Why do human bodies respond differently to the same training or treatment?

Posted by Maria Lennartz on Sunday, November 18, 2018

The human body is a complex and wonderful structure.

The unusual part for us to understand is that  certain treatments or training protocols that work well with one individual, but will not  achieve the desired result with another. The easy response to this outcome is to think we are not committing to the program, not following  instructions. The harder response is to try to understand how the two systems or bodies differed.

Human Bodies can respond quite differently to the same training or treatment

An example of this is strength training: two people can do exactly the same program (exercise and diet) and have different responses. One can get stronger, improve lean muscle mass and feel better, while another may not respond as well.  The musculoskeletal, digestive and nervous systems interact and can either enhance or supress each other’s responses. The non-responding person may, for example, have a gut microbiome imbalance preventing absorption of the nutrients required to increase muscle mass. They may also have central nervous system problems: mental fatigue, poor sleep patterns and emotional issues such as depression and anxiety have been shown to have a negative influence on physical training outcomes.

It is important to understand that chronic (long term) pain actually alters both brain chemistry (neurotransmitter profiles change) and affects how different areas of the brain communicate. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other, many of these are produced in the gut. So a poor digestive system (gut issue) can affect brain function and pain sensitivity. Hence, the person whose pain is not reducing with treatment as expected may have a digestive system issue affecting their nervous system response.

The nervous system is most influential in the body’s responses - Remembering that the nervous system has three elements: the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves), autonomic nervous system (parts of the brain and nervous system that control automatic functions of the body) and enteric nervous system (gut), it stands to reason that if you can get the nervous system to respond appropriately, it takes the rest of the body’s systems along for the ride.

Chasing optimal physical performance usually involves getting into ‘the zone’ or ‘flow state’ – a headspace that allows the body’s training to be most effective. Taking care of your whole body is essential so that you can then train well, this includes managing sleep, stress, healthy diet, taking care of injuries and health issues, and managing your mental health. Then you will get the most from your training sessions.