Endocrine system

Getting a runner’s high without running

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Each week I look forward to a runner’s high at an intensity level I rarely achieved by running. I don’t run anymore. After a couple of foot surgeries my running days are over. It takes me about 22 to 25 minutes to get to this relaxed euphoric state, and it stays with me the rest of the day. 

While this state is subjective there is an objective proxy to gauge the intensity of this high. One of the attributes of a runner’s high is lower blood pressure. With the runner’s high my blood pressure remains 10 to 25 points lower for up to 24 hours before returning to my normal reading.

Runners have long known that if you run long enough and hard enough you will experience a runner’s high. It wasn’t until 1975(1) that scientists pinpointed what prompted the runner’s high. It is a group of hormones called endorphins.  Endorphins activate specialized receptors throughout the nervous system that block pain messages, they reduce the release of chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling, and they lower pressure.

To get your body to release these endorphins by running, the run has to demanding enough to produce an anaerobic response that results in the build-up of lactic acid. According to one study(2):

Intensive running with an anaerobic response causes an increase in the concentrations of β-endorphin…whereas slight aerobic exercise did not elicit any response.” 

Less demanding steady-state endurance running will release endorphins too, but it takes more running.  According to this study(3):

“In endurance exercise performed at a steady-state between lactate production and elimination, blood beta-endorphin levels do not increase until exercise duration exceeds approximately 1 hour.”

If running is not an option you can still release those endorphins.  Another study(4) found that:

“The results of this study indicate that acidosis [The buildup of lactic acid] rather than any other physiological change associated with high-intensity exertion is the primary stimulus for beta-endorphin release.”[Runner’s high]

The key here is that high-intensity exertion results in the buildup of lactic acid. Strength training can do that, particularly if there is less rest between exercises.  One study(5) found that strength training with one minute rest between exercises produced a greater endorphin response than a workout with three minutes rest between exercises. Less rest results in a larger lactic acid buildup.

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The high intensity training (HIT) we do at our Austin Personal Training facility is a series of strength training exercises working all the major muscle groups with little rest between exercises.  In the photo above most of this 25 minute HIT workout is in the hardcore zone where there will be a buildup of lactic acid and a subsequent endorphin release.

Your trainer will have you build up to HIT slowly and see that you are constantly breathing and maintaining form. People of any age can do this. Over time you’ll be at a higher exertion level, produce more lactic acid, and have a significant endorphin response. Endorphin levels can remain elevated for hours and even into the next day. Your aches and pains will subside, you’ll be less stressed, your mood will improve, and you’ll sleep better. It is your body’s natural high. 

  1. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh75en.html

  2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0024320588901580

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1553453

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7836218

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8444727

Thirty-five percent increase in testosterone level without hormone therapy

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The right kind of exercise can significantly raise your testosterone level, while some forms of exercise will lower it. Testosterone affects more than just sex drive; it positively influences bone density, fat distribution, muscle strength and mass, metabolism, memory, and red blood cell production. It is vital for both sexes.

Steady state activities like long-distance running cause your testosterone level to fall, while high intensity activities such as sprint training and high intensity strength training  increase it1.  How much of an increase?  I wanted to find out. My urologist informed me that my testosterone level was low. It was not from too much long-distance running. I had not exercised for the better part of a year and had gained weight. 

I changed my diet and began exercising again – high intensity strength training once a week and stationary bike sprints one to two times a week.  On average it amounted to less than an hour of exercise a week. The first session of sprints liked to kill me. All I could do was two sprints before ending the session. I slowly build up to eight 30-second sprints.

In the four months that followed I lost 30 pounds.   I had my testosterone level tested again and tested a second time just to make sure the number was accurate. I was surprised to see that my testosterone level had increased 35 percent increase.

Testosterone is the most potent fat burning hormone we have.   High intensity strength training increases testosterone. Increased testosterone leads to fat reduction. The body adapts to its environment.  It does this using feedback loops.  The outcome of a feedback loop can be negative - weight gain and lower testosterone level – or it can be positive - weight loss and higher testosterone.

At our Austin Personal Training facility we do supervised sprint training and high intensity strength training.  We can help you start that positive feedback loop.

1 https://kellypersonaltraining.com/blog-overview/2013/08/15/long-distance-running-lowers-testosterone-sprint-training-increases-it

Exponentially increasing the amount of an anti-inflammatory agent produced by the body

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Inflammation can heal you, debilitate you, or it can ultimately kill you.  The endocrine system releases molecules that are chemical signalers that work to keep your inflammation in check. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to increase those chemical signalers - maybe even increase their numbers exponentially?   There is.

Inflammation has a positive role in healing wounds and fighting infection.  The swelling, redness, and warmth are signs that your immune system is sending white blood cells, immune cell-stimulating growth factors, and nutrients to the affected areas 2. After an ailment is resolved that inflammation should go away.  If the inflammation persists it can lead to a number of inflammatory conditions including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, skin conditions, plus respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.  It makes weight loss more difficult, and it can interfere with sleep.  

Cytokines are chemical signalers that are released by the cells affected by the stress of a wound or infection; they trigger inflammation.  Not all cytokines trigger inflammation. There is a subgroup of cytokines called myokines; they reduce inflammation.  One of those myokines is Interleuken 6. In a Bulletproof podcast Doug McGuff, Body By Science author, had this to say about Interleuken 6:

“Interleukin 6 has an anti-inflammatory effect but it also has neat bio chemical effects. It very aggressively up regulates the uptake of glucose into the muscle cell and glucose utilization and glycogen mobilization. It also ramps up lipolysis. Mobilization of fatty acids from stored body fat and it’s ramping through the cell, through the mitochondria to do beta oxidation of fatty acids all of that is augmented and ramped up by Interleukin 6. Other things that it does, is it stimulates the release of nitric oxide which causes vessel dilation. Increasing blood flow into the skeletal muscle but it has the more long term effect with modulating blood pressure towards more optimal levels and it actually accesses a lepton surrogate to increase insulin sensitivity so it has just this one myokines has so many beneficial effects that we’re looking for."

 How do we get more Interleukin 6?  Dr. McGuff again:

“Interleukin 6 is liberated from contracting skeletal muscle particularly when it’s doing high intensity work but pretty much in any sort of muscular activity. It is released to some degree and it increases as the intensity of exercise rises, it’s released in exponentially greater degree.”

 At our Austin Strength Training and New Orleans Strength Training locations with our clients we use a high intensity strength training protocol, a protocol that exponentially produces more anti-inflammatory myokines.

With inflammatory conditions such as arthritis the wrong exercise can inflame joints even more. The trick is to work the muscles without inflaming the joints.  We have an extensive line of MedX equipment with medical rehab features that are gentler on the joints.  We also employ a low-impact exercise protocol that minimized forces place on the joints.  This allows us to safely work the muscles intensely.  For arthritis pain sufferers this results in stronger muscles, increased mobility, and decreased inflammation, and protection of the joints to facilitate a life uncompromised by pain.  For arthritis pain sufferers the positive results can be surprising, sometimes well beyond anything you would expect.

How to reduce dangerous visceral fat

Visceral fat, found in and around the organs, can be a serious danger to your health. There is a hormone called adiponectin that will prompt the body to reduce visceral fat and increase lean tissue. 

A quote from The Secret Life of Fat:

"Exercise increases adiponectin, the hormone emitted by fat tissue that moves fat away from the viscera to the limbs and hips. It improves insulin sensitivity, too, leading to lower blood glucose and triglyceride levels. The added benefit of most of these hormones is that they won’t just burn fat, they’ll increase lean tissue, which also leads to higher metabolism. So even at rest, we’ll burn more calories."

The best way to increase adiponectin levels?   According to one study: “A progressive high intensity exercise program demonstrated increased adiponectin concentrations in overweight and obese children.”  Another study concluded: “The results show that high intensity interval training (HIIT) positively changes blood lipids and adiponectin variables in obese adolescent girls, resulting in improved insulin sensitivity, as attested by a lower HOMA-IR, and achieving better results compared to moderate-intensity exercise. “

The hormones of your endocrine system can work against your fat loss efforts, or they can make fat loss more achievable.   In addition to adiponectin, HIIT simulates a cascade of fat-burning hormones; among them testosterone, human growth hormone, and irisin.

HIIT is what we do at New Orleans Personal Trainers and Austin Personal Training.   For those who are extremely out of shape, all you have to do is a little more than you are used to handling.  Each week you will improve, and soon your hormones will work for you rather than against you.

Increasing Human Growth Hormone Naturally

Human growth hormone (hGH), while essential for growth, it is also important for burning fat and building calorie-burning lean tissue in adults. Unfortunately hGH declines with age. To increase the hormone you can take synthetic hGH along with its side-effects, or hGH can be increased naturally in response to a certain type of exercise (exercise-induced growth hormone response - EIGR).  From the study The exercise-induced growth hormone response in athletes:

“An exercise intensity above lactate threshold and for a minimum of 10 minutes appears to elicit the greatest stimulus to the secretion of hGH.”

This is how you get less of hGh, another quote:

“Recent evidence suggests that endurance training [i.e., running, cycling] results in decreased resting hGH and a blunted EIGR.”

And finally:

“A growing body of evidence suggests that higher intensity exercise is effective in eliciting beneficial health, well-being and training outcomes. In a great many cases, the impact of some of the deleterious effects of ageing could be reduced if exercise focused on promoting the EIGR.”

 Austin Strength Training and at New Orleans Strength Training we specialize in the type of high Intensity training that increases hGH levels.  In addition to increasing hGH, a properly designed high intensity training workout will increase energy,   bone density,  mental acuity,   testosterone, and strength.   This is a workout anyone of any age or fitness level can do.  You build up to it slowly, you improve each week, and over time you will “impact of some of the deleterious effects of ageing” - kind of like a fountain of youth.

Testosterone..., kind of like shampoo

Testosterone is vital to both sexes for controlling fat, boosting metabolism, and maintaining lean muscle mass. Testosterone increases the body’s fat burning ability, as fat decreases testosterone increases. Repeat this positive cycle for best results (kind of like shampoo!?). A quote from the book, The Secret Life of Fat:

“Testosterone, which is critical for both sexes, also decreases, causing a reduction in lean body mass and energy, ultimately leading to slower metabolism. Though we tend to think of testosterone as the male hormone, there is more of it in a woman’s body than estrogen at most times of the month, and certainly during the perimenopausal or postmenopausal years... Testosterone is perhaps the most potent fat burner we have."

Another quote:

"Testosterone is important for everyone's weight management because it helps build and maintain muscle mass."

And this:

"The relationship between fat and testosterone in men is circular - lower testosterone leads to and increase in fat, particularly belly fat: in turn, higher fat lowers testosterone."

One can increase testosterone naturally. From This study, Effect of altered reproductive function and lowered testosterone levels on bone density in male endurance athletes:

"Relatively short duration exercise bouts at maximum or near maximum intensity appear to increase serum testosterone levels.

Near maximum intensity can be problematic for those with injuries or those who are out of shape. At New Orleans Personal Trainers and Austin Personal Training  we use MedX exercise equipment with special rehab features, and we use an exercise protocol that is safe for those with limiting conditions.  For those who are extremely out of shape, all you have to do is a little more than you are used to handling.  Each week you will improve.  You will start the positive cycle and burn more fat.