What is dopamine and how does it affect athletic performance?

James Witts explains the role the hormone dopamine plays in your body

Why dopamine is more than just the 'happy hormone'

You might know dopamine as the ‘happy hormone’ but it’s much more than that. Dopamine plays a key role in the thermoregulatory centre of your brain, which is why changes in dopamine concentrations have been shown to affect core temperature regulation during exercise. This is key because, although studies into endurance exercise in normal ambient temperatures show no significant skew over the placebo, at 25°C or above performance is improved with a dopamine hit.


 “One aspect that’s overlooked in sports nutrition is the dopamine effect,” says Tim Lawson, the brains behind nutritional outfit Secret Training. “Research shows that it can elicit a positive impact on endurance performance.”


Dopamine’s synthesised in the body so you can’t simply consume a gel of dopamine. However, there are foods and supplements that’ll boost dopamine levels. These include the amino acids L-theanine and tyrosine, fish oil and the phospholipid ‘phoshatidylserine’, found in cell membranes. Expect gels that not only provide an energy hit but also play around with neurotransmitters to become ever-more popular on the market