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The Science of Motivation: Your Brain on Dopamine

The Science of Motivation: Your Brain on Dopamine

Ever wondered if there is something you can take to get yourself more motivated? We’re sure most guys wished that pill in the movie Limitless was real. However, you would be surprised to find that yes, there are natural means of increasing motivation and drive. All can be done through manipulation of a simple neurotransmitter called dopamine.

The Neurotransmitter Dopamine

Dopamine is part of the catecholamines group of neurotransmitters in the brain that promotes feelings of focus, enjoyment and wellbeing. When you do pleasurable things, like eating chocolates or having sex, dopamine levels rise.


Feeling motivated is one of the major functions promoted by dopamine. This neurotransmitter is not just about making you feel happy. It also gives you drive to achieve and perform.

Dopamine takes many different pathways to get you motivated. One of these is the mesolimbic pathway. Within this pathway are many receptors that dopamine can act on to increase your focus and give you the drive to do something about a given situation.

For instance, dopamine can accumulate within the nucleus acumbens. This signals the brain that an event is about to happen, which can either be good or bad. This triggers the rest of the brain to develop a plan or a decision to act on that event or to the circumstances leading to that event.

Influencing concentration and focus are also one of dopamine’s many abilities. Enhanced concentration is characterized by having the right combination of different neurotransmitters and hormones within the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Of this mix, dopamine plays a central role. This is why people experience greater concentration and focus when they are doing the things that they enjoy the most. Working out, for example, can be a mental game and if you need that additional push, you need a good dopamine boost.

What happens when you have low dopamine levels?

Low dopamine levels can have serious negative impact. Some of these are:

  • Low motivation
  • Increased tendency to procrastinate
  • Inability to feel pleasure or joy
  • Memory loss
  • Lethargy
  • Increased fatigue
  • Low sex drive

These can be corrected by improving dopamine levels. You may eat foods rich in dopamine precursors (Tyrosine & L-Dopa) or take supplements that boost dopamine production.

Tyrosine and Dopamine

Tyrosine is a type of essential amino acid. It is a precursor of dopamine. If you have more tyrosine in the body, the body has more ingredients to use in producing more dopamine. This amino acid is directly converted to the compound L-dopa which is then used to produce dopamine.

Eating foods high in this amino acid is one simple yet effective way to boost dopamine levels. Some good food sources include:

  • Avocado
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Watermelon
  • Green tea
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Almonds
  • Chocolate
  • Fava beans (contains L-Dopa)
  • Animal products such as milk, cheese and meats


Mucuna pruriens

This supplement is often called “velvet bean.” It is one of nature’s few sources of pure L-dopa, which the body directly converts into dopamine and other neurotransmitters within the group catecholamines.

Mucuna pruriens also stimulates GHRH and growth hormone releasing hormone. These hormones are released by the hypothalamus to stimulate growth hormone production.

One study found that extended treatment periods of L-dopa (found in mucuna pruriens) influence the pituitary gland. Triggering the release of luteinizing hormone, resulting in increased testosterone production.

Dopamine, Growth Hormones and Testosterone

Several studies found that dopamine isn’t just a feel good hormone. It also promotes high levels of growth hormone and testosterone. This increase is mainly due to the enhanced expression of gonadotropin-releasing hormone messenger RNA (GnRH mRNA). This gives a direct signal to the testes to produce more testosterone. This is likely the reason why having higher dopamine results in enhanced libido.

The Effects of Porn

Many people think that watching porn can enhance libido in the long run. Quite the opposite is true.

Porn changes brain plasticity and affects the sensitivity of dopamine receptors. This is why the more porn a person watches, the less sexual desire and satisfaction they feel from less stimulation. The brain acquires a new taste for virtual sex and becomes less responsive to arousal from real people.

This can eventually lead to erectile dysfunction and less pleasurable experience from real sex.

The Effects of Cold Exposure

Cold has a good effect on dopamine levels. Try having a cold shower and you will most likely feel a mental buzz afterwards. Studies have demonstrated that taking cold showers may even help in the treatment of depression.

It stimulates the dopamine pathways within the brain, specifically the mesocorticolimbic and the nigrostriatal pathways. They are closely linked to the areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotions. In other words, cold showers can even help in improving emotional health.


Dopamine is a vital neurotransmitter in the body. It does much more than just making you feel good, it is also responsible for keeping you motivated in life, improving concentration and focus.

Interestingly dopamine also affects the production and release of testosterone and growth hormones. Effectively helping to improve mood and performance through many different pathways.

In addition to eating food that can help boost work out performance, you should also aim to boost dopamine levels by eating foods that support its production, such as tyrosine-rich foods and supplements.



Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out www.anabolichealth.com to learn more about Alex and his work. You can also find him on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.