How to Increase IGF-1 Hormone Naturally

Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is the lesser-known, but equally important, partner hormone of human growth hormone (HGH). One of the main benefits, in fact, of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with synthetic HGH is that it increases IGF-1 levels as well.

So, why is IGF-1 so important, what does it do in the body, and what strategies can you use to naturally increase your IGF-1 levels?

Read our article to find out the best science-based ways to naturally increase insulin-like growth factor 1, as well as the symptoms of low IGF-1.

What factors affect IGF-1 levels?

Let’s explore a few of the factors that affect insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels in the body:

  • HGH levels. Hormones in the human body exist in complex and dynamic relationships with other hormones in the body. IGF-1 release is dependent on downstream signaling from human growth hormone (HGH) in the liver. This is why patients with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) also have dangerously low IGF-1 levels. It’s critical, in these cases, to increase HGH levels through hormone replacement therapy (HRT) not only to boost growth hormone in the blood supply, but also to support healthy IGF-1 levels.
  • Diet. There are several elements to consider in terms of your eating habits and their impacts on IGF-1. First and foremost is the macronutrient intake – the ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Dairy products trigger higher IGF-1 levels, as does protein in general. Coming up, we’ll cover in greater detail dietary strategies to optimize IGF-1 levels.
  • Supplements. Various supplements, which we’ll enumerate in an upcoming section, may positively alter IGF-1 levels in individuals with deficiencies.
  • Activity level. Exercise confers numerous health benefits, including raising IGF-1 levels based on clinical research. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weightlifting, in particular, are beneficial forms of exercise for enhancing IGF-1 levels.
  • Age. There is a clear link between advanced age and lower IGF-1 levels, possibly due to metabolic processes associated with aging.
  • Obesity and overall metabolic health. As we previously described, hormone levels are interdependent. Accordingly, according to research, “obese subjects are reportedly predisposed to having low absolute IGF-1 levels.” Also, adult patients with diabetes experience lower IGF-1 levels compared to the general population. In particular, belly fat (visceral fat) is strongly correlated to lower IGF-1 levels.

What are the symptoms of low IGF-1?

bone structure in people with osteoporosis with low igf-1Adequate IGF-1 levels are indispensable to good health. It’s impossible to achieve desirable health gains without addressing the entire hormonal picture, including IGF-1.

Low IGF-1 levels may cause the following symptoms and clinical findings:

  • Decreased bone density (termed osteoporosis when it occurs in aging adults)
  • Depression and other mental health challenges
  • Unhealthy changes to cholesterol levels
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Impaired athletic performance

Many of these symptoms are non-specific, meaning they can be mistaken for the signs of other, more common health conditions. For this reason, it’s important to consult an experienced hormone specialist (endocrinologist) to obtain an accurate diagnosis of IGF-1 deficiency.

What are the benefits of increasing Insulin-like growth factor 1?

Insulin-like growth factor 1 plays key roles in tissue growth and repair of all the body’s organs and glands. Here are a handful of the many advantages of higher IGF-levels:

  • Anti-aging brain protection. Research published in Society for Endocrinology suggests that “IGF1 deficiency has also been implicated in dysregulated function of cognition and the neurovascular system, suggesting that some IGF1 signaling may be necessary for normal brain function.”
  • Blood sugar maintenance and metabolism regulation. IGF-1 works in tandem with insulin to regulate blood sugar and reduce abnormally high glucose concentrations that can trigger weight gain and even type 2 diabetes.
  • Building and maintaining healthy lean muscle mass. One of the biggest benefits that IGF-1 confers is facilitating the development of muscle tissue and associated increases in strength. It works most effectively in this regard when it’s paired with resistance training.
  • Preventing age-related declines in muscle mass. Sarcopenia is the term for muscle loss associated with aging. Low IGF-1 levels are often involved in the progression of sarcopenia, so increasing your levels has the opposite effect.
  • Faster recovery time from exercise. In addition to spurring greater muscle development, IGF-1 also facilitates a faster recovery time following intense exercise.
  • Healthier, sleeker hair, nails, and skin. One 2013 research study “demonstrates that a higher ratio of IGF-1 to IGFBP3 associates with a lower perceived age, via its association with reduced skin wrinkling.”
  • Bone health. One of the biggest threats to the functional health of aging adults is the loss of bone density over time (referred to as osteoporosis in the context of advanced age). Research has shown that “the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) regulatory system is critical for skeletal growth and maintenance” through a complex series of hormonal interactions.
  • Improved kidney function. IGF-1 is so potent for optimizing kidney function that doctors administer the hormone to kidney failure patients with impressive results.
  • Endothelial function. The endothelium is the thin layer that lines the blood vessels and protects their integrity. Optimal cardiovascular function late into life depends on protecting the endothelium. IGF-1 has been demonstrated to protect the endothelial barrier.

Best ways to increase IGF-1 levels naturally

Some patients with a growth hormone deficiency (GHD) may require hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to increase their IGF-1 levels. However, not everyone necessarily requires exogenous supplementation to achieve higher IGF-1 levels.

Upping your IGF-1 levels depends on increasing circulating HGH, because growth hormone triggers the liver to release IGF-1. If you don’t have enough HGH in the blood supply, then by default you’re not going to have sufficient IGF-1.

Accordingly, here are a few daily practices you can utilize to naturally boost your Igf-1 levels for more optimal health, so as to look and feel younger.

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Your diet impacts every facet of your health perhaps more than any other single factor, and your hormonal profile is no different.

Here are a few ways you can streamline your diet and ensure you are giving your boy the nutrition it needs to support healthy IGF-1 levels, as well as foods to avoid that negatively impact IGF-1 levels:

  • Focus on amino acid intake. Amino acids, the “building blocks” of protein,  increase HGH production, which leads to downstream IGF-1 release. Specifically, the amino acids that boost HGH secretion are methionine, arginine, lysine, histidine, and phenylalanine.
  • Ensure you’re getting enough protein. Most people don’t actually consume adequate protein to maintain their hormones. As a rule of thumb, you should aim for a minimum of 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. Intake should be higher if you’re regularly engaging in exercise. Whey protein is an excellent addition to your IGF-1-friendly diet, since research suggests that as little as 30 grams of the supplement per day can boost IGF-1 levels by as much as 8%.
  • Limit processed sugar and grains. If you are eating a lot of carbs, make sure they are complex carbohydrates paired with fiber.
  • Consume more dairy. Lots of dietary advice calls for reducing or completely abandoning dairy, but if your aim is to increase IGF-1, you should actually be adding more into your diet. Numerous studies have demonstrated that “dairy and milk intake are associated with higher IGF-1 concentrations.”

Avoid intermittent fasting

In addition to what you eat, changing when you eat is equally, or more, powerful for optimizing your hormones and boosting endogenous IGF-1 production.

Intermittent (meaning “period” or “off and on”) fasting is the practice of restricting caloric intake to zero or near-zero for a set period of time (called the fasting window) followed by scheduled periods of freely eating (the feeding window).

IF is extremely popular among the anti-aging community, and it is a powerful tool in many contexts.

Even though, as explained in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, “fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man,” you should actually avoid intermittent fasting if you’re specifically trying to boost your IGF-1 levels.

This might be counterintuitive since higher HGH levels are usually tied to increased IGF-1 levels.

However, the research bears out that IF is beneficial for increasing HGH because natural HGH secretion by the pituitary gland increases markedly during fasting periods but not for IGF-1 levels.

In research published in Ageing Research Reviews, researchers found that “fasting significantly reduced levels of IGF-1, while energy restriction diets were successful only when intake was reduced by 50% or more.”

intermittent fasting is beneficial for increasing HGH levels but not igf-1
avoid if to boost igf-1 naturally


When it’s done right, exercise programs like weightlifting (resistance training) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can boost IGF-1 levels. Research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that “participation in resistance training increased total IGF-I and reduced IGFBP-1 concentrations during acute RE, indicating exercise mode-specific adaptations in the circulating IGF-I system.”

If you pair resistance training with creatine supplementation, research shows an even greater benefit for IGF-1 levels.

Herbs and vitamins

Numerous herbs and vitamin supplements may be excellent additions to your IGF-1 regimen. You shouldn’t rely exclusively on these tools but they can complement a well-structured diet nicely. Here are the supplements to consider for enhanced IGF-1 levels:

  • Amino acid supplements containing methionine, arginine, lysine, histidine, and phenylalanine may help augment IGF-1 levels, although if possible it’s best to get these nutrients from your diet.
  • Zinc. Research shows that “zinc supplementation can elicit significant increases in IGF-1 in humans.”
  • Vitamin D. Research into the effects of the sunshine vitamin on IGF-1 levels indicates that “vitamin D dosages of <1000 IU/day and intervention durations of <12 weeks significantly raised IGF-1 levels.”
  • Vitamin C. If you don’t get enough vitamin C through your diet, consider supplementing it because research shows that people “with higher intakes of citrus fruit or dietary vitamin C tend to have higher plasma concentrations of IGF-I.”
  • Magnesium. In addition to a slew of other key anti-aging benefits, magnesium stimulates IGF-1 secretion by the liver.
  • Selenium. One study found that selenium supplementation combined with CoQ10 boosted IGF-1 levels over time.


For the most part, with clear exceptions, optimizing your IGF-1 levels isn’t rocket science. In some cases, getting back to the basics like clean eating with an emphasis on protein intake, regular exercise, and supplementation when necessary may prove sufficient to nudge your IGF-1 count into the green zone.

In more advanced cases of hormone imbalance, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with somatropin may be necessary to achieve optimal IGF-1 levels.

Patients achieve the best results when they combine a host of IGF-1-boosting strategies like the ones we’ve explored here. Your doctor will help design the ideal IGF-1-supporting regimen based on your personal circumstances and health goals.

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