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MEDICAL EFFECTS OF CANNABIS IN SPORT AND EXERCISE

The medical effects of cannabis in sport and exercise

Have you ever worked out after taking an edible? Or smoked a joint to relax after the gym? It’s common for people today to mix cannabis with a healthy and active lifestyle. Some active individuals appreciate the benefits cannabis has to offer during intense physical activity, but the question is, what are these benefits exactly?

We often wonder about the effects of cannabis on our bodies and minds. If it helps me with my chronic pain, perhaps it can do more? This article seeks to explain why some people use cannabis to enhance their workouts. 

Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System

There is a bit of a similarity between the cannabinoids from cannabis and those from our body. That’s right, we produce our own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids.

Cannabinoids manage many bodily processes, from mood to pain regulation to inflammation. When we exercise, our endocannabinoid system kicks into high gear. A piece on Nature explains, “…that exercise-induced euphoria originates in the endocannabinoid system. A 2003 study found elevated levels of the endocannabinoid molecule anandamide in the blood of volunteers after they ran or cycled in a lab. Because cannabis targets these same endocannabinoid receptors, Bryan speculates that the drug might allow users to “jumpstart” those pleasurable feelings.” 

Cannabis may make you feel better during your workout, “jumpstarting” that feeling of euphoria. If you’re enjoying the workout, a dose of cannabis might make it a lot easier to keep going. 

Moreover, cannabinoids THC and CBD may interact with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system while exercising. Cannabinoids create a unique experience—a combination of natural endorphins produced from the exercise as well as the additional euphoria from the cannabis. This euphoric state may lead some to continue consuming cannabis and exercising, but is it safe? 

Is Cannabis Performance Enhancing Drug?

Although cannabis can make exercise and sport more enjoyable, it’s generally not considered a performance-enhancing drug. A little toke before the game will not make you a better athlete. Most research tells us it impacts your performance instead of improving it.

Health Europa explored this topic in depth. They describe a 2006 study that demonstrates the impact of cannabis consumption on athletic performance. According to Health Europa, the study authors, ‘Renaud and Cormier, “showed that marijuana smoking reduces maximal exercise

performance; when 12 healthy young adults cycled to exhaustion 10 minutes after smoking, exercise duration decreased from 16 to 15 minutes.” [2]

Of course, as is the case in any area of cannabis research, this is still under debate. So if cannabis doesn’t boost cardio performance, could it help in other areas?

There are some signs that cannabis may provide some benefits for certain athletes in specific circumstances. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, “In this study vasodilation and bronchodilation were increased, suggesting that cannabis could also improve oxygenation to the tissues. Furthermore, hotlines developed in support of doped athletes report performance-enhancing capabilities.” [3]

Does this mean some athletes could see positive performance changes? The study concludes, “Cannabis is presented as a drug that has significant positive effects in sports, such as improvement of vision for goalkeepers and muscle relaxation. Smoked cannabis can decrease anxiety, fear, depression and tension. THC is anxiolytic at low doses, the doses reportedly consumed by athletes.” 

Cannabis Helps with Endurance and Post-Workout Recovery 

There do seem to be some genuine benefits. According to an expert interviewed for Men’s Health, “Cannabis has been shown to be good for pain control and can be useful while training at non-peak levels. Like a runner’s high, cannabis can help with endurance.” 

There may also be benefits following your workout. According to Health Europa’s piece on the subject, even if cannabis doesn’t make your performance better, it can help with the recovery. They detail how the plant “regulates fatigue and so can relieve physical and mental exhaustion, making it a go-to drug for athletes looking for relief from intensive training regimes. The option for athletes to consume edibles rather than smoke the plant also means they can reap the benefits without the harmful effects of smoking.” 

What About Cannabis Edibles for Sports?

So if you’re thinking about trying a cannabis-infused workout, and you’re trying to minimize damage to your lungs, edible cannabis may be an option for you. If you choose to smoke and work out anyway, you may be surprised to know that smoking can reduce your ability. Your cardio is going to take a serious hit. 

Cardio isn’t always a concern, of course. Some people just want to enjoy their workout more than usual. But what about those looking to enhance their performance? An athlete who is trying to shave a minute or two off their marathon time may want to consider this before lighting up or snacking on an edible.

Sports Organizations Don’t Approve of THC

Before leaping into cannabis as a workout enhancer or post-workout recovery option, consider what rules apply. Most organizations at the state, national, and international levels do not approve of THC. THC is the intoxicating compound and still illegal in many countries.

Esquire explains, “While the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) makes it very clear that marijuana in its natural and synthetic states is banned in-performance, it has come around to cannabidiol (CBD), the substance responsible for so many of its medicinal benefits. That’s a new change for 2018’s banned substances.”

So if you’re considering cannabis for your workout, perhaps a CBD strain would be more effective and legal. 

Is Cannabis the Right Choice for Sports Medicine?

One must consider all the aspects of medicine, both positive and negative, before making an educated decision. Its possible cannabis may be detrimental in some ways, but in others, it provides benefits. The decision, as always, is up to the individual. It’s up to you to judge for yourself and to consult with a medical professional if you are uncertain. 

There is a fine line between enhancing your workout and turning your exercise routine into a smoke sesh. Some people think that it’s not just the amount of cannabis that helps, but the cannabinoid involved as well. Try experimenting with different strains to test the results. 

Maybe high-CBD strains help with sports recovery, and mild-THC strains boost euphoria. You may want to avoid strains with relaxing, sedative effects before working out, but after working out, they may be the perfect reward. There are so many options to choose from that there is almost certainly a cannabis product out there for everyone. 

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