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Should You Exercise Or Just Increase Your Heart Rate With Adrenaline (Like In The Movie Crank)?

Checking Out The Effects of Adrenaline…

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I have simply done some research on this topic. This article should not substitute the expertise of your doctor or a medical professional. I have used deductive reasoning when exact information could not be found. As such, I can make no claims for the medical accuracy of the information contained herein. However, I have done my best to provide you with a solid understanding of the effects of adrenaline.

Here you will find an exploration of the effects of adrenaline on your cardiovascular system, namely, the answers to these three questions:

  1. Is what Jason Statham did in the movie Crank (extended intravenous adrenaline) possible to survive?
  2. Is being an adrenaline junkie healthy or extremely dangerous long term?
  3. Why is an elevated heart rate during exercise different than an elevated heart rate from a crisis situation?

And just to clarify: epinephrine and adrenaline are the same thing. In the USA it is called epinephrine and elsewhere, adrenaline. Here I am going to be using adrenaline because it is easier to type.

Contents

1) What is the Movie Crank About?
2) What is Adrenaline?
3) What are the Effects of Adrenaline on Your Body?
4) Adverse Effects of Adrenaline
5) Blocking Adrenaline
6) Intravenous Adrenaline Overdosing
7) Heart Rate During Exercise vs. Heart Rate During Crisis Mode
8 ) Adrenaline Junkies
9) Heart Rate Monitoring While in Crisis Mode 😉

Crank Movie, Huh?

For those that have not seen the movie, it stars Jason Statham. He is best known for the movies Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

In Crank, he plays an assassin. Near the start of the movie you find out he has been injected with some “chinese poison shit” by one of his enemies. The poison drastically slows the release of adrenaline, in turn, slowing Jason Statham’s character’s heart.

His only way to survive, long enough to go and kill his enemy, is to continually push out large doses of adrenaline (to overcome the poison) or with artificial adrenaline. He starts out by being an adrenaline junkie – skulls heaps of Red Bull, drives fast in cars, has sex in public and more… By the end of the movie, however, he has rigged up an artificial adrenaline drip that feeds him intravenously.

—I want to know if this were real life could someone really survive a continual dose of adrenaline, and if yes, would it be pleasant or a living hell?

But Firstly, What Is Adrenaline?

A hormone released in response to fight-flight-fright mode as determined by your nervous system

Adrenaline is a naturally produced chemical in your body. It is triggered by unique stresses most likely stimulated by:

  • Danger (about to fight/be attacked).
  • Excitement (sex in public or maybe winning the lottery).
  • Loud quick noise (your big brother scaring you as you walk through the doorway he hides behind, fog horns at sporting events, screaming etc.)
  • And or extreme quick bursts or changes of bright lights.

The production and subsequent release of adrenaline is natural and your body takes care of it without you doing anything. Alongside its release is the release of cortisol, endorphins (feel good) and a subset of chemicals that sound like they were conjured in some foreign bunker.

What Are The Effects of Adrenaline On Your Body? 

So adrenaline is released to help you survive crisis situations and to help you deal with other extreme situations. It is an evolutionary response. What do you think you need in a dangerous situation? Say an attack from an enemy?

You would need intense amounts of energy! To either get the hell out of there or put the enemy 6 feet down.

At its most basic level adrenaline does these things:

  • Increases your heart rate and respiratory rate (like intense exercise would).
  • Inhibits the release of insulin, which regulates blood glucose (with no insulin in your blood, more glucose can be present for your cells to use as energy).
  • Stimulates glucose to be released from your liver (more energy).
  • And lastly, adrenaline stimulates the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue (energy again).

Like I said, you need energy, adrenaline does its best to get you as much as possible.

Adverse Effects of Adrenaline

It’s not all peachy! Crisis mode is a crisis. Many of your other body systems turn off so that all your energy and effort can be focused on making you safe.

So that means immune function, in particular, because of the stress hormones, becomes less effective and stays that way for days after a single crisis situation. [Less immunity function after exercise because of adrenaline]

Looking at your cardiovascular system… Some things that can happen during the fight-flight-fright response are:

  • Palpitations (your heart skips beats).
  • Tachycardia (your heart beats very fast).
  • Arrhythmia (your heart has irregular heart beating pattern).
  • Hypertension (your arteries tighten up and as such the pressure of your blood on the arterial walls increases – high blood pressure).

Blocking Adrenaline

Adrenaline definitely has its advantages, and was designed by evolution to help you deal with crisis situations; however, blocking adrenaline from being used by your body (beta blockers) is the common practice for treating all sorts of terrible things like:

  • Lack of blood/oxygen in the heart muscle – Angina pectoris.
  • Abnormal heart beat – Atrial fibrillation.
  • Abnormal beat/electrical activity in the heart – Cardiac arrhythmia.
  • Heart can’t pump enough blood to body for it to operate – Congestive heart failure.
  • High blood pressure – Hypertension.
  • Thickened heart muscle that can block blood flow – Mitral valve prolapse.
  • Heart attack – Myocardial infarction.
  • And more…

Hmm, so after some deductive reasoning, the conclusion that adrenaline in large doses is extremely bad, dangerous and would surely kill someone is what I come up with – do you agree? Let’s take a look at some real life evidence…

Intravenous Adrenaline Overdosing

Intravenous adrenaline in safe dosage is used in medical emergencies to treat people for severe allergic reactions, cardiac arrest (no heart beat) and more…

The *safe dose* for medically using adrenaline to treat these emergencies varies depending on you and the emergency. As an estimation (from here) it ranges from 10 mg over hours to the extreme of 16 mg in 10 minutes.

How much did Jason take in Crank?

Check Out The Scene On YouTube.

*Spoiler alert*

His doctor advised him to take 2 mg (1/5 of a 10 mg needle). He injected the entire 10 mg syringe. And by the end of the movie he has an IV feeding from a diluted epinephrine bag attached to his belt. I am going to assume that the bag he has was stolen from a hospital and as such is the standard 1 to 5 mg of epinephrine in a 250ml solution of diluent.

So did you get that?

  • He takes 10 mg epinephrine from a needle.
  • Also, he drip feeds 1 to 5 mg of epinephrine from a 250ml solution of diluent over an hour or two.
—But, you must remember he has been injected with the “chinese poison shit” so is it possible to survive this massive dosage?
Some real-life adrenaline overdose cases:

Case #1

“2 mg epinephrine by mistake”

A man was given 2 mg epinephrine in a hospital by mistake. Shortly thereafter he had:

  • Widespread ischemia (lack of blood/oxygen to organs).
  • Nausea and severe chest pain from spasms of the coronary arteries.

Case #2

“1.1 mg epinephrine from over-the-counter inhaler”

This man injected 1.1 mg from an over-the-counter inhaler and had nausea, numbness, chest pain and heart palpitations. He was give a table by a bystander and he adversely reacted to it by getting hypotension (very low blood pressure). He also had mild ischemia.

So Is The Movie Plausible?

I don’t doubt the writer of the movie did his research. The basis for the character in the movie being able to survive that 10 mg’s of adrenaline is the poison is blocking much of it from being used/absorbed by his cells. However, as the above case 1 and 2 showed even 1.1 mg of the stuff nearly killed a grown man… And in the movie he takes 10 mg in seconds and then drip feeds more… What do you think?

—But wait one minute! I don’t understand this *adverse* effects of adrenaline chit-chat?

I though fast heart rate (tachycardia) is what happens during intense exercise, isn’t this a good thing?

Elevated Heart Rate During Exercise Vs. Elevated Heart Rate From, Say, 30 Minutes of Adrenaline

To clarify: I know that adrenaline is released naturally when you exercise. Here I wanted to research the heart rate effect of adrenaline by a *safe dose* intravenously – no exercise.  I am curious if your heart can benefit, like it does from exercise, from this extended elevated heart rate effect from *safe dose* intravenous adrenaline. I’m weird, I know.

Elevated heart rate during exercise is the result of your body muscles requiring more oxygen/blood. When you exercise, no matter what sport or activity you are doing, you are contracting your muscles and that contraction requires the goodness of your blood. The more contractions you do the more blood you require. So your trusty old blood pump has to beat more times per minute to cope.

The more often you exercise the more efficient your pump becomes. Exercising essentially teaches your heart to make the most of each beat. Depending on the type of exercise you do your heart will transform itself to best pump blood for that activity (over time it does this)… So if you cycle or some other endurance activity the inner diameter of your left ventricle will increase in size because you would require more blood over a prolonged period. A weightlifters heart would do something different. It would increase the muscle thickness of the left ventricle wall to cope with massive amounts of blood required for short periods of time (to cope with the weight).

Now with intravenous *safe dose* adrenaline – enough to raise your heart rate to 85% of max for 30 minutes your heart is simply being tricked to beat faster. By tricked all I mean is that the adrenaline hormone changes the electrical signals in the hearts pacemaker. Essentially flicking on the tachycardia switch.

There is no efficiency increase or training effect because the pump isn’t in gear, sort-a-speak. Picture it as revving a car engine when it is not in gear. Lots of noise – not much good.

– So exercise increases heart rate because your body muscles need blood to keep exercising.

– With adrenaline your heart only speeds up because the adrenaline tells your heart’s pacemaker to speed up to prepare for fight/flight. If you have enough adrenaline to keep your heart rate up for 30 minutes you will die. And even if you did survive you would not experience any heart adaption (like exercise) because it is simply pumping blood readying your body for fight or flight. If you just sat there you would never really need this blood and thus your heart is just revving.

Is It Safe To Be An Adrenaline Junkie – Besides The Obvious Dangers Jumping Off Things?

First off not all adrenaline junkies are base jumpers. Someone who constantly seeks drama could be considered an adrenaline junkie. They create this conflict to release stress hormones, which they are subconsciously addicted to. Also, if your profession is something thrilling (good or bad) like being a firefighter or open sea crab fisherman you could also be an adrenaline junkie of sorts.

So as you can see there are varying degrees and definitions of adrenaline junkie.

Is it safe?

Probably not. Heart Disease is a Major Killer Among Emergency Services Professionals. The risk of having a heart attack (probably caused by increased stress hormones) goes up 100 times when a firefighter is on the scene of a fire.

Don’t get me wrong, adrenaline is a natural and healthy hormone, but probably is not safe in the levels firefighters and daily extreme adrenaline junkies experience.

Monitoring Your Heart Rate During Crisis Mode – Recommended Heart Rate Monitors

Want to see what your heart rate jumps to in a stressful situation?

Then you need a strapless heart rate monitor watch. You want a strapless one because they allow you to accurately get your heart rate on the spot by touching the button on the watch face.

If you hadn’t already noticed, this website is dedicated to heart rate monitors…

The best three strapless heart rate monitors are

1) ePulse2

ePulse2 Strapless heart rate monitor

Impact Sports Technologies has developed this strapless, and yet, continuous heart rate monitoring training computer. It is a worlds first!

Usually when you come across a strapless heart rate monitor you expect to have to touch some button on the watch face for it to give you your heart rate. As in you don’t expect a real-time and continuous readout. But the ePulse2 does just that!

It’s a little complex, but the gist of how this puppy works without a chest strap is by having a light emitting sensor on the back of the watch display that rests against your forearm. It emits wavelengths that sense the change in size of your blood vessels as blood moves through them. Each time it senses that increase in vessel diameter it knows you have had a heart beat.

Although this strapless monitor has an amazing approval rating of 4.5/5 some people do mention the battery draw (because of the continuous light emitting from the sensor) to be annoying. They say that after 3 hours of continuous heart rate monitoring, the ePulse2 requires its rechargeable battery to be charged.

Nonetheless, this watch is one of a kind and definitely worth a look if you hate chest straps.

2) Mio Classic

Mio Classic Strapless Heart Rate Monitor

While the ePulse2 by Impact Sports Technologies is a phenomenal step forward for strapless heart rate monitoring, the Mio brand started the trend. Back in 1999, the founder of Mio invented Smart Touch Technology, offerring on demand ECG accurate heart rate without the chest strap.

Mio has grown since then, and is now essentially the Polar of strapless heart rate monitors. Their product line is geared directly for general, all-purpose use and, in my opinion, has a very cool looking style.

The Mio Classic, for only $40 or so, has a calorie counter, ECG accurate heart rate without a chest strap and tracks calorie burned versus your inputted daily target.

3) Sportline 925

Sportline 925 Strapless Heart Rate Monitor

I’m ranking the Sportline 925 as the third best strapless heart rate monitor because it is affordable at about $65, is ECG accurate, boasts a stopwatch, pedometer, calorie counter, 5 year warranty and if that isn’t enough has a built in accelerometer to monitor distance, speed and strides (hence the pedometer).

The pink version, as is pictured, is for the women.

But don’t worry guys Sportline also has a black men’s version (minus the pedometer)! Check the full specs here…

***

Sources

I became familiar with the information required to write this article by reading several Wikipedia pages (Fight or flight responseEndorphins, Cardiac output, Beta blockers, Nervous system, Stress, Angina and of course Epinephrine) and then by researching, in detail, several different terms in Google Scholar ‘Intravenous epinephrine overdose’ and ‘adrenaline effects’ being the most useful.

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