Does Weightlifting Release Endorphins?
Endorphins are responsible for the euphoria that long-distance runners experience, known as the "runners high," but you don't have to run for two hours to release these mood-boosting chemicals. Although current research into this area is lacking, weightlifting and virtually all other forms of strenuous exercise can boost your endorphins and help relieve stress, according to MayoClinic.com.
Endorphins are opioid peptides that modify the actions of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These chemicals play an important role in regulating your mood, among other things. By acting on neurotransmitters, endorphins can provide pain relief and induce euphoria. Boosting your endorphins is one of the best natural ways to combat stress and exerts other physiological benefits, including improving insulin sensitivity.
Believe it or not, your nutritional status plays an important role in how much of an endorphin release you get from weightlifting. DL-Phenylalanine is a nutrient found in meat needed to produce pain-relieving neurotransmitters. In addition, your body uses tryptophan, found in foods such as turkey, to produce serotonin -- a mood-boosting neurotransmitter. Because the effect of endorphins depends on these neurotransmitters, an endorphin release will fail to trigger much of a response if your status of these key nutrients is low.
How much you exert yourself is another factor that plays an important role in gaining endorphin benefits from weightlifting. Because endorphins are your body's response to performing sustained, strenuous exercise, a few sets and reps aren't enough to trigger an endorphin release. Although recent studies are lacking, a study published in the December 1993 issue of the "Journal of Sports Sciences" found no change in endorphin activity after performing three sets of eight repetitions at 80 percent maximal effort.
Your body's ability to release endorphins in response to weightlifting depends on a number of factors. Although there is no set number of reps or sets, it is safe to say that you will need to exert significant effort in order to gain potential benefits. Keep in mind that if your primary goal is endorphin benefits, other forms of exercise such as running and cycling are more dependable ways of releasing endorphins.
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Combat Stress
- Food and Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best by Elizabeth Somer and Nancy Snyderman
- Journal of Sports Sciences: Plasma Beta-endorphin Immunoreactivity: Response to Resistance Exercise
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.