In the wise words of Elle Woods “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy and happy people just don’t kill their husbands.”
Apart from being an anti-spouse murdering molecule, what are endorphins and how do they work?
Endorphins are these cool little molecules that we make in response to pain and physical stress that produce a pain-numbing effect, the same narcotic effect that morphine gives. This is because endorphins are part of our internal opioid system and interact with the opioid receptors in the central nervous system to reduce our perception of pain.
So where does the name come from?
Endorphin is very imaginatively named after the two things it is comprised of, endogenous morphine, endo- and -orphine. It comes from the Grrreek words (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) ‘endogenous’ meaning ‘arising from within’ and ‘Morpheus’ the God of Dreams, from which ‘morphine’ is derived. There are also several different classes of endorphins, which are produced in different parts of the nervous system, some of which can be over 20 times more powerful than morphine.
Endorphins are released by three cool things:
Exercise that is long in duration and intense, such as running, can cause a release of endorphins responsible for the phenomenon known as “runner’s high”.
Studies have also shown that opioids are released in response to sweet or highly palatable foods, however, it is the taste of these foods and not the actual ingestion that cause the increase in endorphins – so taste all the chocolate you want, just don’t swallow it!
Studies have also shown an increase in localised endorphin release when capsaicin (the hot molecule in chillis) was applied.
I’m not qualified to give medical advice, but it seems that eating chilli chocolate while exercising vigorously can be one way to maximise your endorphin release.
By Lawrence Menz