Gut Psychology: Gut Health and Muscle Building

Gut Psychology: Gut Health and Muscle Building

By: Dr. Nicole Cain | No Comment | Uncategorized

For fitness experts, neurotransmitters are the name of the game.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that communicate between your brain and body. Neurotransmitters control every single cell, tissue, and system and therefore optimizing the control center for your body is essential in helping you achieve your fitness goals.

If you are looking to build your muscles, and increase your strength than you need know about the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). The neuromuscular junction is where your neurotransmitters communicate to your muscles. Every time you flex or use a muscle in your body, your brain is sending neural input to that muscle through chemical messengers from your central nervous system (CNS) at the NMJ. The healthier your CNS is, the more efficient your NMJ will operate and this will result in even more powerful muscle performance. This means quicker easier workouts resulting in bigger, stronger muscles.

So how do we increase the brain’s signals to your muscles? We increase the health of our CNS by starting with the gut.

Quick Fact: Did you know that you have over 100 million neurons in your gut that regulate your digestion and communicate with your brain?

Gut Psychology is the most empirically studied dietary program that focuses on the gut brain axis. Let’s talk about some of the Gut Psychology findings as they relate to your neurotransmitters and muscle fitness:

  1. Norepinephrine
  2. Dopamine
  3. Serotonin
  4. Acetylcholine

Neurotransmitters and Your Gut

Your gut produces neurotransmitters based on its health and bacterial composition. The gut then in turn stimulates the brain, which dictates how your brain produces its own neurotransmitters. This drives the information that is sent to every single cell in your body.

Research 1 has shown that imbalances in your gut flora, called dysbiosis, alter the information your gut sends to your brain. Let’s look at how some of the top players in particular are affected, and what you can do about it.


This is an energizing neurotransmitter that increases blood flow, glucose, and oxygen to your muscles. Without norepinephrine your muscles will not get the nutrients they need to help you power through those rigorous workouts.

Norepinephrine and the gut: If your gut is out of balance, your muscles are not going to get as efficient and powerful information from the brain as possible. This will result in your muscles to get insufficient amounts of energy and you might experience difficulties in building muscle mass, experiencing easy fatigue, and shorter endurance times.


Dopamine is one of the most underutilized tools in muscle building. Dopamine is a powerful influencer of the muscle building hormone testosterone through the hypothalamic pituitary axis. Dopamine encourages new muscle growth, increases motivation, energy, libido, and is a fundamental ingredient in the battle of the mind over matter. Getting your dopamine on board will help not only increase your drive to achieve your wellness and fitness goals, but dopamine is central to balancing your hormones and performance.

Dopamine and the gut: Did you know that dopamine is produced in your gut? In the gut, dopamine acts as a signaling molecule that coordinates contractions in the muscles of the small intestines. If your gut is out of balance, dopamine levels will change, this will interfere with your mood, hormones, digestion, motivation, performance and more.


It is no secret that serotonin is foundational in affecting your mood. But what you might not know is that serotonin is a key neurotransmitter in muscle contraction 2. Serotonin promotes growth of your skeletal muscles and optimal concentrations of this powerful neurotransmitter are key in enhancing your fitness performance.

Serotonin and the gut: 95% of your serotonin is made in your gut and just as we talked about with the other neurotransmitters and your gut, if your digestion is compromised, so will your serotonin levels. Serotonin’s functions go beyond regulation of your mood and concentration. Serotonin is also involved in in repairing damaged cells in your tissues and is a key component of post work-out recovery. Signs that you may need a serotonin re-boot include: digestive upset, depression, weight gain, body aches and pains, low energy, and anxiety.


Acetylcholine is one of the most important neurotransmitters as it relates to fitness. Acetylcholine is an excitatory neurotransmitter and stimulates muscle contraction, dilates blood vessels and regulates your heart in it’s pumping of fresh blood and oxygen to every single cell in your body. Acetylcholine enables you to walk, run, lift weights, and everything in between.

Acetylcholine and the gut: Balanced acetylcholine levels are foundational in maintaining the necessary balance of your body’s neurochemical function. Optimizing your acetylcholine will give you that edge you’ve been looking for in achieving peak fitness performance. You can help your body produce acetylcholine by consuming more fermented foods, for example: sauerkraut and kimchi.

Putting It All Together

We have learned that the gut communicates to the brain and impacts how the brain communicates to the rest of your body. This is the foundation of the Gut Psychology program. Healthy gut = healthy mind. A healthy mind is the foundation you need. By healing your gut, you are setting the stage for better energy, more powerful performance, quicker recovery times, and the body you desire.

Here are some tips for improving your gut health:

  1. Garbage in = garbage out: Our digestive flora is impacted by what you eat. If you take in proinflammatory foods, artificial flavors, preservatives, trans fats, and other harmful ingredients, your gut health will be compromised. Remove the obstacles to your fitness goals by taking the garbage out of your diet.
  2. Give your body what it needs: Our gut thrives on healthy nutrition and a balanced pH. Focus on foods that are from the periphery of the grocery store. Consume nutrient dense fruits, and vegetables. High quality fat and protein is also key.
  3. Hydration: Hydration increases circulation, which increases nutrient delivery to the cells of your body, and flushes out metabolic waste. Make sure the beverages you consume are free from food dyes, preservatives and chemicals. Also ensure that you are getting in a balance of electrolytes including magnesium, potassium, chloride and sodium. Also consider pH when selecting your beverages.

To learn more about how to heal your gut to help you achieve peak performance, go to or download the Gut Psychology program on Amazon or Kindle.

To purchase the Gut Psychology Program, click here

To learn more about Dr. Nicole Cain, ND, MA and her work, click here


(1) Ann Gastroenterol. 2015 Apr-Jun; 28(2): 203–209. PMCID: PMC4367209 The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems Marilia Carabotti,a Annunziata Scirocco,a Maria Antonietta Maselli,b and Carola Severia. Retrieved from:

(2) Effects of serotonin on skeletal muscle growth Suchismita Chandran,corresponding author1 Tingqing Guo,1 Teresa Tolliver,1 Weiping Chen,2 Dennis L Murphy,3 and Alexandra C McPherron1. Retrieved from:


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