I’m not gonna lie. I’m not the athletic type. In fact, way back when I was about 40 pounds heavier, exercise wiped me out. I remember being awe of my college friends who had tons and tons of energy after they worked out. In the meanwhile, I laid there like a zombie because I was so sore.
But, one summer, I decided to take up running. And, I kept at it even though the first couple weeks I felt dead tired afterwards. Then, all of sudden, I started to feel what my friends felt.
I was in a better mood after I ran. I had a gigantic smile on my face. I felt calmer. And, I wasn’t in pain afterwards. Really, I felt like I was on top of the world.
I finally experienced the Runner’s High. The Runner’s High is that incredibly happy feeling you get at the peak of your workout.
Now, for the longest time it’s been believed that the Runner’s High is due to chemicals in our bodies called Endorphins. So, what are Endorphins? The word Endorphin is made up of 2 words: endogenous and morphine. Endogenous means within – so in this case within the body – and Morphine is a type of Opioid. So, basically, Endorphins are like Opioids that we naturally make and they interact with the Opioid receptors in our bodies.
But, recent research challenges the notion that it’s the Endorphins that causes the Runner’s High. And, instead suggests the Runner’s High may actually be due to Endocannabinoids.
So, Endocannabinoids are the human body’s version of the chemicals that the marijuana plant makes. Yup. the human body makes the same chemicals that the marijuana plant makes.
For example, the marijuana plant makes THC. And, the human body makes anandamide. You can think of anandamide like THC’s twin.
Alright let’s dive into the research I referred to bit earlier.
In the study, the scientists had a bunch of mice run on wheels.
After their runs, they found that the mice were less anxious. And, I’m sure you’re wondering how the heck they measured a mouse’s anxiety levels. It’s based on how often the mouse decides to hide from well-lit areas to dark areas.
The mice also had a higher tolerance to pain. And, this was measured by their tendency to jump or lick their paws when placed on a hot plate.
You can say that these mice experienced the Runner’s High.
There was another very important component to this research.
In one set of mice the scientists blocked the endorphin receptors. And, in another the scientists blocked cannabinoid receptors. Here’s the logic behind doing this. When you block the Endorphin receptors, the Cannabinoid receptors are still at work. When you block the Cannabinoid receptors, the Endorphin receptors are still working.
Blocking just the endorphin receptors didn’t change much. Because, the Cannabinoid receptors were still at work. But, in the mice that were given cannabinoid blockers, they were just as anxious and sensitive to pain at the end of their run as they were at the beginning of their run. Even though the Endorphin receptors were still working.
This goes to show that endorphins may not be the end-all, be-all. And, the Runner’s High that you experience may in fact be a Marijuana-Like High.