What is Homeostasis?

Homeostasis refers to any process or reaction that the body utilizes to actively maintain a constant internal environment. These efforts to maintain balance are necessary for survival and in athletes, they are necessary for optimal performance.  Here are the primary areas where homeostasis is required to restore balance for athletes:


Body Temperature

Heat is a product of the body converting food into energy during exercise. The extra heat can cause body temperature to rise. Body temperature is also affected by external factors such as air temperature. To maintain homeostasis in a human, temperature should be around 98.6 degrees. Sweat is the body’s natural cooling system. It works when blood vessels in the skin allow more blood flow to the surface of the body where it disperses heat. The respiratory system also pitches in by allowing the body to breathe out warm air.

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Respiratory Rate

During physical exertion, the body needs to maintain a constant supply of oxygen in the cells to support the working muscles. This could require 15 to 25 percent more oxygen, than when the muscles are in a resting state. A normal resting respiratory rate is between 60-100 bpm, but elevated significantly with exercise. This is why it is common to breathe more rapidly during a workout session. If respiratory rate could not properly adjust to fulfill the required amount of oxygen, fainting could be the result.

Heart Rate  

During a workout, the muscles being used require additional oxygen. In order to make this happen, hormones are released to signal heart rate to increase. Oxygenated blood is delivered to muscles where it is needed. The range for an athlete’s normal resting heart rate can be as low as 28 to 40 beats per minute because the heart is conditioned to pump blood efficiently. People who are less active tend to have a higher resting heart rate because the heart is less conditioned.

Blood Pressure

During exercise, nutrient and energy delivery needs to be executed at an increased rate. This causes blood pressure to rise. Changes in blood pressure are routinely made to direct appropriate amounts of oxygen and nutrients to specific parts of the body. During exercise additional oxygen will need to be supplied to skeletal muscles so blood delivery to these muscles is increased. The blood pressure of an athlete is typically lower than that of a sedentary person.  



Sleep Cycles

Sleep – Wake Homeostasis is based on the body’s need for rest, dependant upon factors such as time elapsed between sleep cycles, external factors such as light (circadian rhythm) and energy expenditure. Athletes often have a difficult time balancing homeostatic drive for sleep. This is the result of the body’s need for rest after exertion. Naps during the middle of the day, and traveling into different time zones are factors that can throw off sleep cycles, resulting in poor performance.

Fluid Levels

The body requires water to maintain normal temperature and blood volume. The average adult human body is 50-65% water and depends on that make-up to activate survival tactics when things get tough. This is one of the reasons dehydration tactics for making weight in combat sports has become more regulated. Decreasing fluid intake can also decrease blood volume. This can cause the body to overheat. It can impair muscle strength and endurance. And ultimately, decreased alertness in crucial moments.

Blood Glucose Levels

Energy exertion during workout can cause blood glucose levels to drop. The body then breaks down carbohydrates into glucose to send energy where it is needed. This glucose is the “fuel” needed so that fighters don’t “gas” (AKA – get extremely fatigued) inside the cage. Making sure the right nutrients are being put in the body will help to maintain a state of homeostasis.

Potentially Beneficial Ways to Improve Homeostasis

The body typically does a good job of regulating itself and obtaining homeostasis. General health is crucial to the proper function of all the body’s various systems, though there are specific factors involved in leading a healthy lifestyle that could give the process a boost.

Mood Boosting Hormone Release

Muscles are typically going to be sore for those pushing themselves during workout or practice. Massage therapy does more than just relax muscles. The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and their small nerve endings. This system works with the endocrine system that regulates all the functions of the entire body by releasing hormones that produce a physical response to achieve homeostasis. Some of the effects of massage include dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and decreased cortisol.  

Healthy Hypothalamus

If you have no idea what that is, you are not alone. The Hypothalamus is the part of the brain that regulates homeostasis and links the endocrine and nervous system. This is accomplished by producing, releasing and inhibiting hormones, which stop and start the production of other hormones throughout the body.The hypothalamus contains cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids such as CBD bind to these receptors and help to regulate homeostasis.

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Proper Intake

Maintaining sufficient level of hydration is crucial for optimizing performance. This is because adequate hydration keeps many of the body’s systems moving, allowing for adequate blood flow and nutrient distribution. Without this the body essentially slows down and refuses to cooperate.Food intake is also crucial. Glucose is a necessity for energy production. They type of nutrition provided determines how efficiently the body can work. Burning off glucose reserve in an intense workout without replacing it, will result in instability within the body’s systems.