Exercise is something we as humans probably all need more of, yet between our hectic schedules and other obligations, fitting in a daily fitness routine can be difficult. This is especially true if you’re not a fan of “sweating it out” or “feeling the burn”.
The fact is, exercise isn’t always fun. It can be downright exhausting (and not in a good way), as well as time-consuming, and an altogether a lackluster experience. But it doesn’t have to be. There are a great many ways you can spice up your exercise routine. Specialized diets, homeopathic remedies, supplements, workout fads, exercise mixtapes, sports, and more. You name it and there is something out there to help. Yet one often overlooked way to make exercise more enjoyable is incorporating cannabis into your fitness routine. Sounds crazy right? Yet, cannabis and exercise might be just what you need to crank up the enjoyment level during your next workout session.
Both marijuana and hemp-based products may prove useful. Although the two main cannabinoids THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) have varying effects, many people are beginning to swear by their help with pre- and post-workout treatments. And now that legalization is spreading through the United States, as well, more and more athletes are singing its praise.
This guide will help you take a closer look at whether or not cannabis and CBD can really help your workout. We’ll dig into what the science and research says, as well as any safety concerns.
Why People Use Cannabis to Make Exercise More Enjoyable
According to research published in the journal of Frontiers in Public Health, smoking cannabis is likely to encourage individuals to participate in fitness-related activities. In a survey with 600 participants in the USA, over 50% of cannabis users reported that the drug actually motivated them to exercise. Out of those surveyed, around 80% admitted to using cannabis either pre or post-workout. Those who used cannabis before or after exercise tended to workout for more hours each week than those who did not partake.
But Why is Cannabis so (apparently) Effective at Making Exercise More Tolerable?
According to some researchers, there is evidence to suggest that cannabinoids found within the plant are capable of creating a feeling similar to a “runner’s high” as well as reducing pain perception. Both of these attributes, combined with cannabis’ potential to aid with concentration and focus might be the reason why cannabis users find their workouts more enjoyable. Other research surrounding CBD (a primary cannabinoid in cannabis) has revealed impressive anti-inflammatory properties that may aid with post-workout recovery and reduced soreness.
Fitness and Cannabis: Current Research
Sadly, the literature surrounding the user of cannabis for fitness and exercise is sparse. Given the previous bans on cannabis research in countries such as the United States, scientists have had little chance to buckle down and look into these effects. However, as regulations surrounding the use of cannabis are beginning to lax, we’re starting to see more research emerge on how it may impact our bodies in certain situations. This is especially true as it relates to CBD research, which has shown great promise with regards to fitness-related benefits such as reduced inflammation and pain, as well as potentially faster healing times.
Research Regarding Cannabis and Exercise
YorkWilliams, et al. (2019) note that sparse research is problematic with continuing legalization and move on to survey 600 participants within legalized states regarding cannabis’ effect on exercise. They specifically looked at issues with motivation, enjoyment, and recovery. A majority (81.7%) endorsed using cannabis during exercise; those who did before/after indicated that it increased their enjoyment/recovery.
Alshaarawy & Anthony (2019) studied the effects of cannabis on weight loss as a whole. Through pre-clinical studies and cross-sectional evidence, they compiled anecdotes and previous research to find an inverse relationship between cannabis use and BMI increase; i.e., cannabis users were less likely to be overweight.
Ware, et al (2018) note that evidence is limited but cannabis shows promise for chronic pain management. They also found that the potential for abuse is limited but users should be wary of mental health issues. They note the performance-enhancing effects lack direct evidence, but potential benefits for pain management deserves further attention.
Kennedy (2017) studied research published over the last ten years (at that time) that looked in-depth at exercise protocols and the effect of cannabis. His research found that it had little effect on enhancing aerobic exercise and risked lowering one’s strength.
Cannabis’ Potential Effects on Pre-Workout and Recovery
While cannabis and exercise may not seem like obvious partners due to potential sedative effects, athletes are starting to speak out. Olympic athlete Michael Phelps and NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have both admitted to the use of marijuana with their workouts. Anecdotally, users are reporting more enjoyment of their exercise and motivation to go for longer.
Authors from the YorkWilliams 2019 study have found that evidence suggests cannabis dampens pain receptors; it also invokes the same response to a “runner’s high.” Cannabis is also believed to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, which could help with recovery. However, the evidence here conflicts— some find cannabis to hamper recovery.
Preliminary evidence shows that people who use cannabis before exercise will work out for longer, but there is not enough research to say this definitively.
It’s important to note that as of this writing, marijuana is not allowed for professional and league-based athletes. Itwill show up on a drug test, and itwill get you disqualified. Cannabis as a whole has been banned in the NFL and other agencies like the World Doping Agency for potential performance-enhancement.
According to theUS Anti-Doping Agency, marijuana is banned for other reasons, citing:
“It can also decrease anxiety and tension, resulting in better sports performance under pressure. In addition, 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.”
Safety Concerns Regarding Cannabis Use and Exercise
The first step you should take towards safety is to speak with your doctor about cannabis, whether you are considering CBD or THC. You want to make sure that neither will interfere with current medication or any medical diagnosis. You also want to keep track of what supplements you are testing.
The next comes with considering strain. Many cannabis strains are bred with relaxing properties in mind, which could make operating exercise equipment extremely dangerous.
Third, some of the ‘benefits’ listed above could be considered drawbacks. If your pre-workout strain causes you to have more endurance, you could risk ignoring important signals from your body. Much of the strain and hardship in exercise is our body adapting or protesting to the heavy movement; sometimes, ignoring these warnings can lead to serious injury.
Closing Thoughts Regarding Cannabis and Exercise
If you are going to attempt working out with a cannabis supplement, don’t workout alone until you know the effects it has on your body. Have an accountability partner present who can make sure you don’t injure yourself. Start slow, and start with lower doses, working your way up as necessary until you find that “sweet spot” where your motivation is enhanced but where you’re not so “high” that it impacts motor function and reaction time.