Many accomplished athletes have used medical marijuana for recovery, relaxation, and as an alternative to painkillers, specifically opioids. Due to the growing number of various cannabinoids and terpenes discovered, cannabis is no longer just part of the “lazy stoner” profile.

Instead, it can significantly help you perform and recover from physical activities. THC and CBD can boost recovery, manage injuries and muscle soreness, and maximize rest days.

Are there benefits to working out high?

There are several ways you can benefit from legal cannabis during and after exercising:

  • Chronic pain relief
  • Improves lung capacity
  • Repair bones
  • Helps with ADHD/ADD
  • Anxiety Relief
  • Joint Mobility
  • Relieves inflammation
  • Helps regulate sleep patterns
  • Maintaining appetite

Are there health risks?

There are a few adverse effects that worry leaders of sports medicine and sports organizations across the globe. Cannabis remains on the prohibited list for many national and international leagues.

Here are a few reasons for that:
  • possibility that cannabis is a performance-enhancing drug, though no evidence has been found to support this claim
  • slowed reaction time and the fact that cannabis effects coordination could result in injury
  • some athletes cite increased anxiety and paranoia, although this is a specific strain issue rather than a general cannabis issue
  • The federal government has not legalized cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, swaying some from deviating due to it remaining on the prohibited substances list

Does the strain matter?

When exercising, you’ll want to maintain energy while staying safe and relatively in control of your body. Because of this, Sativas are the ideal strain to balance out indoor and outdoor physical activities.

While many hybrids would also be fine, we advise steering clear of potent Indica strains because they can provide too intense a body or cerebral high. Also, remember to have plenty of water when exercising due to the dehydrating effects of THC and the need for rehydration after sweating.

When it comes to cannabis and exercise, you’ll want to find a product that helps you enjoy exercise, but not that will cause sedative effects like couch lock.

Here are five recommended strains for working out:
  • Sour Diesel
  • Durban Poison
  • Blue Dream
  • Jack Herer
  • Green Crack

Does consumption method change things?

Yes. Smoking cannabis may not be the best option for people who are working out for endurance or for overall lung health. For cannabis users who want to try getting high before a workout, it may be better to try edibles, tinctures, or topicals. Either way, make sure you take a low dose and monitor yourself while using weed to enhance performance.

Professional Athletes & Weed

According to cannabis research from the 2019 Athlete PEACE (pain, exercise, and cannabis experience) Survey, sixty-one percent of the athletes surveyed admitted to cannabis use. Out of that group, studies suggest sixty-eight percent reported relief. Some of the positive benefits of medical marijuana described include the ability to manage pain, maintain healthy blood pressure levels, anti-inflammatory properties, muscle recovery, help with sleep, and overall increased feelings of calm.

Aside from that data, approximately eighty percent of professional athletes in the NBA and NFL admit they have ingested or smoked cannabis regularly to enhance athletic performance or physical activity. However, most of these organizations still technically consider marijuana a banned substance due to drug testing policies set in place by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Their reasoning is that for some, smoking weed can hinder performance of the body and mind.

The Canna Research Group, led by Joanna and Robert Zieger, surveyed 1,200 athletes across various sports. Their anecdotal reports showed that many athletes use cannabis for relief and performance. This survey assisted in studying the positive and negative effects of marijuana use from a neutral standpoint. Their findings showed that cannabis use could benefit inflammation, pain, and insomnia. Only a few participants experienced adverse side effects such as loss of concentration and heightened anxiety.

A Washington University study found that “52 percent of retired players said they used prescription pain medication during their playing days.” With many others from the NFL players association coming out about the dangers of using painkillers, there is scientific evidence that marijuana could be a safer option in sport medicine for professional athletes. It can react with the body’s endocannabinoid system to ease concussion-related symptoms and performance enhancement.

Here are the six categories in which cannabis may benefit athletes, or those working out:
  • Performance
  • Recovery
  • Motivation
  • Endurance
  • Enjoyment
  • Relaxation

International travel with marijuana is an entirely different issue and is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It is also illegal to transport marijuana outside of the country, and penalties could be harsh depending on where you get caught. Because it is such a legal gray area, we advise not to fly internationally with cannabis because the penalties could be very severe.

Exercise as a Cannabis Detox

If you’re looking to detox instead of get high while working out, exercise may still be the answer. With some drugs, your body can naturally detox within three to five days. For marijuana, it can take up to thirty days depending on use, metabolism, body fat, and other health factors. You can speed this process up by exercising and drinking several ounces of water per day. but it won’t work quickly enough for passing random drug tests.

Drinking plenty of water during the detox phase is an excellent start. Frequent urination is a sign that it is starting to work. Rather than drinking an excessive amount in a short period of time, it’s best to maintain a good hydration level through the THC detox process. Eventually, your body will naturally rid itself of toxins through exercise and water intake.

Final Thoughts

A recent survey suggests about 70 percent of people who used cannabis before working out said it made exercising more enjoyable.  Whether you’re an athlete looking to ease pain, or if you’re looking for more than just a runner’s high while running the trails, medical cannabis may be a good option for your active lifestyle.

It is proven to help with recovery, inflammation, and pain relief. It can also ease intrusive thoughts and offer feelings of motivation, focus, and overall happiness. We recommend chatting with your local dispensary to find the right strain and product for your active lifestyle.

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