dopamine and its effect on fitness and health

What is dopamine?

Dopamine is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter(Chemical messengers in the brain are called neurotransmitters.). The brain releases it when we eat food that we crave or while we have sex or when we workout(most famous example is the runners high), contributing to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system. This important neurochemical boosts mood, motivation, and attention, and helps regulate movement, learning, and emotional responses.

What do drug addiction and Parkinson’s disease have in common? Improper levels of dopamine. This chemical acts as a messenger between brain cells. Dopamine is important for many of our daily behaviors. It plays a role in how we move, for instance, as well as what we eat, how we learn and even whether we become addicted to drugs.

What areas dopamine affect inside our body?

Aside from its “feel good” function, dopamine is involved in many body functions. These include:

  • blood flow
  • digestion
  • executive functioning
  • heart and kidney function
  • memory and focus
  • mood and emotions
  • motor control
  • pain processing
  • pancreatic function and insulin regulation
  • pleasure and reward seeking behavior
  • sleep
  • stress response

Keep in mind that dopamine isn’t acting alone. It works with other neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and adrenaline.

Dopamine in movement

A part of the brain called the basal ganglia regulates movement. Basal ganglia highly depend on a certain amount of dopamine to function at peak efficiency. When there is a deficiency in dopamine in the brain, movements may become delayed and uncoordinated. On the flip side, if there is an excess of dopamine, the brain causes the body to make unnecessary movements, such as repetitive tics(this condition is noticeable when someone takes any drugs like alcohol, marijuana or weed, cocaine and etc).

Dopamine in athletic performance

Dopamine plays a key role in the thermoregulatory centre of your brain, which is why changes in dopamine concentrations have been shown to affect core temperature regulation during exercise. Research shows that it can elicit a positive impact on endurance performance.

Dopamine’s synthesised in the body so you can’t simply consume a gel of dopamine.

Most of the time, if you take in more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. So why can’t obese people simply eat less and slim down? The answer isn’t that simple. They may face obstacles that others don’t. They could have problems with their natural reward systems. This can affect the amount of food they eat before they feel satisfied. Imaging studies suggest that in people with this condition, the body may not release enough dopamine and another feel-good hormone, serotonin.

How to raise dopamine levels naturally?

  • Eat foods rich in tyrosine including cheese, meats, fish, dairy, soy, seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, among others. While tyrosine supplements are available, consuming foods is preferred.
  • Up magnesium intake with foods such as seeds, nuts, soy, beans, whole grains, among others.
  • Avoid processed foods, high-fats, sugar, caffeine.
  • Proper sleep hygiene is mandatory, as it fuels dopamine production.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Avoid stress, apply techniques such as meditationvisualization, breathing exercises.
  • Consider the use of natural nootropics(Nootropics are drugs, supplements, and other substances that are claimed to improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.) including L-Tyrosine and L-theanine.