My Chemical Romance

MCRLust. Love. Long-term attraction. Each is triggered by different chemicals in the body. And the good news is that you can control yours and hers for maximum satisfaction, every step ofthe way

What is love? It's a good question. And whatever answer you've had in the past,it's unlikely to have been an especially enlightening one. So Men's Health has dissected the subject on the most biologically basic oflevels, so that - whatever phase of chemical attraction you are currently experiencing you can enhance your levels of enjoyment.
We've broken down the chemical basis of the emotion we call love and identified the hormones that spike, combine and plummet during each stage of a relationship cycle: from desire, through romance to lasting commitment. Why? Because love, as far as we're concerned, is one eternal equation that's worth solving.

Stage 1

Sexual desire is driven by high levels ofthe major male and female sex hormones in our systems. Here's howto ensure the honeymoon period is as intoxicating as possible, for as long as it can be

LUST is a vital part of our emotional wiring. Our sex drive is what keeps our species going and without it there'd be no biological reason for any of us to get out there and meet prospective partners. It's governed by a relationship between testosterone and oestrogen. Generally speaking, the more testosterone you and your partner have in your bodies, the more lustful you're going to feel towards each other. But it'sa complex system, and it is controlled by a whole range of other chemicals and factors.

"Athletes or men who exercise at a high level naturally produce more testosterone, which increases their strength and stamina and triggers more sexual thoughts, more morning erections, more sexual encounters and more orgasms," says Dr Helen fisher, a biological anthropologist and research professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University, New Jersey. "The male libido peaks in the early twenties, when the activity of testosterone is highest," she says. "Many women feel more sexual desire around the time of ovulation when her testosterone levels increase."

However, the balance between testosterone, oestrogen and other bodily systems - as well as social circumstances, childhood experiences and many other factors - play a role in determining when, where and how often you feel lustful.

New studies, such as those being carried out by Dr Sari van Anders at the University of Michigan, also suggest that testosterone might have a role to play in determining what kind of relationships we seek out.

"What we find is that single men and women tend to have higher testosterone levels than those with partners," Dr van Anders explains. "But individuals partnered with more than one person - 'polyamorous' people - tend to have more testosterone than single people and those in monogamous relationships."
If you don't want to play the field, be sure that you're reaping all you can from this most plentiful of the sexual stages.

MCR1Gonadotrophin releasing hormone
Ignore the fact that it includes the word 'gonad':GnRH plays a major role in production of testosterone-the key to lustful desire.

The big one. You produce 10 times more of the hormone than she does, but women are more sensitive to its effects.

The other one. Again, present in both men and women. It governs the development of delightful secondary sexual characteristics in women and affects sperm production in men.


Lift your mojo
This nutritional combination will boost testosterone levels. Zinc is found in shellfish, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils and poultry. Foods high in Vitamin B6 indude tuna, avocado and chickpeas.

Too much of the sweet stuff in your diet impacts production of a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which regulates the effects of testosterone in your body.

It's worth losing those few extra pounds because a BMI increase of five points can cause a drop in testosterone equivalent to 10 years of ageing, says the Journal of Clinical Endocrinologyond Metabolism.

A University of Utah study found that men experience a huge testosterone boost (of upto 20%)when their team wins . Watch out though, the reverse can be true when they lose.

Stage 2

As you move into the second phase of a relationship, it's the chemicals that fire the reward system of your brain which create a sense of psychological and sexual fulfilment and happiness

Butterflies in your stomach, obsessive thoughts, increased desire - these are all functions of a specific part of the brain and the chemicals it products. They are clear indicators that you've passed through the lust stage and you're starting to get closer to the old-fashioned idea of romance.

"We've used an MRI scanner to study images of people's brains when they are looking at pictures of their partners," explains Dr Fisher. "Attraction goes  hand-in-hand with increased activity in the ventral tegmental area of the brain."

This is where the body makes the products that turn into dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is a stimulant - it's what gives you the ability to walk all night or to talk till dawn. It also primes your sex drive in a different way to testosterone: more consistent and longer-lasting. "Norepinephrine ups the brain's ability to store and recall new stimuli, helping you remember every detail or your early days together," say Fisher.

One thing to be aware of next, time a relationship goes from 0-60mph in a matter of meetings: you, as a man, fall in love faster. "Men are more innuenced by these brain chemicals," says Fisher. Here's how to make it last and get her to catch up.

MCR3Feel the love
According to Dr Eric Braverman, author of Younger{Sexier}You, a high-protein diet can boost dopamine levels, Include some protein in each of your three main meals to keep your dopamine raised throughout the day.

Research recently published in Nature Neuroscience found that the simple act of listening to music you enjoy is enough to increase dopamine production, Not only that, but even the anticipation of good music will give you a chemical high.

Tyrosine,an amino acid, plays a key role in norepinephrine production, according to Judith Wurtman of MIT Clinical Research Center. Load up on Prawns, tuna and cod to ensure agood SuppIy.

This brain chemical Increases your blood Pressure and heart rate, for that 'fluttering' feeling.

A hormone that triggers glucosee release and boosts blood flow to the muscles, promoting feelings of mental and physical desire.

The truth behind the rose-tinted spectacles. PEA is chemically related to amphetamines, causing euphoria.

Stage 3MCR4

Long-term relationships are governed by chemicals which, overtime, create a psychological bond that is much more powerful than lust or romance

The final stage oflovecanbe characterised as an enduring attachment to your partner. Feelings of security are generated by the production of a different group of brain chemicals - those related to what scientists call 'pair bonding'. In the animal world, a bonded pair of mammals can help each other defend their nest or find food. That's the evolutionary root of your fond feelings for each other.

" This phase is linked with a different brain area - the ventral pallidum," says Dr Fisher. "The longer the relationship goes on, the more activity there is in these attachment areas. Studies at the US National lnstitute of Mental Health have shown that blocking the action of a hormone called vasopressin prevents bonding in animals that have mated.

The reduction of dopamine you experience at this stage also lets your serotonin levels rise, allowing calmer and more measured feelings to develop.

"Of course, there is a strong emotional component to this aspect of love," says Dr Fisher. "As a relationship matures you look for different things. You might not get that dopamine rush, but you stay with your partner because you like waking up with them. It's not all chemicals."

Staying power
Research carried out by the University of Colorado shows that increases in body temperature cause serotonin to be released by the brain. And if she wants to jump in the tub with you, then all the better.

The body needs tryptophan to make serotonin. This amino add can be found in abundance in foods such as pork, cheese, duck, kidney beans, eggs, wheatgerm, turkeyand dark chocolate. Eat at least once a day.

Work by researchers at Claremont Graduate University in California has shown that watching an emotionally charged film can boost oxytocin levels in the brain by upto 47%. Tense thrillers or horror titles were recommended. Fortunately, rom-coms were not.

sex boosts oxytocin levels which inturn leads to you and your partner feeling closer and therefore more in the mood. It's the opposite of a vicious circ!e. lt's a very nice one.

Studies show this hormone is responsible for controlling behaviours associated with paternal care and 'mate bonding'.

A hormone and neuromodulator linked to maternal behaviour and reduced anxiety. It generates the calming glow you feel after orgasm.

This governs your sleep cycle, appetite and mood. More serotonin and less dopamine creates deeper feelings of attachment.