Besides the physical aspects of fitness and nutrition, there is a lot going on in the brain that helps regulate your mood. Have you ever wondered why you are in such a good mood after a workout or why you fell asleep like a kid after a hard day at work? That’s because the plant that is your body has been helped by things called neurotransmitters. These are things inside the body that send signals to various other parts of your body in order to allow you to feel emotions or respond to stress. So let’s take a light look at what happens in your body when you chomp on Quest bars or hit the gym, shall we?
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that most people are familiar with. It regulates sleep, wakefulness, appetite, digestion, cognitive functions, emotions…pretty much everything you think or feel. So it is great.
If you’ve ever wondered how you feel differently on certain days than others, it’s because your serotonin levels are high or low. On days when you feel “balanced” (emotionally and physically) it’s because of a more focused and stable serotonin response. On the days when you feel more emotional, depressed, or anxious, it is because your serotonin levels are low. This is not the only factor, keep in mind, but like all things in the body, the healthy regulation of these systems is key to improving mental and physical health. Too much serotonin and you could get chills, confusion, headaches, GI upset, high blood pressure… Not a lot of fun. So how do you ensure proper regulation? Well, there is no guarantee that the human brain is a beehive of activity and various chemical and electrical responses, but there are ways to boost production when you’re stumped.
Ways to increase serotonin
this is easy. We all have to do this, and you’re reading a blog from a food maker, so it’s a job next door! Foods that contain particularly high levels of tryptophan such as eggs, cheese, seeds and nuts are good bets when you are looking to boost serotonin production.
Hey, look at that, if you’ve been reading the Quest blog, you’re probably already getting a lot out of this! So keep doing what you’re doing.
Magically, the sun can damage and heal us. Damage from harmful UV rays and radiation heals by producing increased production of serotonin and vitamin D in the body. This is why there are greater numbers of people with seasonal depression in areas that don’t get a lot of sunlight. Try to get at least 20 minutes if you can. And if you combine your exercise with time outdoors, that’s what we call two birds, one stone.
Eat more fiber and probiotics
Hey, hey, another mission wins here. Quest protein bars are full of fiber, which can help fuel the production of healthy gut bacteria, which in turn can lead to an increased production of serotonin in the body. And here you thought you felt satisfied after eating because of the superior macros and great taste…there’s a bit of that too.
Dopamine is another pleasurable chemical that is created in the brain and travels through your nervous system. It helps regulate your ability to learn, motivation, heart rate, sleep, response to pain, movement, and many other things. It is very important. Like all of these neurochemicals, too much or too little dopamine can be harmful to your health. Excessively increased levels can lead to schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, ADHD, and even obesity and weight gain.
This is why fighting for the “perfect body” or “ideal weight” can be so difficult for many people. Additional stress from external sources such as friends, family or the media in general can cause a lowered dopamine response which can lead to depression … which can lead to weight gain. This is why it’s especially important for people not to feel physical shame – even if you think your intentions are good, every body and brain is different. Someone may be naturally gifted as a visual thinker and learner while others are more statistical and analytical. This does not mean that one person learns the wrong way and the other learns the right way, it is just the way the body and chemical makeup handle information processing. In the same way with the response to eating, weight gain, and exercise. Go at your own pace.
Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels
Sure, increased levels of dopamine can lead to serious health problems, but none of the methods here will cause you to suddenly develop schizophrenia. Instead, this is a guide to boosting serotonin production if you’re feeling sluggish or lethargic, especially when it comes to mood or learning response.
Well, well, again, if you’re a Quest, you’re already doing the right things. You usually look for the amino acid Tyrosine. This is common in foods such as beef, eggs, soybeans, legumes, dairy products, and turkey. So, if you’re feeling down, grab a Quest Bar and wait for happiness to materialize in your body…okay, so maybe it doesn’t quite work out that way, but the great taste and nutrition is rewarding enough.
Increase consumption of probiotics
The stomach has been shown to control many brain functions and chemical responses. Having a healthy supply and diversity of gut bacteria helps regulate many of your neurotransmitter responses. And while we’re still only scratching the surface of the extent of the relationship between gut and brain functions, it’s always good to err on the side of thinking they are closely related and to treat them with the same care and concern. This is why you feel hungry, after all.
If you don’t see a common thread between exercise, diet, and mental health…there is it! While rodent studies have been successful in finding an association between exercise and increased dopamine production, the response in humans has not yet been fully correlated. But with so many neurotransmitter chemicals released from regular exercise, build on this knowledge and try to get 20-30 minutes of sweating and increase your heart rate any way you can.
The most common neurotransmitter, which you will not hear about like the previous ones. However, glutamate is just as important when it comes to early brain development, cognition, memory, and learning. Which is ironic, because it’s the memory neurotransmitter that most people forget (Ba Dom, TSS).
Unlike the others mentioned, glutamate lives in the brain and spine – however glutamate is associated with metabolism. Specifically when it comes to how dietary proteins are broken down into amino acids. As a chemical messenger, it relays information to different parts of your brain.
Where it is useful is as glutamic acid – this is when glutamate is converted into an amino acid that carries information through your synapses. Think of it as a means of transporting neurons. But since glutamate can be dangerous at high levels, it is important that the neurons in your brain actually consume glutamate, which is what regulates levels in your body.
Increased levels of glutamate can lead to adverse conditions and diseases such as headaches, high blood pressure, obesity, and even increased sensitivity to pain or intolerance to pain. So while it might seem cool not to have a pain response like some kind of superhero, it’s also been linked to severe anxiety, depression, stress, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or mental illnesses like bipolar disorder…a problem. Fortunately, it can be synthesized in the body, so you do not need to look for it from outside sources, but it is abundant in most protein-rich foods.
Ways to naturally regulate glutamate levels
It is simply there – as mentioned before, glutamate is consumed by neurons, so if your brain is operating at baseline, there is no need to look for ways to regulate. However, if you have excessive levels of glutamate, try these other, more active options.
Look at the pattern again behind his head. We are bipedal creatures designed to move, forage, and build. As much as our modern society tries to limit us to screens and vehicles, use those legs and limbs to get the blood flowing!
Drink soothing tea
Drinking soothing tea blends such as chamomile, ginger tea, and tea with taurine have beneficial effects for regulating glutamate levels. Long story short, teas and supplements can stimulate GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid – an amino acid that is also a neurotransmitter/chemical). GABA blocks or restricts glutamate when there is an excess of it in your body – which can cause stress or anxiety. So GABA keeps glutamate in check, so the next time you’re feeling anxious, you can blame GABA for not doing its job.
The last neurotransmitter we’ll look at is Norepinephrine – not only a neurotransmitter, it’s also a stress hormone. This means that it affects mood, stress, and focus. Therefore, when you are particularly stimulated or stressed, it is because your body is making higher levels of norepinephrine. But just because it can indicate these impulses does not mean that they are all bad. It’s also what wakes you up and communicates your body’s intent to move. So when you exercise or move around, it’s because of this neurotransmitter (among many other things).
Excessive levels of norepinephrine are what can lead to conditions such as ADHD, so it is important to keep the levels in balance. If you feel sluggish or lethargic, there are several natural ways to increase levels in your body…but I think you’ll know what they are before I write it.
It’s as if protein is essential to human existence (because it is!). You know you can always grab your favorite Quest snack when you’re feeling low on energy, but meat, poultry, and nuts are also a great source for boosting your levels.
Finally, one not to exercise! Sleep is the most important function of the human body. It’s where your internal organs do the most work and act as a powerful reset for the mind and body. It’s also when you start feeling the effects of the next item on the list…
Again, you can see that people who move around regularly have a better organized system in terms of neurotransmitters and mood. It is crucial to make sure that you get a 20-30 minute heart rate increase for many reasons. It helps in the functioning of your lung systems to improve blood circulation and increase oxygen to your brain, making you more alert and aware. All of this can be attributed to the neurotransmitters that are released in your body, and norepinephrine is just as important as the others.