Getting High On Your Own Supply (Matt)

The title of this article—“Getting ‘High’ On Your Own Supply”—is attractive enough in itself to get many young people’s attention. The author starts by saying that part of “runner’s high” (the euphoria one feels after running for a long period of time) comes from the effects of endocannabinoids: “the body’s counterpart to some of marijuana’s mood-enhancing chemicals.” For decades, researchers and runners alike have claimed that this feeling comes from endorphins. While endorphin molecules do work to numb muscles, its molecule is too large to be transferred from the blood to the brain in order to spur the “high” feeling. It is important to note, though, that endocannabinoids are not solely responsible for the high, it is rather a concoction of chemicals that work harmoniously to make you feel “stoned”.

Endocannabinoids

The first is of course, the endocannabinoid. It activates the same chemical receptors as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—one of the psychoactive drugs in cannabis (hence the name). The body produces endocannabinoids when nerves are activated by stress or pain. They travel to the source neuron that is sending out the signals and dampens its effects.

Endorphins

The second molecule is the endorphin. Just as the THC in marijuana affects the body’s cannabinoid receptors, heroin and morphine affect the body’s opioid receptors. Endorphins are the body’s natural chemical counterparts to these intoxicating drugs. “Endorphins” covers a very broad range of molecules that perform a wide variety of tasks such as respond to exercise, meditation, tattooing, or even eating spicy food (which actually causes a small amount of tissue damage to which endorphins work to dampen the effects of). Scientists have proven that endorphins are not the only culprit for the intoxicating effects, because when endorphin production is blocked with naloxone, the subject’s mood still improved. This has led scientists to believe that the feeling comes more from a “neurohormonal cocktail” as John Raglin of Indiana University Bloomington states.

Enkephalins

Next is the enkephalin, a chemical sometimes categorized under the broad dome of endorphins. These tend to bind to opioid receptors, but not the exact receptors that endorphins do. Enkephalins are usually only released in the presence of acute pain, not things like meditation or spicy food. It is believed that enkephalins merely numb the pain before endorphins go in for the kill and impose their intoxicating effects. Enkephalins simply take a small role in the complex process of the body’s pain-dampening processes.

Dopamine

Lastly is dopamine. Dopamine is a bit special in that its relation to pleasure-making is primarily centered around the reward of doing such an act, not the actually doing of the act. It makes you anticipate a reward and if the expected results precipitate, then it helps link the action with the reward. A surplus, although, does not mean high effects of pleasure, but rather can lead to paranoia and diseases such as schizophrenia. Subjects with an overactive dopamine system have been found to have many of these diseases. So in moderation, its work in the “runner’s high” equation is to link the feeling of pleasure (created by the mixture of all the other chemicals) with the act of exercising or working out.

“Long before we humans discovered the blissful effects of cannabis or the addictive sleep of morphine, our distant evolutionary ancestors were already evolving complex internal systems for regulating pain and managing mood. When we use, or abuse, drugs that activate these receptors, we’re tapping into systems that have already been humming along for millions of years, serving up relaxation and dampening agony when we need help the most. As we continue to learn more about our bodies’ diverse toolkit of endogenous pain relievers and psychoactive chemicals — many of which are still poorly understood — we gain a better understanding of the ways these systems work. That way, we can get better at turning on a natural high right when we need one, delivered for free by the cutting-edge manufacturing equipment in our own muscles, bones and brains.”

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Simple, Healthy Eating

Today’s craze is some new version of the old diet & exercise. Paleo, Nutrisystem, Cross-Fit, running marathons–you name it and we’ve got it! But it’s just too hard these days with work, school, kids, family, and friends. It’s really easy though because you don’t have to eat a salad every day, you just have to eat consciously! Here are my key tips on tracking calories, balancing macronutrients, avoiding sodium & additives, and avoiding processing:


CALORIES

A lot of health conscious people use some kind of calorie tracker–this is the first step. If you can get comfortable with a set caloric amount each day, you’ll 1 – teach your body to adapt to a calorie deficit (therefore forcing it to burn fat) and 2 – learn how to eat in a way that fills you up on low-calorie foods which further helps to burn fat.

I use an app called “Lose it!”, which is available on Android and iPhone, that can track calories and macros easily.

MACRONUTRIENTS

Balancing “macros”, as it’s abbreviated, is crucial to taking the next step. There are a lot of macro-balancing charts out there, but I’ll simplify it for you. If you can balance all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) at about one third (33%) each of your daily diet, you’ll be doing well. For those who have a faster metabolism, you can afford a few more carbs; and for those who are a little on the heavy side, try to avoid carbs–this balancing will help you lose some extra fat.

An important note on this balancing is understanding what foods are what. Meats, eggs, and beans are common proteins. Nuts and plant oils are great, healthy (unsaturated) fats, while beef and eggs provide common animal fats. Basically everything else is a carbohydrate: bread, potatoes, rice, chips, oats, grains, brownies, cookies, etc.

The biggest evil in all the macros are the copious amounts of sugar in soft drinks and sweets around today–watch these because one single bottle of coca-cola can be upwards of 60-70 grams of sugar/carbs. This can ruin your macro balancing, but also there are some notes on this kind of sugar–see below.

SODIUM & ADDITIVES

The next thing is unnecessarily added ingredients. We are supposed to eat natural ingredients, not things that were cooked up in the lab (listen I’m the first one to push science further, but unnatural food will make you unnatural).

Firstly, sodium. The American Heart Association’s daily recommended amount of sodium for a healthy human being is 2,300 milligrams (mg). Keep in mind sodium is found in salt, artificial spices, and in lots of prepared meats (as preservatives). Some might think 2,300 mg of sodium would be easy to keep, but this amount is equivalent to just one teaspoon of table salt (which is about 40% sodium). So really try to avoid salt, extra spices, and unneeded processing, which I’ll come to in just a minute. If you can get reduced sodium, always get it–we know all the heart problems with excess sodium (high blood pressure and heart disease. Also, consuming a lot of potassium can counteract the sodium.

Secondly, artificial sweeteners and such. All kinds of artificial additives can make otherwise healthy food ruined. Aspartame and other “artificial sweeteners” 1 – can cause cancer and 2 – are treated by your body just the same as sugar, but it doesn’t count towards sugars or carbohydrates on the nutrition label. Diet & zero-calorie drinks have these, which are actually worse than regular sugar. Other additives like nitrates and nitrites are horrible for your body–try not to buy foods that include these.

PROCESSING

Lastly, we will discuss something more abstract than limiting sodium, balancing macros, or counting calories. Avoiding processing requires understanding what processing is: apples are unprocessed, apple pie is more processed, apple sauce is even more processed. Think of processing like middlemen in retail–a product starts out at $4, then the middle man sells it for $7.50, then the final retail store sells the product (that only costs $4 originally) for $10. Each step in the processing process adds sugars, sodium, preservatives, and additives to keep it “good” by the next sell. Always think to yourself, what was this food originally? When you eat an apple, you can tell it was picked from a tree. When you eat queso cheese dip, you think this is cheese, made from milk, that came from a cow–that’s processing.