Impact of GH administration on athletic performance in healthy young adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials

Growth Horm IGF Res. 2017 Jun:34:38-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ghir.2017.05.005. Epub 2017 May 10.


Objective: Illicit use of growth hormone (GH) as a performance-enhancing drug among athletes is prevalent, although the evidence of such effects in healthy, young subjects is sparse. We therefore performed a meta-analysis of published studies on the effect of GH administration on body composition, substrate metabolism, and athletic performance in healthy, young subjects.

Design: The English-language based databases PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched, and eligible articles were reviewed in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. Fifty-four potentially relevant articles were retrieved of which 11 were included in this analysis comprising 254 subjects.

Results: Administration of GH significantly increased lean body mass (p<0.01) and decreased fat mass (p<0.01). In addition, GH increased the exercising levels of glycerol (p=0.01) and free fatty acids (p<0.01), but did not alter the respiratory quotient during exercise (p=0.30). GH significantly increased anaerobic exercise capacity (p<0.01) in the only study which investigated this, but did not over weeks to months improve muscle strength (p=0.36) or maximum oxygen uptake (p=0.89).

Conclusion: GH administration elicits significant changes in body composition, but does not increase either muscle strength or aerobic exercise capacity in healthy, young subjects.

Keywords: Athletic performance; Doping; GH.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Doping in Sports / methods
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Health
  • Human Growth Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / drug effects
  • Placebos
  • Young Adult


  • Placebos
  • Human Growth Hormone