I became a fitness person during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the world was in chaos around me, I exercised to stay sane. After a year and change, though, I was ready to level up.
That’s how I found myself sitting in front of Jamie Gabel, co-founder of Advitam in New York City, a metabolic wellness clinic where Gabel uses treatments like hormone replacement therapy, IV treatments, and more to improve not only how your body looks but how it functions. As we begin to treat wellness as both an internal and external pursuit, experts like Gabel are at the forefront.
After a conversation about my fitness goals (two words: Chris Hemsworth) and lots of blood tests, he recommended hormone replacement therapy to address my lowish testosterone, as well as something else: peptides. I had to dig into my dormant high school biology knowledge to understand. I knew peptides were chains of amino acids, but they’re also signaling molecules that can stimulate the cells in our bodies to perform specific, targeted functions.
It’s a complex idea that sounds simple. “Over time, if your cells are not working efficiently, they can cause problems,” says William Seeds, co-founder and chairman of the Seeds Scientific Research & Performance Institute and the world’s leading expert on peptide therapy. Those problems can be anything from signs of aging in our skin to musculoskeletal injury to more serious degenerative diseases. Loss of cell function is a part of the natural aging process, but the job of cellular medicine, particularly peptide therapy, is to help those cells regain their efficiency. The reason peptides work so well is that our bodies recognize them. “Your body already knows exactly what this signaling peptide is trying to do. We’re just using them to right the ship,” Seeds says.
In my case, Gabel prescribed a combination of growth hormone–releasing peptides (GHRPs) that I injected into my abdomen on a specific schedule for a period of two months. These peptides sent signals to my brain to produce more growth hormone, which helps build muscle and burn fat. In the old days someone might have given me straight-up growth hormone to inject, but that would have come with serious risks. “It’s easy to overshoot with actual growth hormones,” Gabel says. “If this happens, the risks can outweigh the benefits. Many clinicians now feel that growth hormone peptides are a safer alternative.” One of the benefits of peptides is that your cells “are already preprogrammed with genetic information,” like an automatic shutoff valve, so it’s less likely that your body will produce too much of the hormone.
GHRPs like the ones I used aren’t always for aesthetics; they have longevity benefits, too. “Your brain function requires growth hormone. So does your skin. Really, every cell in the body has a receptor for it,” Gabel says. I experienced that firsthand. Seeing my muscles swell was fun, but I also noticed that I could train harder and recover faster with less soreness, that my energy was higher, and that I was sleeping better. That, I realized, is the beauty of peptides. In traditional medicine, we identify a problem and take a drug to fix it, but by targeting the source, peptides can have a wide range of effects that work together to help your body perform better. And when it performs better, it looks better, too.
There are about 150 peptides currently available or being studied for all sorts of things, including repairing muscles and tendons, preventing fibrosis, supporting the immune system, regulating the gut, and stimulating collagen production. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Seeds says. He sees a future where peptides could become the standard for the prevention of heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. Right now peptides are being studied in combination with chemotherapy to help make it more tolerable and less toxic. It’s all still fairly new, but it promises such enormous benefits that, according to Seeds, big pharmaceutical companies are starting to pay attention. “There’s a reason it’s growing,” he says. “Because it’s working.”
One day we may all be injecting or swallowing peptides to treat or prevent every possible ailment. They have helped me achieve a fitter body than I had a year ago, but the reason I’m going to keep using them is more than that. For the first time in a long time, I have actual pep in my step.