Cannabis hasn’t exactly always been known for its energy-boosting effects. Maybe that’s why it’s a little appalling to hear that people are actually incorporating cannabis into their workout routine.
Using cannabis for working out is a unique experience for every person. In fact, many people are utilizing cannabis both before and after their workout. They claim that cannabis helps them get more out of each session, and even helps them recover better after a heavy workout.
The effects and benefits you reap from using cannabis depend greatly on the kind of cannabis you use, when you use it, and how your biology reacts with cannabinoids. But what really happens when you mix a little bit of that THC with your workouts? Do cannabis-induced workouts actually work, or does it do more harm than good? Let’s take a look at both its good and bad sides to get a clear idea about working out high.
What smoking does to your system?
For those of you who don’t know much about marijuana, the most important substance in it is tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC. THC has a huge effect on one system of the body known as the endocannabinoid system. In fact, your body produces its own THC-like substances known as, well, endocannabinoids.
When endocannabinoids or THC binds to cannabinoid receptors, primarily in the brain, it causes all types of fascinating effects that pot users are familiar with. Now the question is whether any of these effects can help with your workouts. First, let’s make it clear that even though it’s more widely accepted today, smoking marijuana is still illegal in most states.
The Good Side: Getting High before Gym does help
Whether you choose to use marijuana or any other THC-inducing drug is solely your choice. Now, let’s face it. Most people’s image of a marijuana user is not what we would call “physically active.” The cliché “lazy couch-dwelling pot smoker” almost makes it seem like smoking weed will do absolutely nothing in terms of fitness. But many athletes say otherwise.
There are athletes who swear by using cannabis to enhance their workout sessions. The reasoning behind this is generally along the lines of using cannabis to increase focus and boost stamina. Some triathletes have said that consuming THC-laced edibles were able to help them focus better in physical activities. Some athletes even say that getting high allowed them to take away anxiety during workouts.
Marathon runners have said that smoking weed before a run allowed them to get into a groove easier, and it makes it feel like they can run for much longer. So the anecdotes of professional athletes seem to give a thumbs up to bongs up.
Another reason that many people may benefit from going to the gym high is because of cannabis’ ability to ease pain and inflammation. Reducing these effects throughout the workout may give athletes the stamina needed to push out a few more reps or push themselves overall.
And one more possible positive, but not fully proven, is that marijuana can serve as a vasodilator. This means that it can improve blood flow by widening your arteries, which can help with delivering nutrients to your muscles and vasodilation has shown to even improve soreness.
And yes what they say is true. Cannabis’ impact on anxiety may offer a benefit to athletes, especially those who suffer from competition-related stress. For those who generally suffer from anxiety, cannabis might be able to help clear some mental fog to increase focus during a workout.
What does the actual research say?
Well, the thing is, not too much research is out there since marijuana is still classified as a “Schedule 1” illegal substance. But we do have some research and the information is quite interesting. First is the connection of marijuana and the good feeling after a long jog known as the “runner’s high.” It was long believed that runner’s high came from the release of beta-endorphins.
But now studies say that's not true since endorphins can't reach the brain. Instead, it’s most likely from endocannabinoids, which can reach the brain. Since marijuana’s THC share the same effects as endocannabinoids, it can be possible to increase the sensation of a runner’s high if you smoked a bit before you run. Not exactly improving performance, but at least improve the enjoyment of exercise.
As far as improving performance, unfortunately, it seems that all studies are pointing at zero. In terms of power output, studies have found that, when performing a cycling test at maximal effort, smoking marijuana caused subjects to exhaust faster. Another study showed a placebo (dummy treatment that appears to be real but isn’t) beat out marijuana in an endurance test.
The Bad Side: Harms of Smoking before a vigorous Workout
Smoking before going to the gym may pose benefits for some people, but there's always some level of harm that it poses to your lungs and cognition. Many people have noted that smoking prior workout makes it harder to focus or mentally prepare
e for a workout. For some people, THC induces anxiety, especially in high doses. It's possible that small doses of cannabis before a workout may be more beneficial than large doses. High dose may affect cognition so heavily that some people find it difficult to even drive or operate gym equipment safely.
They even found that the smokers routinely had an elevated heart rate and blood pressure. This can be discomforting and problematic for people at risk for coronary heart disease. And even though smoking marijuana can reduce stress and pain sensations, which can even help you push through a few more reps, this can pose a huge risk.
Since many of the early indicators of injury from physical activity is discomfort and joint pain, smokers might not be able to timely identify pain-injury signals before it’s too late. And THC is also a psychoactive drug that can impair coordination and slow down reaction time.
A study found that smoking 17mg of THC caused users to run into walls more frequently and took longer to complete a virtual maze test. A caveat, though, is that people smoking only 13 milligrams of THC did as well as non-smokers. On top of this, another study showed that if smokers were given a chance to practice, they were able to perform just as well as non-smokers in a reaction test.
That being said, experienced cannabis users should have an idea of their limits. That makes it easier to avoid adverse effects while you slowly incorporate cannabis into your workout routine.
Here’s how you can safely add Cannabis to your workout routine
If you've decided to try adding cannabis to your workout routine, there are a few tips you can take to build a dosing plan that fits your needs.
- If you’re using it for the first time, you should try cannabis before committing to the entire gym experience, just so you get used to how it works.
- If you're going to smoke cannabis before a workout, start small. A few hits should be a good place to start.
- If you find that the effects wear off too quickly but don't have any negative cognitive impacts, you can slightly increase the dose next time. Remember not to ever drive while intoxicated.
- When using cannabis after a workout, it is best to consume it within 10-30 minutes after the session is complete. This gives the cannabis time to begin its work.
- Always drink plenty of water while using cannabis for workouts.
- If you are on daily medication or suffer from serious health conditions, talk to your doctor about how cannabis may affect you. Your doctor will help you decide what's best for you.
The Bottom Line
Putting everything in perspective, it doesn’t seem like working out high is that great of an idea. There are just no proven performance benefits and it might even make it worse. So if you do choose to workout high, perhaps smoke just a little bit and make sure you get enough warm-up practice before you go heavy.
Yes, if taking a few puffs will help you with YOUR workout, then don’t stop yourself from puffing away. Stay high and stay active!