Motivate Me
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The real challenge for all of us is to get to the gym

Most diet pills promise you�ll lose weight without breaking a sweat, which always makes me nervous. But here�s a new concept: a pill that makes you want to exercise. It�s not a pill yet, but scientists found when they injected high amounts of a hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO, mice became more active.

You may know EPO as a performance enhancing drug banned by sports governing bodies including the Olympic Games and the Tour de France. Athletes are attracted to EPO because the hormone can increase red blood cells in the bloodstream, giving the body more oxygen, which equates to better performance.

EPO is naturally produced by cells in the kidney that can sense when oxygen levels start to dip. EPO binds with receptors in the bone marrow, where it stimulates red blood cell production. Even though our bodies make EPO, more of it is risky.

In the past fifteen years, eighteen cyclists have died suddenly in their sleep from using EPO. Injected in repeated small doses, too many red blood cells can end up in the bloodstream, thickening it and clogging capillaries. The risks are stroke and heart attack. Athletes are more vulnerable since they tend to become dehydrated, further thickening the blood.

However, researchers found that instead of repeated small doses, when given in acute high doses, EPO crosses the blood brain barrier and helped mice run better, even though it did not boost red blood cell production. This meant EPO acted as a brain hormone that motivated the mice to exercise more, without changing its physiology.

If proven safe, EPO can help people who are obese and quicken recovery for people rebuilding muscle mass after a long illness.


For more information…

✔ Science May Soon Give Us Pills That Make Us Exercise
Wired Magazine — "Swiss researchers have discovered that elevating the amount of erythropoietin, a hormone more commonly known as Epo, in the brains of mice led them to be more active. What�s more, it did so without causing the erythropoiesis, or elevated red blood cell counts, that typically occurs when epo is used to boost performance."

✔ The Doping-Drug Epo Has an Impact in the Brain
ScienceDaily — "Sportsmen and women have been known to dope with the blood hormone Epo to enhance their performance. Researchers from the University of Zurich have now discovered, through animal testing, that Epo has a performance-enhancing effect in the brain shortly after an injection by improving oxygen transport in blood. As Epo also increases motivation, it could be useful in treating depression, experts say."

✔ Erythropoietin Abuse and Detection in Athletes
A fairly technical article on Epo abuse in sports.

✔ Acute and chronic elevation of erythropoietin in the brain improves exercise performance in mice without inducing erythropoiesis
The original FASEB journal article by Swiss scientist Beat Schuler and colleagues.