Written by Craig Hauser, M.D. CEO & Medical Director, Hauser Health and Clinical Director, Kannavis

Warm up. Pre-workout meal. Hydrate. Cool down. Smoke weed.

Wait, what?

Fitness and marijuana have never been the best of friends. Yet the tides have changed. With medical marijuana’s legalization in 33 states and recreational use at 10 states (as of this writing!), an increasing number of athletes and fitness enthusiasts are openly talking about their marijuana use.

From seasoned athletes to weekend warriors, cannabis use is turning out to be popular regardless of sport. Some swear that it helps make recovery faster by preventing muscle soreness while others are quick to say that it has helped them beat previous records.  Cannabis-friendly gyms are even starting to pop up across the country.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how cannabis impacts fitness performance and workouts!

Your Brain and Body on Marijuana

First off, a quick refresher on how cannabis works when consumed via vape, smoke, or edibles.

The marijuana plant produces various chemical compounds called cannabinoids which in turn binds with your brain and body’s receptors. They can have an impact on your appetite, pain, mood, and memory.

Two of these compounds get the most attention — THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). When you smoke or ingest cannabis, THC gives you feelings of euphoria and relaxed inhibitions. As the psychoactive element of marijuana, it could lead to a lack of focus and in some cases, drowsiness.

Meanwhile, CBD  (the non-psychoactive element of cannabis) has an opposing effect as THC. It reduces pain and muscle spasm, making you more relaxed.

It’s worth noting that your body naturally produces cannabinoid-like compounds post-exercise.  One of these compounds, anandamide, has been observed in abundance after a long-distance running sesh.

So how does cannabis improve athletes and fitness enthusiasts?

For a start, a review of studies on the subject suggests that cannabis can improve oxygen flow to tissues while improving vision and concentration at the same time among athletes. It also helps athletes forget previous traumatic experiences related to their sport such as falls or injury and aid in pain relief as well as muscle spasm.

Next, intense physical activity or sports competitions may be recognized by the body as a potential stressor. As a result, the body responds by producing pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Repeated exposure to cytokines (say interval training three times a week) can cause temporary damage to your muscle tissue, leading to pain, muscle stiffness, and inflammation. Use of cannabis with high CBD content has been linked with a significant decline of proinflammatory cytokines in the body.

With this in mind, CBD strains may be particularly helpful in dealing with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and facilitate faster recovery.

More Research Needed

A Canadian study in 2018 highlighted that the jury is still out on the benefits of marijuana for athletes and fitness enthusiasts — from improving performance to pain relief. In other words, don’t rely too much yet on cannabis if you’d like to break a personal record or would love to maximize muscle gain.  

Ultimately, cannabis affects everyone in different ways. If you’re new to marijuana, you can start with small doses and observe what happens to your body as well as fitness performance.

If you want to learn more about medical cannabis and the benefits in workouts, contact Dr. Hauser. Unlike other doctors, he’s open to a discussion with patients who are interested in experimenting with medical cannabis in conjunction with exercise. Schedule an appointment today!

Are you looking for a dispensary in Maryland to talk to about marijuana? Get in touch with us at Kannavis.org.