Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1)–The DEFINITIVE Guide

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Bodybuilders and athletes often turn to products like insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), anabolic androgenic steroids, or growth hormone to promote faster results.

They’re looking to enhance aspects of physique and athletic performance.

Before turning to any type of performance enhancing drug like growth hormone for often-impressive results, there are a few things you should know first.

Be sure to take the time to understand what those components are, how they function in the human body, and the potential for short-term and long-term side effects or adverse reactions.

What is Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1?

Insulin-like growth factor-1 is typically known as IGF-1. It’s a growth factor mediated by secretions of growth hormone.

Growth hormone, (somatotropin) is manufactured in the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland.

Growth hormone is vital as a tissue building or anabolic hormone that not only promotes metabolic, but growth-promoting activities.

Another component of growth hormone is its responsibility in mediating a number of growth promoting effects on the body indirectly.

This is achieved through the manufacture and secretions of growth promoting proteins. These specialized proteins are called insulin-like growth factors (IGFs).

Bone, skeletal muscle, and the liver produce IGFs in response to levels of growth hormone in the body.

Insulin-like growth factors produced by the liver behave as hormones, while those made in the other tissues behave “locally” such as those produced by bone and skeletal muscle.

Mechanism of Action

How does it work? Insulin-like growth factors (such as insulin-like growth factor-1) stimulate a number of activities that are required for growth:

Provide for uptake of nutrients in blood that have formed into protein and DNA, triggering mitosis or cellular division

Form collagen and deposits of bone matrix

Growth hormone can stimulate just about any cell in the human body to not only grow larger, but divide (reproduce), though mainly in skeletal muscle and bone.

Note: Too much of anything in the human body can contribute to undesired side effects. In regard to growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor, acromegaly is a possibility. The condition is defined as overgrowth of bones in the face, the hands, and the feet.


When using a drug like insulin-like growth factor-1 for muscle building benefits, do be aware that a number of factors can influence results. For example:

Age – as we grow into adulthood, production of some hormones begins to decline. The older we are, the fewer certain hormones are produced, including testosterone, growth hormone, and in turn, IGF-1.

Metabolism – every person’s metabolism is different. Genetics, height versus weight, and overall health status, including dietary habits and exercise, can also influence how growth factors function and behave in our body.

In medical scenarios, any dosage of insulin-like growth factor-1, a growth hormone, or even anabolic androgenic steroids, would be based on individual case factors.

IGF-1 Bodybuilding

Bodybuilders will find a number of dosage recommendations for use of IGF-1, but not all are recommended, nor safe. Quality, milligram strength, and results can also vary widely between sources.

It’s also important to remember that not all IGF-1 supplements are created equal. Insulin-like growth factor-1 will produce different effects than pure growth hormone (HGH).

So-called “IGF-1 foods” can also help you increase your body’s natural production of the hormone.

Whether you want to use it to lose weight, or for bodybuilding, this may be your best option.

IGF-1 Variants (IGF-1 DES, IGF-1 LR3)

As previously mentioned, IGF-1 is currently available in 2 variants; namely, IGF-1 LR3 and IGF-1 DES.

However, regardless of the variant in question, the IGF-type will work systematically throughout the human anatomy.

Even if the IGF-variant is administered directly into a specific muscle (intramuscular administration) it will not trigger noteworthy localized growth that justifies or makes intramuscular administration worthwhile.


IGF-1 DES: IGF-1 DES is essentially an IGF-1 variant that is known for being very fast acting, and is generally not as highly recommend as IGF-1 LR3.

IGF-1 DES also consists of only 67 amino acids instead of 70 amino acids like IGF-1; because it is modified so that it is lacking the first three amino acids at the N-terminus.

Interestingly, the modifications allow IGF-1 DES to enjoy a lowered binding affinity for the IGF binding proteins that were discussed earlier, as well as a tenfold potency increase in strength when compared to IGF-1, and a fivefold increase in potency when compared to its hybrid counterpart IGF-1 LR3.

However, the half-life of IGF-1 DES is much shorter than that of IGF-1 LR3, and only lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. Furthermore, due to its increased potency and faster reaction time, IGF-1 DES is typically used to trigger localized muscle growth directly into the initial injection site.

Still, most research findings seem to indicate that IGF-1 DES, congruent to IGF-1, will function systematically once it reaches the bloodstream and capillaries.


Unlike its variant counterpart, IGF-1 LR3 is quite popular and is also the most commonly used variant of IGF-1. Many athletes and bodybuilders alike use IGF-1 LR3 to obtain performance enhancing benefits, and IGF-1 LR3 consists of the same 70-amino acid chain of its predecessor.

However, IG1-1 LR3 is also modified so that is contains an additional thirteen amino acids at its N-terminus.

The end result is a total of 83 amino acids, and the variant is further modified so that an arginine is situated at the third position instead of the original glutamic acid.

The end result of the aforementioned modifications is that IGF-1 LR3 produces the same activities at the IGF-1 receptor in the tissues of the body that IGF-1 does, but also enjoys a significantly lower binding affinity for the IGF binding proteins that were discussed earlier.

More impressive is its half-life, as IGF-1 LR3 lasts between 20 and 30 hours, compared to the 12 to 15 hour half-life of IGF-1. In sum, given all of the benefits and attributes of the variant, IGF-1 LR3 is roughly 3 times as potent as IGF-1.


In addition, the type of IGF used can also have a difference on dosage. For example:

IGF-1 LR3 (insulin-like growth factor-1 long Arginine 3): often recommended daily in doses that range from 50 mcg to 150 mcg.

When stacked with other components such as an anabolic androgenic steroids or other growth hormone, 15 mcg daily is sufficient, although some will use as much is 100 mcg a day.

Every scenario in regard to usage will differ among individuals.

The difference between “plain” IGF-1 and IGF-1 LR3 is that the latter can promote a longer phase of biological activity or function, increasing efficacy in regard to potential than the “simpler” insulin-like growth factor-1 peptide hormone.

The long form of IGF-1 is perceived to be at least twice as potent than IGF-1. It is not recommended that beginners turn to IGF-1 LR3 because its effects as well as side effects can be difficult to control.

Regarding IGF-1 LR3 dosage, women should not take more than 20mcg per day, while men should not exceed 50mcg per day.

What’s more, due to the prolonged active half-life of IGF-1 LR3, both men and women should generally not administer IGF-LR3 more than once a day, with two doses (split) per day being the absolute limit.

As for bodybuilders and athletes, the dosage should be administered either right before training or right after. The choice is left to the user’s discretion.

Athletes and bodybuilders can also split the full 40 mcg dosage into two, 20mcg doses, opting to administer one dose before their workout and one immediately after completing their workout or training.

As for non-training days, bodybuilders and athletes can chose to administer the full dosage at any time of the day.

In regards to IGF-1 DES, there is more variation involved when compared to its counterpart. For instance, the IGF-1 DES dosage may vary between 50mcg to 150mcg instead of the typical 40mcg to 50mcg range of IGF-1 LR3 for men.

The reason why the higher dosage range is feasible is because of the much shorter half-life of IGF-1 DES when compared to IGF-1 LR3.

Still, side effects are possible, and caution should always be taken before administration. As for time of use, athletes can use the same dosage schedule of IGF-1 LR3, opting to split the full daily dosage in two, before and after their training regiment.

Injectable IGF-1 LR3 (1 Milligram)

IGF-1 and its variants can be injected either subcutaneously or intramuscularly, and users should take a minimum of 2 weeks off after going through a cycle of 30 days total; with even more time off before resuming treatments being recommended.

The reason why an extended break is recommended is not only to help mitigate possible health complications from the treatment but to also guarantee that the IGF-1 receptors in the body have returned to optimal functionality after having undergone an extended cycle.

Also of interest is that both IGF-1 variants are in a lyophilized (dehydrated) powder format and will need to be reconstituted with either trace amounts of acetic acid diluted into a small amount of bacteriostatic water, or bacteriostatic water alone.

It should also be noted that it is the user’s responsibility to determine how much water will need to be added to the dehydrated powder in order to produce the desired concentration upon reconstitution.

The conventional preparation for both IGF-1 DES and IGF-1 LR3 is 1mg of dehydrated powder. To illustrate, if the powder is combined with 2ml of bacteriostatic water then the user will obtain 50mcg per 10iu from the amalgamation.

The concentrations will fluctuate depending on the product obtained as well as the individual’s preference in terms of how they want to reconstitute the IGF-1 variant by adding X amount of water.

It is important to understand the fundamental computational requirements involved in yielding IGF-1 concentrations before any reconstituting takes place.

IGF-1 Side Effects

Insulin-like growth factor-1 can trigger a number of side effects. Some of the most common include:

Drop in blood glucose (sugar) levels. This is because IGF-1 influences the production, secretion, and activities of the hormone insulin. It can also trigger insulin resistance, which in turn can morph into Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Headaches (often severe)



Changes in vision (blurring)

Most of the feedback that has been received by the athletes and bodybuilders that have used IGF-1 has been positive, and according to the medical studies conducted on IGF-1, it is generally well tolerated by users.

However, like with any other performance-enhancing compound, IGF-1 does carry its own set of potential risks. In addition, when side effects are actually reported, they tend to develop over long-term usage, and increased dosage has also been linked to an increase in side effects.

Also, given the fact that IGF-1 is a nutrient partitioning hormone it may lower blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) when taken in the short-term.

This is because IGF-1 augments glucose uptake into different cell types, including muscle cells, at an accelerated rate.

By doing so, the amount of glucose in circulating blood plasma levels may be drastically reduced due to reallocation. However, while this occurs at rates drastically lower than that of insulin, the risk is still possible.

Moreover, due to the risk of hypoglycemia, diabetics, or those at risk of developing diabetes, should take caution when using IGF-1. Even those who are perfectly healthy should regularly monitor their blood glucose levels, look for signs of low blood glucose, and modify their diets as needed.

It is also important to reiterate that IGF-1 is a growth hormone. As such, those with a family history of cancer or those who have been diagnosed with cancer or a tumor may be at risk of cancer metastasis or tumor growth if they use IGF-1.

However, it should be noted that IGF-1 does not cause cancer in and of itself. Instead, IGF-1 provides many benefits and is integral to healthy brain, heart, and nervous system functionality.

However, excess IGF-1 may cause abnormal intestinal tissue and internal organ growth, as well as acromegaly in rare cases. Acromegaly is a condition that causes bone tissue to grow excessively, generally in the jaw, hands, and feet.

In most cases high-doses, combined with long-term use without interruption, are the cause of such anomalies.

Due to the risks involved with prolonged IGF-1 use, most experts agree that users should abstain from IGF-1 (and/or its variants) use for a prolonged period of time after 30-days of continual administration.

Problems generally arise when prolonged and excessive use of IGF-1 or its variants causes saturation in the muscle tissues connected to IGF-1 receptor sites in the body.

When this happens residual IGF-1 begins to bind to other tissues in the bloodstream, including, but not limited to, bone and intestinal tissues as well as internal organs.

The result is excess growth in the targeted tissues, and in extreme cases the condition may be irreversible and potentially fatal.

As can be seen, taking breaks between performance cycles and meticulously monitoring of one’s condition are imperative when taking IGF-1 and/or one of its variants.

IGF-1 Legal Status

The legality and laws involving IGF-1 vary greatly from nation to nation, and it is up to the user to perform sufficient due diligence in order to determine the legality of IGF-1 in their respective state, country, or province that they inhabit.

It is imperative to understand your rights as a citizen as well as the laws of your country. Pleading the fifth is not a viable excuse for breaking the law.

In addition, Canada, the United States, the UK, and most of the Western world currently allows for the legal possession and use of IGF-1.

Still, while IGF-1 is not considered a controlled substance in the West, it still requires a prescription by a licensed physician.

In other words, IGF-1 cannot be purchased over-the-counter, and the few IGF-1 preparations that do exist in the West are intended for use as human medicine only. As such, users can not currently purchase IGF-1 purely for supplemental purposes.

Where To Buy IGF-1

IGF-1 and its respective variants are currently widely available, but there are very few medicinal, human-grade preparations that exist.

This is because IGF-1 and its variants are still considered experimental compounds in clinical trials and have not yet been cleared as an “official” medicine for the treatment of any condition or disorder. However, it may become a viable FDA approved drug in the not-too-distant future.

However, at the moment IGF-1 is only available in research peptide form and is only sold by research chemical corporations. The research peptides can currently be purchased legally from a number of different research chemical manufacturers, either directly or via their websites.

Again, it should be reiterated that IGF-1 and its variants are intended for research purposes only, and if it is not used in a FDA approved clinical research setting then the sanctions may be severe.

That is, IGF-1 is currently not available legally for human use, as it is not considered a medical or pharmaceutical-grade product.

Interestingly, some underground laboratory based IGF-1 products do exist, but they are very hard to come by, and potential buyers should also be skeptical, given the relatively easy access to legal, research-exclusive IGF-1 on the open market.

How to Purchase IGF-1

IGF-1 can currently be purchased from research supply vendors from across the world, either directly or via their websites. Also, as previously mentioned, IGF-1 is not intended for human use or consumption and is designed for clinical trial and research purposes only.

Pricing information, however, is readily available via the e-commerce platforms provided by the global vendors, with typical IGF-1 DES and LR3 pricing ranging from $90 to $120 per milligram of dehydrated powder.

The prices will vary depending on the research company and manufacturer involved in the sale of the IGF-1. Other sources may include anabolic steroid vendors, and both in-person, and other online sources that offer IGF-1 products may also be accessed with sufficient research.

In such cases the pricing may vary greatly, but, generally speaking, purchasers can expect to pay between $90 to $120 per milligram of lyophilized IGF-1 powder.


The benefits provided by insulin-like growth factor-1, often coupled with injections of HGH, anabolic androgenic steroids, or other components may seem tempting for bodybuilders and athletes. However, hormone levels can be very difficult to stabilize.

Keeping this in mind, you might want to start with a legal supplement such as deer antler extract, which is rich in IGF-1. This may pose less health risks, providing you follow your doctor’s advice.

Too much of one hormone can adversely affect the functions of other hormones in the body. Insulin-like growth factor-1 and any of its variations are extremely anabolic. They can and do affect endocrine system function as well as metabolism.

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