Published: May 23, 2017
Picture it: You're in a stressful situation. Your heart begins to race. Your hands moisten with sweat. You start looking for a way out. Welcome to a textbook case of the "fight-or-flight response," brought to you by--you guessed it--adrenaline (aka epinephrine).
The benefits of adrenaline--produced in adrenal glands as well as some of the neurons in the central nervous system--go beyond the fact that it's a crucial part of the body's safety system. When your body decides it's time to dump adrenaline into your bloodstream, you enjoy a heightened state of physical and mental alertness with lots of knock-on benefits. Indeed, adrenaline is a very healthy hormone to be on good terms with. Here's what it can do for you:
Adrenaline Enriches Your Blood And Gets It Where It's Needed.
When your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, your air passages dilate. Evolutionarily, this provides your muscles with the high levels of oxygen they need to either take on the enemy or get the flying frigate out of there. The hormone also triggers blood vessels to contract in a way that redirects blood toward the major muscle groups that will be called upon to save your hide.
Adrenaline Gives You Superhuman Pain Resistance.
Adrenaline also helps knock down your body's ability to sense pain. That's why you're able to keep on running from danger, fighting bears or chatting up the cute paramedic while you're sporting a gnarly injury. Your body really, really wants to stay alive, and the perception of pain would get in the way of that noble goal--so your adrenaline gets between your brain and the injury. Once the hormone has run its course, you're going to need that ice pack--but in the moment, adrenaline will have your back.
Adrenaline Unlocks Your Absolute Maximum Strength (for A Few Moments, At Least).
Want strength? Want performance? Want tippity-top awareness? Great news: Adrenaline will shove some your way. We've all heard the stories of little soccer moms heaving Volvos from their children in the aftermath of a car wreck, but the core of the story is absolutely true: adrenaline silences the part of the inner monologue that says "it's very unlikely that you're going to be able to lift that mid-sized SUV." Result: you might be able to leap past your usual boundaries. After the initial stress has abated, the Hulky benefits of adrenaline can last for up to an hour.
Your biceps aren't the only body parts to benefit. Your eyes, too, get a level-up. Because the hormone's evolutionary intention is to prime your body to react to a threat, your pupils dilate when they get a pop of adrenaline. When your pupils expand, you'll find your vision improves, because you've essentially allowed in more light.
Adrenaline Increases Your Brain's Lifting Power, Too.
Without an on-point brain, all that physical power isn't very helpful. Luckily, one of the benefits of adrenaline is that it gets its hormonal hands on that grey matter, too. When the bloodstream is pumping with adrenaline, the brain is oxygenated, fully engaged, laser focused and set up to knock down cognitive tasks much more efficiently.
The state of optimum vigilance and heightened excitement that's brought on by a surge of adrenaline often remains long after the stimulus is out of the picture. Science calls this afterglow the "excitation transfer process." It intensifies your feelings and generally leaves you wanting another spike to come along.
Adrenaline Can Pump Up Your Immune System (and Even Slow Down The Aging Process).
There's no question that chronic stress is more of a problem than a solution. When the hormone is released in small doses, however, for just short durations, the benefits of adrenaline can be surprisingly positive. Intermittent moments of high alert can boost your immune system because of the body's fight-or-flight attack response levels you up against microbial attack as well as attack by house spiders and imaginary wolves. It improves your ability to fight off infections (at least temporarily) and increases the number of antioxidants circulating in your system, combating the free radicals that cause aging and tissue damage.
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