People’s personal experience of using cannabis while working out often refers to the relaxing effect that helps them get into a meditational state, which allows them to tune into their body and focus on the work. If smoking a doobie before working out helps you relax or even helps you ignore the guy next to you on the treadmill who sings to himself, then so be it.
Anecdotal reports about smoking OG Kush before working out are one thing, but let’s hear what science and exercise professionals have to say on the subject. Iñigo San Millán, director of the Human Performance Lab at the University of Colorado, says,
“What research we have is anecdotal. We know it might help with inflammation, sleep, and pain relief. But we don’t know if it will improve performance.”
Cannabis and Sports Performance
The jury is not in yet on whether cannabis improves performance but when proven, expect sales to increase because elite athletes, gym jockeys, and regular guys/gals are always interested in performance enhancing supplements. Here’s what we do know about exercising high, both anecdotally, science-based evidence, and opinions from professionals.
Anxiety – When the THC hits the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, the anxiety loop decreases. Strains like Sour Diesel can target anxiety. This reduction in anxiety may help you sort out the excuses that are keeping you from getting to the gym or help dampen your social anxiety so you can ask to join someone’s tennis game.
Bronchodilator – Cannabis acts as a bronchodilator, opening the airways or providing less resistance to air flow. Stanford Medical School’s Keith Humphreys told Business Insider that he ran his own experiments on himself with the assistance of a physiologist and found much improved performance on the treadmill test.
Soreness – The aches or soreness after a workout can be painful and delay or stop further workouts. Dr. Humphreys also said that he experienced reduced soreness the day after doing squats when using cannabis. These effects are likely due to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory abilities.
Side Note * Apparently his experiments worked better inside under controlled conditions because when he tried it outside with his mountain bike, he said he got too spacey and ran off the road.
Pain Relief – Muscle aches and soreness are mild pain, compared to the moderate to severe pain that some athletes endure. The Atlantic reports that the National Football League has loosened its restrictions on cannabis and may even one day substitute cannabis for narcotic pain relievers.
Sleep Aid – Indica strains have a sedative effect that helps many people get to sleep. During sleep, the body repairs itself from a workout so a full night’s sleep is one of the best, free ways to augment your exercise routine.
Appetite – Everyone has to eat, but athletes and those who exercise need to eat more, at regular times, and with quality. But, sometimes the appetite just isn’t working with you, so a little cannabis may help, thereby fueling you for your next workout.
With its abilities to reduce anxiety, open the airways, reduce soreness, alleviate pain, act as a sleep aid, and an appetite stimulator, cannabis has lots of benefits to offer people who exercise. You can always run some experiments on yourself or your buddies and see if cannabis helps you lift more weights, run faster, or recover better.
Prominent Cannabis Athletes
While you’re doing your experiments and science professionals are doing theirs, many prominent athletes are using cannabis. Some were outed, like Michael Phelps, while others are happy to share their experience voluntarily.
Clifford Drusinsky is a triathlete that gets up way before dawn to workout running, swimming, and biking. He told Men’s Journal that he doesn’t choose coffee, sweet drink, protein drink, or a regular breakfast to enhance his performance. Instead, he chooses a cannabis-infused protein bar. He mentioned the meditational state but also an effect not often mentioned – he said it makes him smarter about what he’s trying to accomplish.
Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati has publicly stated his support and use of cannabis. He had to though, because after winning the gold in Nagano in 1998, he tested positive for cannabis and almost lost his medal. He says,
“And for me, whether you are skiing, or snowboarding, or riding a road bike, or working out at the gym, (marijuana use) puts you in the moment.”
Nick Diaz is a mixed martial artist, who after 15 years in one of the most brutal sports around, was suspended for five years (effectively a ban) due to testing positive for cannabis for the third time. His supporters and cannabis activists mounted a tenacious protest, which resulted in the shortening of his suspension to 18 months and he is due to fight again in September 2016.
CBD and Exercise
Most of the attention has been given to the THC in cannabis, but even less is known about the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) during exercise or post-workout. Andrea Giuffrida, a professor at the University of Texas, says that CBD may boost endorphin production, allowing the athlete access to an altered state, that may improve short and long-term performance.
While the regular person working out might be hoping for some performance enhancing effects from THC-cannabis or CBD-cannabis, it’s best for elite athletes who want to use cannabis freely if NO performance enhancing effects are found. The World Anti-Doping Agency’s article 18.104.22.168 Code reads,
“Medical or other scientific evidence, pharmacological effect or experience that the substance or method, alone or in combination with other substances or methods, has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance.”
If no evidence is found that it enhances performance, then agencies will have a harder time regulating it.
While all these high level research and decisions are being made, you can just try for yourself. Weed acts differently on different people and has a lot to do with your current state. If it makes you feel better, causes you to want to work out, to socialize and exercise with friends, to reduce your soreness, help you eat and sleep, then enjoy your cannabis and workouts, and while you’re at it, maybe it will make you brave enough to tell that guy next to you on the treadmill to stop singing.