Love Those Endorphins, Don't Youby
Phil Campbell - Ready, Set, Go! Synergy Fitness for Time Crunched
I love endorphins. Hey, I
confess. If you gotta be addicted to something, why not something good for you,
Endorphins are the body's natural pain medication hormones. Endorphins
(en-dor-fins), when they're released, make us feel better, improve our
mood, increase pleasure, and minimize pain. There are some good ways, and bad
ways, to increase endorphins.
Low endorphin levels make us crave
Nan Allison in her excellent book Full & Fulfilled
describes the relationship between endorphins, food, and exercise. By
permission, Nan Allison, M.S., RD writes:
High concentrations of
endorphins in the brain produce a sense of euphoria, enhance pleasure, and
suppress pain, both emotionally and physically. When endorphins are low, people
feel anxious; they are also more aware of pain. They have an appetite for fat
and fatty foods, such as fries, cheese, creamy sauces, margarine, butter, fried
chicken, potato chips, and chocolate, to name some of the most popular
examples. Upon eating some fat, they will notice a change in mood, feeling more
pleasure. This feeling is related to a higher concentration of endorphin.
Exercise, by releasing fat from within the body, raises endorphins and
causes the same mood changes.
When we have cravings for potato chips and chocolate, it may mean that
we need a endorphin pill rather than all the empty calories from chips. Well,
there's a problem. We don't have an endorphin pill. But we have something even
better; knowledge of how to deal with these specific types of
Low serotonin levels make us crave
Similarly, another hormone, serotonin makes us feel calm, poised,
confident, and relaxed. When our serotonin levels are low, we feel nervous,
irritable and stressed. We don't crave fat, now we crave sugar.
Have cravings for sugar? Nan Allison advises that trying some
crackers, frozen yogurt or popcorn may help by raising serotonin levels with
far less calories.
Low dopamine make us feel
Mentally "foggy" at times? This just may be caused by low dopamine
we don't get adequate protein, dopamine levels drop and this makes us mentally
The best way to raise dopamine levels, get plenty of lean protein in
you diet, with moderate fat and carbs, advises Nan
You need carbs before you
It's a mistake to think that exercising without
adequate carbs in your system will help you lose body fat. Nan Allison
people mistakenly believe that if they limit their carbohydrate intake, and
then exercise, their body fat will be broken down. What happens, in fact, is
that they are lowering their capacity to burn fat, and will lower their
metabolism. The reason for this is that the body will break down muscle to form
carbohydrate. In addition, the muscle breakdown raises stress hormone levels
and causes carbohydrate cravings.
High-intensity exercise performs
Researchers have shown for years that high-intensity exercise
increases these hormones significantly.
"Post-exercise beta-endorphin levels correlated with the peak speed
attained during the sprint and the subjects peak power to weight ratio.
These results suggest that the increases in plasma adrenaline are related to
those factors that reflect the stress of the exercise and the contribution of
anaerobic metabolism." ( Exercise intensity-related responses of
beta-endorphin and catecholamines, 1987, McMurray).
The Take Home
When we experience strong cravings for sugar and high fat foods, it's
probably due to a low hormone level that can be resolved with a sensible food
When it comes to diet, the research is clear, the best diet is a
balanced diet / in moderation.
Remember to get some high-quality carbs before workouts. This will
help fuel the intensity of the workout, and increase, not lower your
Campbell, M.S., M.A., FACHE
Author Ready, Set, GO! Synergy
If you would like more
information on Nan Allison's book,
Full and Fulfilled: The Science of Eating to Your Soul's
NOTE: The purpose of this article is to expand thinking about
fitness as an informational source for readers, and is not medical advice.
Before attempting the Synergy Fitness program, the Sprint 8 Workout, or any
high-intensity exercise program, consult your physician. This is not just a
liability warning; it's wise to have a baseline medical exam before beginning a
fitness program. Make your physician a partner in your fitness improvement