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The Many Ways That Using Cannabis May Improve Your Workout

Posted: February 28, 2020

As cannabis usage becomes more and more mainstream, using it before and after exercising is becoming commonplace. In this article I will list the many benefits of using cannabis for your workout or for competitive sports. I will also list the few risks involved with using cannabis during high-intensity workouts or sports that require a lot of coordination. I will also address dosing and the importance of finding the best strains and the different delivery methods that work best for your fitness routine.

  • Benefits of Cannabis Usage
  • Reduces muscle spasms
  • Anti-inflammatory properties reduce pain during and after activity
  • Acts as a motivator to exercise by making it more enjoyable
  • Aids in post-exercise relaxation and sleep
  • Increases the oxygenation of muscle tissue and ligaments
  • Decreases the sympathetic response which helps with relaxation and calms the mind
  • Helps with recovery after a workout and/or a sports performance
  • May increase your rate of fat loss and reduce your fasting insulin level
  • Acts as a neuroprotectant to help treat concussions
  • Minimizes negative and useless thoughts during yoga and meditation
  • Relieves pain and increases pain tolerance

Cannabis is an analgesic and may help alleviate pain both during and after the activity, including the following day when many athletes experience muscle soreness.

  • Help athletes get into “the flow state”

Getting “into the zone” or “the flow state” describes a mental state of complete focus on performing a physical activity. This is achieved by increasing energy levels, alleviating stress and anxiety, and producing euphoria and feelings of accomplishment. Other benefits include:

  • Facilitating a synergy between the mind and the body
  • Increasing fluidity of movement
  • Time moves much more slowly
  • Improving creativity

Cannabinoids may assist in producing structural changes in brain by facilitating new neuron connections that it might otherwise not make. Great for those that must constantly make snap decisions during competition such as skiers, surfers and mountain bikers.

THC vs CBD

Both THC and CBD have anti-inflammatory properties which facilitate pre-workout flexibility and post-workout relief of sore and stiff muscles and joints.

While THC increases appetite, CBD controls the metabolism of carbohydrates, fasting insulin levels and metabolic function, while curbing cravings.

According to Dr. Junella Chin, a New York and California based integrative medical physician, using a balanced THC:CBD or high-CBD strain minimizes the impulse to eat too much.

Professional athletes who typically have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) metabolize cannabis differently than those with more body fat. Microdosing is now being recognized as a more beneficial way to metabolize cannabinoids.

There is a correlation between the release of THC and your Body Mass Index (BMI). The higher your BMI, the more THC gets reintroduced to your body. Exercise increases plasma THC concentrations in regular cannabis users.

Weight Lifting
Those who use cannabis prior to lifting weights reported that they are more focused on their form, more focused on slowing down their lifts and more focused on engaging specific muscle groups.

Runners
Those who use cannabis prior to long distance running reported that they find their runs more tolerable and enjoyable. They also experience less muscle and joint pain the following day due to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis.

Performance Anxiety
For professional athletes who suffer with performance anxiety, studies indicate that cannabis reduces their anxiety.

According to sports and regenerative medicine doctor, Dayna McCarthy, patients who use cannabis feel even better or more positive after exercising. Dr. McCarthy is a staff member at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. That is because the cannabinoids in medical cannabis reduce pain and inflammation by activating the serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain.

Cannabis Research

Cannabis Regulates Metabolic Function
In a 2013 study, cannabis users were shown to have a 16% reduction in fasting insulin levels, 17% lower insulin resistance levels and a smaller waist circumference over non-users. The study, The Impact of Marijuana Use in Glucose, Insulin and Insulin Resistance among US Adults, was published in The American Journal of Medicine.

Cannabis Inhibits Exercise-Induced Asthma
A 2017 Australian study showed that THC inhibits exercise-induced asthma. The same study indicated that it does not improve aerobic performance. In fact, it may actually reduce strength and the ability of athletes to work at a high load.

Choosing the Right Strain
While many strains available at medical dispensaries are hybrids, the conventional wisdom is the following:

  • Sativa strains are recommended before exercise to help make it more enjoyable and successful.
  • Indica strains are recommended after exercise to help with recovery.

Recommended Delivery Methods

  • Vaping for short-term activity up to 90 minutes
  • Edibles for long-term and endurance activities which may last for more than 4 hours
  • Tinctures are easy to carry and access with effects lasting for more than 3 hours
  • Topicals can be used before and after exercise to relieve muscle, ligament and joint pain, lasting up to 3 hours.

Dosing
The mantra of cannabis dosing is Start Low and Go Slow. It is recommended that you establish your dosing and delivery methods prior to beginning a rigorous workout schedule or engage in any strenuous activities.

Risks of Using Cannabis

  • May impede balance
  • May reduce motor function
  • May elevate heart rate
  • May cause injury due to overuse syndromes

Don’t set your sights too high when you begin combining cannabis usage with exercise. Start with an activity in which you already have expertise and which you enjoy!

Sources:
marketwatch.com, Cannabis Users Who Mix Weed and Workouts Tend to Exercise More, Nicole Lyn Pesce, May 2, 2019
leafly.com, Three Things Everyone Should Know About Cannabis and Exercise, Anna Wilcox
drgreenrelief.com, Supercharge Your Workout with Medical Cannabis
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pub med 28392338
keytocannabis.com, Flow State: Cannabis Helps Athletes Get in The Zone
keytocannabis.com, How To Exercise High: Cannabis Tips For Athletes

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