Working out With Weed: Cannabis and Performance

All Information Displayed In This Post Is For Educational Purposes Only, And Is Not To Be Construed As Medical Advice Or Treatment For Any Specific Person Or Condition.

Cannabis Has Not Been Analyzed Or Approved By The FDA. Individual Results May Vary.

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Long before California first legalized medical marijuana in 1995, before the first dispensaries opened in Los Angeles, and before Colorado saw recreational cannabis become legal in 2013, the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) knew about the plant’s potential as a performance aid.

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Cannabis; image source: pexels.com

The agency’s statement on cannabis seems more like recommendation than admonishment.

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Although cannabis may decrease spatial acuity, the agency maintains it “can cause muscle relaxation and reduce pain during post-workout recovery,” as well as, “decrease anxiety and tension, resulting in better sport performance under pressure…cannabis can increase focus and risk-taking behaviors, allowing athletes to forget bad falls or previous trauma in sport, and push themselves past those fears in competition.”

While the USADA prides its organization on dispatching substances that cause harm in the name of athletic advantage, their claims regarding cannabis prove remarkably consistent with present long told anecdotal evidence and new knowledge gleaned as more states, locales, and even nations legalize the plant for medical and recreational uses.

But what is the science behind cannabis’ meteoric rise as a health supplement, and how can cannabis really aid workouts, fitness, and physical performance?

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Your body’s endocannabinoid system regulates body processes like mood, appetite, pain sensation, and memory. Image source: pexels.com

Your body’s endocannabinoid system regulates body processes like mood, appetite, pain sensation, and memory

Physical activity and cannabis may appear an odd couple at first, but the two share one important thing: the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.

The ECS is a large system of endogenous neurotransmitters that work to maintain cognitive processes inside your brain like feeling hunger, or pain. While cannabinoids from cannabis do act upon the ECS, your body produces natural endocannabinoids on it’s on, the most widely known example being the “runner’s high.”  Studies have shown often during periods of strenuous physical activity your ECS produces natural endocannabinoids, like anandamide, which create a feeling of euphoria.

Many liken the runner’s euphoria to the high behind psychoactive substances, like cannabis.

Endorphins, known colloquially as the body’s “feel good chemical,” mimic the action of chemicals in substances like morphine, creating euphoria when released during activities like sex, and exercise. Using endorphin levels as a measurement before and after a period of running, Henning Boecker et al (2008) found that, “The level of endorphins was significantly increased after running.”

The high benefits runners by dulling pain sensation, and increasing endurance. Some speculate whether the runner’s high exists as a sort of internal reward system for physical activity. Professional ultra runner and cannabis advocate, Avery Collins, uses cannabis to  “intensify and enhance the run,” Collins said in an motherboard interview, going on to state that, “It makes the longevity of the runner’s high last longer.”

Cannabidiol – CBD

CBD, the second most active compound in cannabis, has profound anti inflammatory effects

CBDa, or more commonly known as just CBD, has been lauded for quite some time as a novel way to treat inflammation. When separated from THC, CBD is legal in nearly every state in the U.S, and recently athletic associations, like the UFC, have removed CBD from their banned substances list.

Many work out minded enthusiasts, former, and current athletes alike appreciate the soothing abilities of CBD because no psychoactive high accompanies them.

In an interview with brobible.com, former collegiate pole vaulter and Eaze.com founder Jamie Feason mentioned that, “[an] injury is what spurred me to first try CBD lotion for recovery purposes, and I’ve never looked back. CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and relaxing qualities, whether ingested through vaporization or as a topical.”

CBD can be found in many forms, from gummy bears to topical creams. CBD is very useful for reducing inflammation following your workout. By curbing post workout soreness, CBD can increase flexibility and wellbeing the following day.

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Cannabis pain killing properties show promise for helping increase endurance during workouts. Image source: pixabay.com

Cannabis pain killing properties show promise for helping increase endurance during workouts

The evidence behind cannabis’ potential as a pain reliever is not just anecdotal. Studies have shown cannabis can fight non cancer related pain, as well as provide secondary benefits like improved sleep, muscle stiffness, and plasticity. This means that cannabis can invigorate you before and during a workout, and help you recover afterward as well.

Moreover, cannabis may overtake traditional painkillers, like vicodin and percocet, due to its potential as a solution and lack of toxicity leading to overdose.

Personal trainer and cannabis advocate, Zach Scioli, champions the safer plant in lieu of opioids, stating in an interview with muscleandfitness.com that, “cannabis’ compounds are anti-inflammatory, stress reducing, antioxidative, and pain mediating…Being prescribed extremely strong prescription painkillers to treat pain, I realized their high addiction and toxicity potential. I opted to try CBD oil and high-grade THC extracts to manage pain and inflammation. Looking back, it was the best choice I could have made.”

In their 2017 clinical review of cannabis’ potential as a pain aid, Hill et al found, “modest evidence supporting the use of cannabinoid pharmacotherapy for pain,” as well as, “initial evidence for a possible reduction in opioid pharmacotherapy for pain as a result of increased implementation of medical cannabis regimens.”

When athletes and fitness enthusiasts use cannabis, they utilize 66 different known cannabinoids, as well as 200 different terpenes, or the oils inside the plant that produce scent. While cannabis has many known benefits and effects, the substance affects every person differently. What may work for Jamie, the collegiate pole vaulter turned cannabis entrepreneur, or Zach, the trainer turned cannabis advocate, may not work for you.

With that said, cannabis has many potential uses when it comes to fitness, athletics, and athletic recovery. If you’re interested in learning how you can implement cannabis into your workout routines, consult your nearest medical cannabis program, and speak with an expert who can help you find the type of cannabis you need to take your workouts to the next level.

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About the Author

Chris Matich is a professional writer, journalist, and editor living in Pittsburgh, PA. Chris blogs for Schenley.net. His writing interests include LGBT+ people/issues, sports writing, and blogging. Chris currently writes about web optimization, blogging practices, medical cannabis, and cannabis lifestyle. He writes fiction and creative nonfiction in his spare time. Linkedin, Twitter

4 COMMENTS

  1. Really interesting stuff! Curious how CBD differently affects post-workouts for different types of workouts (running vs heavy lifting vs calisthenics or whatever).

  2. My friend takes CBD for anxiety and antoher’s Mom takes it for a disease she has and they’ve had really great experiences with it, cool information about the use of it in a workout!

  3. My mind was blown when you equated the runner\’s high to the high from cannabis. Very cool writeup! I\’ll have to try CBD after some of my more intense runs.

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