Workout Enhancer: A Daily “Fix” of Dopamine
By Joseph Palumbo
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain necessary for feelings of pleasure and happiness. Many studies have shown that we are constantly losing our stores of dopamine. For this reason, we need to constantly seek out experiences that release dopamine. Certainly, it is the main brain chemical responsible for making us feel motivated. Together with serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, dopamine is considered one of the primary “feel-good” neurotransmitters. It has also referred to as the “motivation molecule” for providing the drive and focus needed to be productive. Insufficient levels can lead to a surprisingly wide range of serious symptoms. These symptoms include depression, inability to focus, loss of motor control, reduced sex drive, cravings or addictions, lack of motivation, compulsions, and loss of pleasure or satisfaction. Dopamine is crucial to the motivation you need to work towards both short-term and long-term goals.
Low levels of dopamine
There are many reasons to account for low levels. A major factor is poor diet. Particularly diets high in refined foods such as white sugar and flour. You may also be low in B complex vitamins, copper, zinc, and iron, some of the co-factors needed to convert l-tyrosine into dopamine.
The idea that depression may be caused by low dopamine is not new. With depression, you may use sugar, caffeine, or nicotine for a “quick fix” to temporarily feel more normal. This is no coincidence, as these “fixes” all increase dopamine. In theory, cupcakes could be as addictive as cocaine because they apparently cause a surge of the reward chemical dopamine! When we eat foods that contain a lot of sugar, a massive amount is released in the brain. Few people realize that they are “self-medicating” to get a boost when they engage in potentially addictive and self-destructive behaviors. Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to drugs or sugar to boost your levels. Instead, there are many healthy, proven ways to increase natural dopamine.
Exercise and productivity
Simply put: Increased Dopamine = More Productivity. The effect of exercise on brain function has been investigated through animal experiments. Exercise leads to increased serum calcium levels, and the calcium is transported to the brain. This, in turn, enhances brain dopamine synthesis through a calmodulin-dependent system. Increased levels regulates various brain functions. (If you are interested in more of the biochemistry, visit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12758062)
Normal levels help you to plan ahead and resist impulses to better achieve your goals. It gives that “I did it!” lift when you accomplish what you set out to do. It gets your competitive juices flowing and provides the thrill-of-the-chase in all aspects of business, sports, love, and life.
If you have been diagnosed with low levels of dopamine, you can consume foods containing tyrosine to help correct the imbalance. Excellent dietary sources of tyrosine include almonds, sesame seeds, dairy products, bananas, avocados, unprocessed beef, chicken and turkey. Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and mackerel are also excellent sources. Supplements can also be a convenient and effective way to improve neurotransmitter imbalances. Any of these dietary adjustments can leave you feeling energized, positive, and focused.
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