Incredible Mechanisms of our Body II - The Hidden Chemistry
We all notice a change in our body while doing sports. Especially when we go for a run - as time passes by - the feeling of a noticeably faster heart beat and heavy breathing can make it hard for a beginner to maintain their pace, while an experienced runner can actually take some extra power from it. As we get used to physical activity, we also familiarize with the chemical processes connected to it and learn how to make them work for us - and not against us. By exploring the chemistry within our body, we might get some insight in how to use them to our favour.
The energy molecules our body generates from the food we consume are called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and drive various processes in living cells. Some organisms such as fireflies even use ATP to produce light, so we can imagine how powerful this compound is!
As we progress, our body will need to release more and more ATP and will start breaking down glycogen - a form of glucose - which is primarily stored in muscle cells and serves as an energy storage. Together with oxygen - that we get from inhaling air into our lungs - it starts a chemical reaction to produce the much-needed ATP.
To further increase our strength, glucose will also be pulled directly from our blood - which has the nice side effect of lowering our blood sugar levels!
So, in the first couple of minutes our mind will switch to a state of physical stress - but don't worry, this is completely natural and favourable for our running experience! Our body temperature will rise, which will be countered by sweating. At this point, we will start to burn fat and glucose effectively. So not only does help us to achieve a top performance but also positively influences our health.
Which role do endorphins play?
As we discovered in the first part of this blog, endorphins might not be the reason we're experiencing a runner's high, but nonetheless have a positive effect while exercising.
They are a body-produced chemicals working quite similar to opioids, which are used to relieve pain, for example after a surgery, but also in less responsible ways...
Approximately after 10 Minutes we will experience a positive feeling of well-being - depending on how regularly we train, we can get the effect also earlier than that. Sounds great?
Well, adding even more to the euphoria is dopamine, a chemical messenger interacting with the pleasure and reward centre of our brain, playing a vital role in how happy we feel. It usually comes into effect the first moments after our run, when we are recovering from exhaustion. Besides positively changing our mood, it might also decrease our craving for food.
So once again, we discover that our body is naturally designed to motivate us for physical activity, as it has been a much more important component of everyday life in the past. Stay tuned for the next part of the series, when we discover more incredible mechanisms that we carry inside us!
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Picture 2: Rémi Jacquaint via unsplash