversial.
Yeah, enough with the nerd shit. What will it do to my body?
A whole bunch of rad shit, my dude. As the name implies, HGH will help make your muscles bigger (although not necessarily stronger) and your waist slimmer. It also helps increase bone density and might even combat erectile dysfunction.
That’s right, taking synthetic HGH is something of a wonder drug for dudes — it’ll turn you into a rippling mass of tone muscles, strong bones and even firmer boners. You’ll be a big, lean fuck machine, kid!
Kinda sounds like steroids!
Sure does! But they’re fundamentally different compounds, with different human body analogues. Much like anabolic steroids are a synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone, synthetic HGH is … a synthetic form of the body’s natural growth hormone. (Again, HGH is a fiercely literal name.) Both HGH and steroids can be prescribed by a doctor (more on that later), and both have been known to aid athletic performance.
The fundamental difference, though, is steroids come with a shit-ton of negative side effects, including:
- Larger breasts (or “bitch tits”)
- Shrunken testicles
- Impotence and infertility
- Terrible bouts of acne
- Depression and/or bouts of extreme aggression (“roid rage”)
So, yeah, don’t do steroids. Please.
Athletes have been known to take HGH for its anabolic (read: muscle-building) effects, too, but HGH “hasn’t been shown conclusively to improve either strength or endurance,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Meatheads, however, tend to disregard this “science,” and they’re not necessarily wrong either. A lot of the studies into HGH and muscle growth have either been done on children or men who are older than dirt, and thus, don’t really speak to the average adult male.
Wait, so does it work or not?
Anecdotally, yes, HGH works like a charm. HGH has been likened to the Fountain of Youth for its age-defying effects, especially among vain Hollywood types, who swear synthetic HGH helps them maintain their tight bods and youthful glows.
Scientifically, though, it’s murky. There’s zero evidence HGH is an effective anti-aging treatment, says the Mayo Clinic. A lot of what the anti-aging effects HGH users report can be be explained as them having more energy, higher metabolisms and more sex because of the HGH, and therefore, feeling more youthful as a secondary effect.
Exercise has been shown to have anti-aging effects down to the cellular level, though. (And coincidentally enough, intense exercise can also increase your body’s natural HGH production.) But it’s not like injecting yourself with HGH and making no other behavioral changes is going to extend your lifespan by itself.
Basically, HGH has been shown to make people stronger, but researchers are wary of making any broad claims.
What’s the catch?
A lot of people wrongly assume HGH is just steroids without the nasty side effects, but that couldn’t be less true. HGH isn’t harmless. Using it has been linked to joint pain, diabetes and a host of heart problems (included an, uh, enlarged heart). There’s even research that says HGH can cause tumors to grow.
Cancer! Fucking cancer! That’s a high price to pay for taking some killer gym selfies.
Pfft, cancer, schmancer. How can I get some?
It’s your funeral, buddy… If you want HGH, you’ll need a prescription, because technically, you’re not supposed to go on HGH replacement therapy unless you have a documented HGH deficiency. Aye, but the rub here is your body’s HGH production naturally dwindles with age, making it hard to prove you have an insufficient amount of the hormone. Lucky for you, anti-aging clinics will gladly write you an HGH script after nothing more than a little bloodwork and a wink and a nudge.
Why is it such a big deal in sports?
Sports fans get all huffy about HGH because it supposedly helps athletes recover faster and ward off the effects of fatigue. This argument is used frequently against LeBron. NBA fans are dumbfounded by his ability to play 35-plus minutes per game for 15 straight seasons without ever getting injured or tired, and reason that he can must be on HGH.
There’s some early evidence HGH can help rehab muscles and tendons, but scientists are reluctant to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions there, too.
Also, famed ass-shower Peyton Manning was rumored to have used HGH, and NFL fans always pointed to his enormous forehead as proof. Long-term HGH use is linked to a condition called acromegaly, which is when a hormonal imbalance causes abnormally large bones in a person’s hands, feet and face. The NFL ultimately ruled Manning didn’t use HGH, but you can’t deny that the man has a raging sixhead. Seriously, you can project a fucking IMAX on that thing:
Before you wrap things up here, can I get a meathead opinion, too?
Certainly. The bodybuilding crowd is split on whether HGH causes a condition known as “gh gut,” which is when a bodybuilder has a strong but unfortunately distended belly. FWIW: Late bodybuilding legend Rich Piana firmly believed it was a thing.
Other gym bros on r/bodybuilding, Reddit’s main bodybuilding forum, swear by HGH, though. And their reasons almost always go a little something like this:
“The main thing I noticed was a state of mind. You feel amazing on [HGH]. … Happy, clear mind, awake in the mornings. At gym I felt good, it may have aided recovery. But didn’t notice any real strength or size gains. I did lose fat though, although not at an alarming rate. Overall, very expensive for what it did, but if I was given it for free, I’d do it again for the overall feel-good experience (and the bit of fat loss was nice).”
So the lesson here: HGH might turn you into an offensive machine reminiscent of LeBron — or at least make you a little slimmer in the waist. (Though, again, the science is all over the place.) Thing is, with HGH costing upwards of several thousands dollars a month, you’ll probably need LeBron’s salary to afford it.