Trait overview: Adrenaline baseline level

Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Author Alex Auld

Trait overview: Adrenaline baseline level

You’ve probably heard of adrenaline before. A scary movie, loud music and intense exercise are all often described as ‘getting the adrenaline pumping’.

Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) is the body’s “fight or flight” hormone. It prepares us to encounter (fight) or escape (flight) a threatening situation.

To promote this response, adrenaline has the following effects on our biological systems:

-   Increased heart rate and blood pressure to supply oxygen and nutrients to working muscles.

-   Dilation of blood vessels to increase blood flow to working muscles.

-   Dilation of airways to allow for greater consumption of oxygen.

-   Increase in available blood glucose through the breakdown of glycogen.

-   Increase in muscle strength by increasing the force of muscle fiber contraction.

-   Dilation of pupils to allow more light into our eyes.


Adrenaline and exercise

Clearly, many of the above effects of adrenaline are also advantageous for exercise. As a result, we release adrenaline whenever we workout. Exercise-induced increases in adrenaline rise with the:

a) intensity and duration of the exercise

b) training status of the individual

Generally speaking, the longer or more intense the workout, the greater the rise in adrenaline levels, while trained athletes show greater rises in adrenaline during exercise compared to untrained individuals.

Some research also suggests that trained athletes have higher baseline levels of adrenaline as part of a long-term adaptation to training.


How is adrenaline produced and used?

Adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands, which sit just above each kidney and are also responsible for producing other hormones, including cortisol, testosterone and estrogen.

Within the adrenal glands, the amino acid tyrosine is consecutively converted by various enzymes into three different intermediary molecules (L-DOPA, dopamine and noradrenaline) before it is finally converted into adrenaline. 

After it has been produced and released by the adrenal glands, adrenaline exerts its effects by binding to receptors on the surfaces of cells known as adrenergic receptors.

Once it has served its purpose, adrenaline is broken down by enzymes, including COMT and MAO. Together, these enzymes convert adrenaline into a molecule called vanillylmandelic acid (VMA).


The Adrenaline: Baseline Level trait

Being aware of your baseline adrenaline level is important as it influences how quickly you can raise adrenaline levels required to enhance exercise performance. However, long-term elevations of adrenaline may make you more susceptible to stress, anxiety and high blood pressure. It therefore becomes a matter of managing your adrenaline to balance the performance and health benefits.

The FitnessGenes adrenaline: baseline level trait predicts your resting levels of adrenaline based on analysis of genetic variants that influence: 

Adrenaline production

Your PNMT gene encodes the PNMT enzyme, which is responsible for converting noradrenaline into adrenaline. Genetic variants which result in greater activity of the PNMT enzyme therefore allow for increased production of adrenaline and higher baseline levels.

Adrenaline clearance

Your COMT gene encodes the COMT enzyme, which is one of the enzymes responsible for clearing adrenaline. Genetic variants which result in reduced activity of the COMT enzyme may therefore lead to the reduced breakdown of adrenaline, leading to higher baseline levels of the hormone.

Calculated using a combination of these genetic variants, your adrenaline: baseline level trait will categorise you in one of two separate trait bands: low and high.

Recommended actions to help those with low adrenaline baseline level may include consuming quality sources of tyrosine, whilst managing caffeine intake and increasing sleep quality will help those with high baseline levels.


Discover your personal trait

Discover whether you have low or high baseline adrenaline levels, as well as your adrenaline response in the separate adrenaline: acute response trait, by unlocking your unique genetic code with the FitnessGenes DNA analysis.

Already have genetic data from providers including 23andMe or Receive same-day access to your adrenaline: baseline level trait with the FitnessGenes DNA Upload.

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