I'm a 24 year old male and fairly recently found out that I have abnormally low IGF-1 levels. Mine is 90 (ng/mL) whereas the average range for my age is from 116-353 (ng/mL). I've always been pretty skinny and have had a hard time gaining mass. I started at 125lbs and after about two years of lifting five days a week pretty consistently, I'm currently at ~150lbs. I've made a fair amount of progress, but it's been a very long process and I feel that I've plateaued, so I'm trying to determine if this is positively correlated with my low IGF-1.

I read on a forum that low IGF-1 levels ultimately do not impact ones ability to induce muscle growth. The forum has a source for experimentation confirming that this is what researchers in the study concluded. I can post specific findings within the source on here, but it's very long so I'll do so without unless requested. However, here's the text which was referenced:

1: J Physiol. 2007 Nov 1; [Epub ahead of print] A functional insulin-like growth factor receptor is not necessary for load-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Spangenburg EE, Leroith D, Ward CW, Bodine SC. University of Maryland.

Ultimately I'm asking if anyone may have knowledge on this subject and if low IGF-1 is potentially inhibiting my ability to build mass? Also, any suggestions on ways in which I can approach this would be greatly appreciated (i.e., diet change, lifestyle change, prescription of growth hormone, do nothing, etc...)

I don't mean for this question to be too specific towards me. I'm asking this in the hopes that others with a similar issue can potentially find this and reference it in the future. Information online in regard specifically to abnormally low IGF-1 levels and building mass appears to be relatively limited.

Thank you in advance.

  • 1
    This is strictly speaking off-topic, but there are potentially interesting positive side-effects of low IGF-1 levels. There is a syndrome called Laron syndrom which means you have very low IGF-1 levels, people with this syndrom are generally very short, but they also seem to be resistant to cancer and diabetes type 2.
    – Mårten
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 4:37
  • Oh wow, that's interesting, thanks for the information Marten. It's nice to see something positive since most things I've read have only focused on the negatives. Also just a side note for anyone responding with any concern -- I was tested for many negative issues often associated with having low levels of IGF-1 and they all came back negative fortunately. It's also fairly strange because I'm 5"11', so obviously not abnormally short.
    – Kyler
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 2:21
  • What is your sleep rotine?
    – Freedo
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 1:50
  • My sleep routine is something I'm trying to work on because for a quite a while it wasn't great (which I realize may be a large contributing factor). Because of college and my work schedule I was only getting about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I've graduated and I'm only working now, so for the past few weeks it's been closer to 7 and I'm trying to get to at 8 hours.
    – Kyler
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 2:50

2 Answers 2


The fact that you put on ~25lbs over the last two years should already debunk the idea that you're inhibited from building mass, not only does the article you looked at confirm this but you have own real results to refute that idea.

So, if not your IGF-1 levels what might be slowing you down more now? A couple of things could be happening:

  • have you adjusted your diet and meal portion size?
    If you still eat as though you were 125lbs it will be hard for your body to grow regardless of any stimulating activity just from lack of building resources for your body.
  • are you still training the same exercises in the same way?
    High level athletes tend to use periodization as a way to try to overcome plateaus. This works because you change how you use your muscles so that you can become stronger in different ways and once the cycle restarts you will have grown.
  • Are you sleeping enough?
    The prime time for your body to build and recover from exercise is during sleep and several studies suggest that it's the last several hours of the recommended 8-9 hours of sleep that the majority of recovery happens so losing a few hours means you're body barely recovers so it can't grow stronger.

Usually people overcomplicate things. While it is possible you are an exception, but chanses are you just doing your training and nutrition wrong. I would suggest getting training/nutrition coaching from some of good online coaches. This is the most cost/time effective way to improve, Really.

Let me point you to http://www.jcdfitness.com/ or http://borgefagerli.com/

In no way i am associated with the coaches.

BTW maximum gains over 2 year period would be about 36 pounds. So i'd say you did pretty well.

  • 1
    Saying that he's probably doing something wrong and then pointing him to someone else does not address the question.
    – Alex L
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 16:15
  • I appreciate your response Sergey, but the answer should expand beyond this in that I'm specifically looking for IGF-1's relationship with building mass. Does the growth hormone actually have an affect on gains? If so, what can be done in a case like mine where someone is abnormally low? This can be answered without looking at what I specifically may be doing wrong. I agree that things can be overly complicated, but that doesn't address the issue here.
    – Kyler
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 0:32
  • I still believe that my answer may shed some light on your problem. You could fill you platoed because of anrealistic expectations. Really, ideal progress is gaining like 25 pounds first year, 12 second year, 6 third only 3 the last year and then your only way to improve is AAS. So if you gained 25 pounds over 2 year period this is not bad. It is 2/3 of theoretical maximum. Otherwise you are right, my answer tells nothing about IGF-1 levels increase. I know the way to lower the level by doing fasting for 2-5 days, but not increasing.
    – Sergey
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 14:55

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