5 Things You Should Know About Cannabis & Exercise

Emily Fisher
Emily Fisher - CEO

May 31 2017 - 5 min read

Bas Rutten, Ross Rebagliati, Megan Rapinoe, Lolo Jones, Bill Walton. Those are just a few of the awesome pro athletes who have used medical marijuana for recovery, relaxation and, most importantly, an alternative to painkillers. Martial artists and yoga practitioners in particular seem to have an interesting affinity to cannabis.

The stereotypical image of a lazy stoner lying around in their underwear, snacking on junk food, and watching television seems a bit ridiculous when looking at the numerous world-class athletes who use cannabis and CBD for boosting recovery, helping manage minor injuries and muscle soreness, and help make the most of your rest days.

In fact, cannabis users may exercise more than non-users:

Researchers surveyed 600 cannabis users in California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon and Washington about the impacts of cannabis on athletic performance and the results were stunning. Those who used some form of cannabis an hour before working out and/or within four hours after their workout reported getting 43 more minutes of exercise each week than those who didn’t.

Cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise to see everyone from world-class athletes to weekend warriors embracing the power of plant-based medicine. This article is going to break down the science behind the health benefits of cannabis, how CBD and THC can boost your athletic performance and recovery, and how cannabis is currently used by top-notch athletes all over the world.

1. The THC – A Performance Enhancer for Athletes?

Cannabis and exercise

Many might remember the scene in American Beauty, where Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) uses cannabis and hits the weights. Well, that’s not just some dumb throwaway moment from a Hollywood movie. There are also various triathletes who use THC-laden snacks to go on long-distance runs, swims and cycles. Even 28-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps and a laundry list of other world-record breakers are pretty open about their cannabis use.

So what exactly are the links between THC and better athletic performance? The psychoactivity of THC helps people keep their focus and prevents unnecessary distractions. Therefore, it should be no surprise that athletes who prefer to use cannabis before their workouts might prefer high-THC sativas with some THCV in it for its anti-hunger, energetic effects. Lester Burnham likes G-13 Haze!

THC also works on the same cannabinoid receptors that the endocannabinoid anandamide works on. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for “runner’s high” – the blissful, euphoric feeling a person gets after exercise. For athletes who like to use THC to complement their workouts, this “rewarding” of the brain may not only keep the body focussed on exercising but also fight through the “burn” and carry on going due to any pain being minimized.

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2. Why CBD for Atheletes? The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Cannabis

One of the most interesting moments of MMA history was seeing Nate Diaz pulling on a vape pen filled with CBD oil during a post-fight press conference. Nate, who is one of the most infamous cannabis users in the fight game, uses CBD oil to manage pain and inflammation. He’s far from the only pro athlete to turn to CBD to help manage their aches and pains, however.

Many NFL players and other high-contact sporting participants also use CBD in various forms (e.g. topical creams, tinctures, ect.) for the same purpose, and it’s not hard to see why. CBD oil is a non-addictive, far less performance-impacting alternative to opioids. For athletes who need an effective painkiller that doesn’t cloud the mind and is totally natural. it could just well be the answer they’re looking for. Studies have shown that CBD users reported their sore muscles recover faster than without CBD, and are just as effective as over-the-counter inflammation-reducing medications like aspirin.

The best part is that, with CBD, athletes don’t have to worry too much about failing a drug test. Anti-doping agencies like the World Anti-Doping Agency have taken CBD off of their prohibited list, clearing the way for WADA athletes to utilize CBD for recovery. Unfortunately, though, THC is still a prohibited substance. Rare though it is, full-spectrum CBD oils may on occasion contain a little more THC than is on the label, or THC may accummulate in the body over time. This can lead to a positive result for THC.

CBD is a fantastic option for athletes when it comes to managing and reducing stress, pain and post-workout soreness, minor injuries, and can even work as a sleep aid. It’s crystal clear that CBD can help with athletes in a massive variety of ways.

Download Free Guide to CBD

3. The Relaxing Effects of Cannabis, and Does it Reduce Testosterone?

Some would argue that using cannabis can deplete testosterone and therefore prevent the development of muscle mass. In reality, however, that’s pseudoscience nonsense. Studies linking cannabis use to lower testosterone levels have been inconclusive at best, with some users seeing their levels dip while others stayed the same.

Plus, for most people who train consistently, the testosterone-depleting side-effects of cannabis can be mitigated by a well-planned, decent diet. Exercise can also increase testosterone levels, so cannabinoids’ testosterone-depleting effects can be minimized just by going to the gym and getting a good workout.

In short, anyone who’s arguing that smoking marijuana can mess up your progress in the gym when it comes to building muscle has no idea what they’re talking about.

4. Brain Damage – Could CBD Be an Answer?

Brain damage is a massive problem in the world of professional sports like wrestling, boxing and American football. Unsurprisingly, taking repetitive blows on the head from hundreds of pounds of muscle takes its toll on the brain through traumatic brain injuries, or TBI’s.

TBI’s can be caused by bumps, jolts or blows to the head that shake the brain around, bashing it against the inside of the skull. When the brain gets injured in this way, it goes into panic mode. Even mild TBI’s can cause symptoms that last weeks, and more severe TBI’s can impact people for a lifetime. That’s why so many neurologists and doctors are concerned about the impact of CTE on professional athletes, especially former NFL players.

CBD, which could be a neuroprotectant, might just well prevent high-contact sportsmen and women from developing long-term, debilitating neurological problems like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and CTE.

5. The Different Ingestion Methods

For people who are hyper-focused on overall health and longevity, smoking cannabis might be a tough sell for them regardless of the potential benefits. After all, fully functioning and undamaged lungs are pretty important for anyone, especially for people living active lifestyles.

However, it’s not the 60s anymore. There’s a bunch of different ways to use and consume cannabis products without the use of a rolling paper and a lighter. Vaporizing with high-quality THC or CBD-infused oil,, tinctures, edibles or even transdermal creams will not affect lung capacity in any known way, whilst still being legitimate ways of getting vital stress-busting cannabinoids into the body.

Do you use cannabis to help you exercise? If so, please tell us about it and how cannabis helps you, or get in touch to receive your MMJ card online today!

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Written by
Emily Fisher
Emily Fisher

Emily is an entrepreneur and medical cannabis patient. In 2016 she began working with medical clinics in California and met with hundreds of patients who used cannabis to help them in their daily lives. Fascinated by its effectiveness and versatility as a medicine, she realized more research and education was needed to help patients. In 2019, Emily founded Leafwell, which aims to improve patient access to medical cannabis.

Joe Evans
Joe Evans

Joe Evans is a journalist, writer, editor and contributor for Leafwell. He has, to date, more than 5,000 articles published online under his byline on topics like cannabis, local and National news, politics, automotive news, sports, pop culture and even a cult.

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