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science nutrition blog

science nutrition <strong>blog</strong>

By Robert Schinetsky


Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter in the body, most commonly associated with feelings of reward, pleasure, and satisfaction.

Not only is this highly critical neurotransmitter involved in reward and pleasure, it also affects mood, motivation, focus, decision-making, and motor control.

Essentially, with proper levels of dopamine, individuals perform better, are happier, more motivated, more productive, and more resilient!

How Do We Get Dopamine?

Our brains release dopamine when we eat food that we crave, have sex, and exercise. The ingestion of certain substances also elicits a dopamine response.

Previous research has consistently shown the crucial role dopamine neurons play in reward learning.

Reward learning is a process through which humans (as well as other animals) acquire information, skills, or behaviors by receiving rewards after performing specific (i.e correct or desired) actions, typically in response to a question.

The quintessential example of this is food. A rat pushes a lever and gets a food pellet. It does it again, and gets another tasty food pellet. This positive reinforcement encourages the rat to continually push their lever for its reward. And, all the while dopamine is working in the background. The same thing happens to us humans when we eat something highly palatable -- pizza, cookies, candy, cake, etc.

When dopamine is released in the brain, it increases an individual's levels of desire, driving us to seek out, search, and acquire things that make us feel good. It also increases our level of arousal and goal-directed behavior. This culminates in a near endless reward-seeking loops, where we’re constantly on the hunt for our next “fix” of dopamine.

Interestingly, research has found that when individuals receive rewards that are better than what they expect to receive, dopamine neurons are activated.  However, when the reward received is worse than expected, dopamine signaling is suppressed.[1]

Now there are natural ways to boost dopamine (for ex. exercise), but more and more individuals are turning to potentially hazardous options to boost dopamine, including drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine.

While both can serve to increase dopamine levels in the brain, the end results and long-term effects on the brain and human body are quite different.

Exercise, for instance, in addition to boosting dopamine has also been shown to increase BDNF levels in the brain (which supports the maintenance and survival of neurons). It also improves cardiovascular health, combats weight gain, and builds lean muscle -- all of which promote health, wellness, and longevity.

The same of which cannot be said of drugs like marijuana and cocaine.

In fact, a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience discovered that during cocaine withdrawal neurons in the brain associated with depression connect to neurons embedded in an anti-reward system.[2]

Typically, when we make a positive choice (and are thus rewarded for it) neurons in the brain's ventral tegmental area (VTA) produce dopamine, which in turn induces feelings of joy or pleasure and spreads throughout the brain, subsequently motivating us to repeat those actions or behaviors to again achieve feelings of pleasure and reward (FYI, this is a key component of addictive behavior).

Now, when we don’t achieve the reward for which we’re looking (or stop taking addictive substances) a region of the brain, called the lateral habenula, becomes hyperactive and transmits signals to the VTA that results in depressive symptoms.

However, this new study found that instead of connecting to the rewarding dopamine neurons  they mostly connected to an anti-reward network. Researchers believe this reorganization of neural-circuitry may explain adverse behavior commonly seen with cocaine withdrawal.[2]

Now, cocaine may seem like a bit of an extreme example for some (if not all) of you reading this, so let’s take a look at a less extreme substance that’s even starting to become more “mainstream” in certain areas of the world -- marijuana.

A 2016 study published in Molecular Psychiatry found that heavy, prolonged use of cannabis may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a number of deleterious effects on learning and behavior.[3]

Specifically, researchers noted that chronic cannabis use was linked to lower dopamine release in the striatum--a region of the brain that is involved in attention, working memory, and impulsive behavior.[3]

Previous research had noted that chronic abuse (addiction) to other dopamine-boosting substances, such as cocaine and heroin, had similar adverse effects on dopamine release, but this study was the first to provide evidence that chronic cannabis use could be damaging to the body’s dopaminergic signaling.

This becomes all the more disconcerting when you realize that other studies suggest that blunted dopamine transmission and decreased dopamine receptor availability are key biomarkers both for the development of addiction and resistance to treatment.[4]

While all of this may seem a bit disheartening, the good news is that you don’t have to go to extremes (or imbibe in potentially dangerous substances) to increase dopamine levels.

In fact, there’s a number of everyday things you can do, such as get enough sleep, exercise, manage stress and eat a diet rich in foods that contain tyrosine (a building block of tyrosine.

Foods rich in tyrosine include:

  • Dairy (including cheese)
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Fish
  • Soy


Furthermore, you can also use natural supplements to increase dopamine production in the body, which don’t come with the deleterious effects to the brain’s structure and function as other substances do.

It is these same compounds that we’ve used time and again in the creation of our best-selling pre workout and productivity supplements in AML Pre Workout, Dopa Rush and Dopa Rush Pre Workout as well as our newest dopamine-boosting supplement -- DopaRush Shots!

What Are Dopa Rush Shots?

Were all familiar with energy shots -- theyre those little bottles next to the check-out register that promise 5-hour energy, but contain little more than the caffeine equivalent of a strong cup of coffee and a couple of B-vitamins, all sequestered in a proprietary blend.

Dopa Rush Shots are the prototypical energy shot done right!

Weve included the best elements from our best-selling pre workout and nootropic supplements and concentrated them into an easy-to-drink, on-the-go supplement that can be used to help increase:

  • Energy
  • Mood
  • Motivation
  • Mental alertness
  • Focus
  • Creativity


Dopa Rush Shots are designed for students, athletes and motivated professionals looking for that edge needed to excel on the field, in the office or classroom, and in the gym!

If youve any Advanced Molecular Labs products in the past, youre well acquainted with the ingredients in Dopa Rush Shots, but for those of you new to the brand (or those looking for a refreshers), lets take a closer look at the prime movers behind Dopa Rush Shots.

The Sweet Science of Dopa Rush Shots


You know it; you love. You probably use it everyday already -- caffeine.

Caffeine is a strong CNS stimulant that increases mental alertness, acuity, and wakefulness. Its the foundation of all great pre workouts (including AML pre workout and Dopa Rush Pre Workout), and for good reason -- caffeine flat out works.

Not only does it increase mental energy and productivity, it also enhances exercise performance, primarily due to delaying the onset of fatigue.

But, caffeine isnt just about increasing energy -- it also increases dopamine release as well as dopamine receptor availability.[5]

Beyond boosting dopamine, caffeine also stimulates the release of other important neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine and adrenaline, which helps turbocharge cognitive function for greater concentration, motivation, and performance in or out of the gym.

As we mentioned above, exercise is a natural means to increasing dopamine levels in the brain, but recent research also finds that the addition of caffeine (at a dose of 3mg/kg) to exercise increases dopamine to a greater extent than exercise alone.[6]

Perhaps, best of all, caffeine is safe (when used in reasonable doses), and doesnt impart the unwanted effects on the brain that other dopamine-boosting stimulants do, such as cocaine. In fact, research indicates that lifelong coffee/caffeine consumption has been associated with prevention of cognitive decline, and reduced risk of developing stroke, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.[7]


Tyrosine is an amino acid that serves as a building block for dopamine biosynthesis. In essence, it provides a natural alternative to enhancing dopamine levels and improving performance as opposed to psychostimulants (e.g. cocaine and amphetamines) which can bring unwanted side effects (as we discussed above).

Unlike most supplements, energy drinks, and energy shots, which typically only contain a pixie-dusting of tyrosine, AML Dopa Rush Shots includes a full 2,000mg of L-tyrosine, which has been shown in research to not only help mitigate stress, but also improve performance.[8,9,10]

Velvet Bean

As we just mentioned, tyrosine is an important building block in the production of dopamine. Its converted into L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) by the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase.

L-Dopa is the direct precursor to dopamine naturally produced within the body.

Velvet bean is a naturally occurring source of L-Dopa.

Velvet bean (aka mucuna pruriens) has a long history of use as a natural herbal remedy and aphrodisiac due to its anti-diabetic, aphrodisiac, anti-neoplastic, anti-epileptic, and anti-microbial activities.

Furthermore, velvet bean has also been shown to be neuroprotective and possess analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties[11]

Additional studies suggest that L-Dopa may help attenuate declining dopamine levels, making it an intriguing natural alternative for the treatment of Parkinsons disease.[12]


For those of you not familiar with our other dopamine-boosting supplements, then the ingredient Garcitrin may be something new. It is a trademarked extract of Garcinia Cambogia, standardized for garcinol.

Garcinol is a polyisoprenylated benzophenone derivative found in the rind of Garcinia which has traditionally been used for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.[13,14]

More pertinent to its inclusion in Dopa Rush Shots, garcinol also functions as a monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) inhibitor.[15]

What is noteworthy about an MAO-B inhibitor?

MAO-B is an enzyme that metabolizes (breaks down) certain neurotransmitters in the body, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

In fact, Parkinsons researchers have been developing a class of prescription medications based on MAO-B inhibition to treat the symptoms of the disease.

MAO-B inhibitors are not new to dietary supplements. In fact, another well-known MAO-B inhibitor has been used for years -- hordenine.

However, hordenine is included on the FDAs Advisory List,” which means the FDA is taking steps to further evaluate the ingredient as to whether or not it is safe and/or effective.

Garcitrin™ (garcinol) offers a superior option for MAO-B inhibition which supports longer-lasting dopamine levels in the body for greater energy, mood, motivation and focus.


Bioperine is a prominent black pepper extract standardized for piperine.

Piperine is the pungent alkaloid in black pepper that is known to stimulate dopamine release by activating the TRPV receptor in the brain. [16]

Moreover, iperine also inhibits the enzyme that degrades dopamine — monoamine oxidase— complementing the activities of Garcitrin.[17]

This means that piperine supports dopamine levels both directly and indirectly in the brain, further improving mood, focus, and concentration.

NO Taurine!

Taurine is an amino acid commonly added to energy drinks, pre workout supplements, and energy shots.

It is a non-essential amino acid that maintains cell volume, aids muscle contraction and supports antioxidant defense systems in the body. It may also play a role in supporting cardiovascular health.[18]

While these properties might make taurine seem like an alluring, if not compulsory, inclusion in energy and performance-enhancing supplements, when used in combination with caffeine (as is often the case), the research isnt as conclusively positive.

Several studies have found that the combination of taurine + caffeine did not improve performance, energy, or attention.[19,20,21,22]

In fact, the combination of taurine + caffeine resulted in decreased feelings of vigor and lowered the stimulating effects of caffeine. Furthermore, the combination of caffeine and taurine was actually noted to increase feelings of fatigue.

But, thats not all, other research suggests that combining taurine with caffeine may have deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system.

A 2015 study found that consumption of a caffeine and taurine containing ED results in a subtle, but significant increase of myocardial contractility 1 h after consumption.”[23]

Interestingly, the control in the study was a dose of caffeine (equivalent to the amount contained in the energy drink). Yet, researchers observed no significant changes in cardiac function compared to baseline, leading the team to conclude that the combination of caffeine and taurine or taurine itself is responsible for this inotropic effect.[23]

Another study conducted in 2018 found that a caffeine + taurine energy drink increased diastolic blood pressure, blood glucose and level of discomfort in healthy young people.[24] However, there was no caffeine control in the study.

Most recently, a 2020 study in rats assessed the neurobehavioral effects of caffeine, taurine, and gluconolactone when administered the substances alone and in combination orally for 21 days.[25]

Researchers concluded that the highest toxic effects, including alterations in neurotransmitter levels, were observed in animals treated with a combination of food additives [taurine, gluconolactone, and glucuronolactone] at high doses.”[25]

Decreases in dopamine levels were also observed in the taurine and combination group animals compared to the control.[25]

While animal studies do not translate 100% to humans, it does give one pause as to whether or not taurine should be included alongside caffeine. Furthermore, there is no conclusive evidence indicating that the combination of taurine + caffeine enhances either mental or physical performance, but there is data suggesting it may reduce performance.

As such, AML DopaRush Shots contain NO Taurine (or gluconolactone for that matter).


Dopamine is a primetime neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in mood, motivation, focus, motor control, and decision-making.

There are a great many ways to increase dopamine levels, but not all are safe over the long term.

Dopa Rush Shots (as well as Dopa Rush, Dopa Rush Pre-Workout and AML Pre Workout) were developed using natural ingredients to support the body’s endogenous production of dopamine for greater energy, mood, motivation, focus,and performance, both mentally and physically.

If youre someone whos been spending $3 (or more) on overpriced underdosed energy drinks and energy shots, grab a serving of Dopa Rush Shots today and see what a real supplement (one rooted in science) can do for you!


  1. Rare rewards amplify dopamine responses. Nature Neuroscience(2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41593-021-00807-7.
  2. Joseph Clerke et al, Output-Specific Adaptation of Habenula-Midbrain Excitatory Synapses During Cocaine Withdrawal, Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience (2021). DOI: 10.3389/fnsyn.2021.643138
  3. E van de Giessen, J J Weinstein, C M Cassidy, M Haney, Z Dong, R Ghazzaoui, N Ojeil, L S Kegeles, X Xu, N P Vadhan, N D Volkow, M Slifstein, A Abi-Dargham. Deficits in striatal dopamine release in cannabis dependence. Molecular Psychiatry, 2016; DOI: 1038/mp.2016.21
  4. Trifilieff P, Ducrocq F, van der Veldt S, Martinez D. Blunted Dopamine Transmission in Addiction: Potential Mechanisms and Implications for Behavior. Semin Nucl Med. 2017 Jan;47(1):64-74. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2016.09.003. Epub 2016 Oct 13. PMID: 27987559.
  5. Volkow, N., Wang, GJ., Logan, J. et al. Caffeine increases striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability in the human brain. Transl Psychiatry 5, e549 (2015).
  6. Lee JB, Lee HJ, Lee SJ, Kim TW. Blood dopamine level enhanced by caffeine in men after treadmill running. Chin J Physiol. 2019 Nov-Dec;62(6):279-284. doi: 10.4103/CJP.CJP_59_19. PMID: 31793465.
  7. Nehlig A. Effects of coffee/caffeine on brain health and disease: What should I tell my patients? Pract Neurol. 2016 Apr;16(2):89-95. doi: 10.1136/practneurol-2015-001162. Epub 2015 Dec 16. PMID: 26677204.
  8. Selasi Attipoe, Stacey A. Zeno, Courtney Lee, Cindy Crawford, Raheleh Khorsan, Avi R. Walter, Patricia A. Deuster, Tyrosine for Mitigating Stress and Enhancing Performance in Healthy Adult Humans, a Rapid Evidence Assessment of the Literature, Military Medicine, Volume 180, Issue 7, July 2015, Pages 754–765,
  9. Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2015). Tyrosine promotes cognitive flexibility: evidence from proactive reactive control during task switching performance. Neuropsychologia, 69, 50–55.
  10. Jongkees, B. J., Hommel, B., Kuhn, S., & Colzato, L. S. (2015). Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands--A review. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 70, 50–57.
  11. Lampariello LR, Cortelazzo A, Guerranti R, Sticozzi C, Valacchi G. The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2012;2(4):331-339.
  12. Hornykiewicz O. L-DOPA. Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. 2017;7(Suppl 1):S3-S10. doi:10.3233/JPD-179004.
  13. Fuchs RA, McLaughlin RJ. Garcinol: A Magic Bullet of Amnesia for Maladaptive Memories?. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017;42(3):581– doi:10.1038/npp.2016.165
  14. Nadia Saadat and Smiti V. Gupta, “Potential Role of Garcinol as an Anticancer Agent,” Journal of Oncology, vol. 2012, Article ID 647206, 8 pages, 2012.
  15. Mazumder, M. K., Paul, R., Phukan, B. C., Dutta, A., Chakrabarty, J., Bhattacharya, P., & Borah, A. (2018). Garcinol, an effective monoamine oxidase-B inhibitor for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Medical Hypotheses, 117, 54–58.
  16. McNamara FN, Randall A, Gunthorpe MJ. Effects of piperine, the pungent component of black pepper, at the human vanilloid receptor (TRPV1). Br J Pharmacol. 2005;144(6):781–790. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0706040
  17. Lee, S. A., Hong, S. S., Han, X. H., Hwang, J. S., Oh, G. J., Lee, K. S., Ro, J. S. (2005). Piperine from the fruits of Piper longum with inhibitory effect on monoamine oxidase and antidepressant-like activity. Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 53(7), 832–835.
  18. Xu YJ, Arneja AS, Tappia PS, Dhalla NS. The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2008 Summer;13(2):57-65. PMID: 19343117; PMCID: PMC2586397.
  19. Jeffries, O., Hill, J., Patterson, S. D., & Waldron, M. (2017). Energy Drink Doses Of Caffeine And Taurine Have A Null Or Negative Effect On Sprint Performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research
  20. Bichler, A., Swenson, A., & Harris, M. A. (2006). A combination of caffeine and taurine has no effect on short term memory but induces changes in heart rate and mean arterial blood pressure. Amino Acids, 31(4), 471–476.
  21. Giles, G. E., Mahoney, C. R., Brunye, T. T., Gardony, A. L., Taylor, H. A., & Kanarek, R. B. (2012). Differential cognitive effects of energy drink ingredients: caffeine, taurine, and glucose. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 102(4), 569–577.
  22. Peacock A, Martin FH, Carr A. Energy drink ingredients. Contribution of caffeine and taurine to performance outcomes. Appetite. 2013;64:1–4.
  23. Doerner JM, Kuetting DL, Luetkens JA, Naehle CP, Dabir D, Homsi R, Nadal J, Schild HH, Thomas DK. Caffeine and taurine containing energy drink increases left ventricular contractility in healthy volunteers. Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. 2015 Mar;31(3):595-601. doi: 10.1007/s10554-014-0577-7. Epub 2014 Nov 26. PMID: 25425431.
  24. Nowak D, Gośliński M, Nowatkowska K. The Effect of Acute Consumption of Energy Drinks on Blood Pressure, Heart Rate and Blood Glucose in the Group of Young Adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(3):544. Published 2018 Mar 19. doi:10.3390/ijerph15030544
  25. Boyina R, Dodoala S. Evaluation of the Neurobehavioural Toxic Effects of Taurine, Glucuronolactone, and Gluconolactone Used in Energy Drinks in Young Rats. Turk J Pharm Sci. 2020;17(6):659-666. doi:10.4274/tjps.galenos.2019.33602