One of the biggest fitness trends right now in bodybuilding and longevity – peptides. Peptides are in a league of their own, somewhere in the space between supplements, prescription hormones, and anabolics, peptides are simply short chain amino acids, but with specific intended purpose. But with so many different types of peptides, the question is – are they legit, and which ones do you take? We’re going to discover what the most popular types of peptides are, what peptides do, and what the current research says on their safety and efficacy.
What Are Peptides
Peptides are a popular performance-enhancing aid used for bodybuilding, training applications, as well as overall health, wellness, and longevity.
Different than anabolic steroids and synthetic hormones, peptides are short chain amino acids, that typically contain between 2 – 50 amino acids linked together, via peptide bonds.
Your body makes peptides, and they naturally exist endogenously within the body, however, there are several different types of synthetic peptides, which are created for numerous benefits and functions. Natural sources can be found in foods, such as protein, nuts, and whole grains. Manufacturers isolate specific amino acids and combine them to form peptides. Thus, peptides are split into two distinct categories: endogenous and exogenous peptides.
What Do Peptides Do
Most notably, growth hormone secreting peptides facilitate the release of hormones. Hormone optimization has numerous health benefits including but not limited to improving body composition, increasing muscle mass, promoting fat loss, improving sleep parameters, supporting gut health, stimulating libido, and promoting joint health. Other forms of peptides may help and benefit brain health, and skin health.
In part, peptides stimulate the liver to release IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor). IGF-1 triggers muscle growth and production and indirectly promote lipolysis.
Different Types Of Peptides
The most popular GHSs people use for bodybuilding include:
Growth-hormone releasing hormones: like sermorelin, tesamorelin, CJC-1293, and CJC-1295
Ghrelin and compounds mimicking its actions (agonists): like lenomorelin, anamorelin, ipamorelin, macimorelin, and tabimorelin
Growth hormone-releasing peptides (GHRPs): like alexamorelin, GHRP-1, GHRP-2, GHRP-3, GHRP-4, GHRP-5, GHRP-6, and hexarelin
Secretagogue GHRH Analogs (Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone)
Secretagogues are agents or peptides that promote the secretion and release of hormones, neurohormones, chemical neurotransmitters, enzymes, or other molecules synthesized and secreted by cells.
Growth hormone secretagogues (GHS) are synthetic, non-natural peptidyl and non-peptidyl molecules. GH-releasing peptides (GHRPs), the first component of the GHS family, were invented, not isolated, in 1977, and are endowed with strong growth hormone releasing effects both in animals and in humans [R]. GH-releasing peptides have gained significant interest amongst the bodybuilding community and performance athletes, due to the belief that peptides have fewer side effects than supplementing HGH itself.
Examples of secretagogues are sermorelin, and tesamorelin. These types of secretagogues or peptides, help facilitate the natural release of hormones such as human growth hormone and IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor, which is a hormone that manages the effects of human growth hormone.
Sermorelin is a peptide hormone that is produced in the pituitary gland. Studies have shown that sermorelin injection can increase hGH levels in the bloodstream. However, sermorelin, does not act alone. A molecule called the growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) controls hGH by releasing it from the pituitary gland into the bloodstream.
A multi-center one year study published in the The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that administered 30mcg of sermorelin to 110 patients, found that a daily injection of sermorelin increased growth rate in 74 percent of children after just 6 months [R].
More research is needed to determine and solidify the role, application, and therapeutic effects of sermorelin as an injectable application.
Tesamorelin is a synthetic form of GHRH injection is a hormone similar to the one normally released from the hypothalamus gland in the brain. It is used to reduce excess fat (lipodystrophy) in the abdomen or stomach [R].
Tesamorelin stimulates the synthesis and release of endogenous growth hormone, with an increase in the level of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). The released growth hormone binds with the receptors present on various body organs and regulates the body composition. This regulation is mainly because of the combination of anabolic and lipolytic mechanisms. However, it has been found that the main mechanisms by which Tesamorelin reduces body fat mass are lipolysis followed by reduction in triglycerides level [R].
Secretagogue Ghrelin Agonists (Hunger Hormone)
Ipamorelin is a synthetic pentapeptide and is one of the first selective growth hormone secretagogues that has been developed even before the discovery of ghrelin [R].
Ghrelin is a hormone produced in your stomach. Your stomach releases ghrelin when it’s empty to signal your brain that it’s time to eat. Known as the hunger hormone,
Ghrelin is a multifaceted gut hormone which activates its receptor, growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R). Ghrelin’s most notable functions are its stimulatory effects on food intake, fat deposition and growth hormone release.
Ipamorelin can therefore, work to facilitate the release of ghrelin promoting fat loss and the control of hunger [R].
BPC–157, or body-protecting compound 157 is a pentadecapeptide, composed of 15 amino acids. Research has shown that BPC-157 may accelerate the healing process [R]. BPC-157 is extracted from gastric juices, and has been shown to help with musculoskeletal recovery, especially in the tendons, joints, and ligaments, as well as the gut lining.
Currently, all studies investigating BPC 157 have demonstrated consistently positive and prompt healing effects for various injury types, both traumatic and systemic and for a plethora of soft tissues. However, to date, the majority of studies have been performed on small rodent models and the efficacy of BPC 157 is yet to be confirmed in human [R].
Another peptide with the same stimulatory effects on healing, is TB-500, which can help with inflammation. It’s also been shown to have musculoskeletal regenerative properties.
Side Effects And Risks Of Peptides
HGH peptides or secretagogues, interact with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to naturally increase and facilitate the production of GH levels in the body. These peptides do work, however are they safe to take? They do not have the same risks associated with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), or HGH; in relation to the reduction in sperm count, joint pain, swelling, or increased insulin resistance.
Peptides do not shut down your own testosterone production, thus will not disrupt fertility. However, peptides should be cycled and prescribed by a physician. The long-term safety and efficacy of GH-releasing peptides is not well studied. Even though GH-releasing peptides may be helpful for several indications or conditions when prescribed by a healthcare provider, off-label use of GH-releasing peptides is not safe or recommended.
Before taking any peptides, we do advise consulting a physician for specific recommendations. Peptides do need to be prescribed by a physician, to ensure quality and efficacy standards.
What Are Peptides: Takeaway
Research shows that GHRPs can support fat loss and muscle gain by facilitating the secretion and release of human growth hormone as well as IGF-1. As we age, we experience anabolic resistance, from a decline in production of HGH and IGF-1. Thus, there are several benefits in supplementing with peptides, to increase muscle growth, enhance sleep, and improve quality of life.
Age-management institutes, commonly practice hormone optimization and administration of different therapeutic treatment protocols using peptides, TRT, and HGH. This is a good place to start, if you’re looking to enhance longevity, improve quality of life, and manage the aging process.
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