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Can You Really Get High on Sweat?

e’ve all felt it — that euphoria you get after clipping in. But what’s happening in your body when you feel high on sweat? Can that post-SOUL glow have lasting effects on your health? We talked to Dr. Brian Levine, practice director at CRRM New York, to get the scoop.

Why do you feel “high on sweat” after a workout?
The proverbial "workout high" is thought to be the result of the body's natural opioids – a.k.a. endorphins – flooding the body.

What are endorphins, anyway?
Endorphins are brain-derived hormones that are secreted by the pituitary gland and reach all tissues in the body. Their effect is tissue-dependent – i.e. in the brain they have an effect on psyche and in muscle they have an effect on pain perception.

OK, so we know endorphins feel good. But are they actually doing anything good for you?
Endorphins are incredibly powerful hormones! There are several well-studied psychological and physiological changes, including mood state changes, where they can work like antidepressants to improve your mood; exercise-induced euphoria, where athletes describe getting a second wind and altered pain perception, where a bothersome joint all of a sudden is a distant memory.

Endorphins help athletes push harder and work out stronger. In fact, the classic "fight-or-flight" response triggers endorphins, which is why some people have demonstrated near super-human strength in some of the most extreme physical challenges.

How long does that endorphin rush typically last?
Before figuring out how long an endorphin rush can last, it's important to know that it takes nearly 15 minutes of hard exercise, defined as a person reaching 70 percent of their VO2 Max [VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use] for at least 15 minutes before there is a demonstrable increase in endorphins.

With that said, just like everyone's VO2 Max is different, so too is their tolerance and duration of endorphin effect. Most people will feel the "workout high" for at least 60 minutes post-workout, but others claim that working out in the morning can cause a reproducible and predictable change in their mood for the entire workday.

Are there any long-term benefits?
Beyond the health benefits of working out harder and longer, endorphins themselves have great benefits in helping improve mood stabilization, sleep quality and overall recovery post workout. Although there has been research for more than 30 years about the body's own opium, new research is still being done on what else they can do for us!

Feeling inspired to ride? Grab a series HERE. The information presented is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis or recommended treatments. Please take an individual approach and consult your physician on which exercise choice is best for you.
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