We have all heard the antiquated stigma that cannabis consumers are lazier than non-consumers. The word “stoner” is often associated with depictions of couches, Cheetos, and carbohydrates. While it may be true that many consumers of cannabis are keen to find rest and relaxation, it is simply false that cannabis use inherently lowers productivity. In fact, recent studies have begun to show the opposite. Today, the relationship between the cannabis plant and exercise is a topic of great interest in further research developing in this arena. Professional athletes and health experts alike are beginning to understand just how beneficial cannabis can be for workout recovery, muscle pain, motivation, and more.
To understand how exercise routines are affected by cannabis, it is crucial to be familiar with how cannabis affects our body as a whole.
From muscle and joint pain to chronic inflammation, cannabis’ chemical compounds have the potential to provide immense relief throughout the body. The human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is composed of cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2, and possibly others) from head to toe. When cannabis is consumed, compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) bind to these cannabinoid receptors while other compounds like CBD modulate non-cannabinoid receptors and ion channels in the body. Along with terpenes and other chemicals within the plant, these compounds work together to support the Entourage Effect and promote the relaxing and euphoric effects that consumers know and love.
Explore an in-depth primer on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and how exercise and cannabis share commonalities in the effect they have on the human body. [Project CBD]
Why does exercise make you walk away from it feeling better, maybe feeling less depressed? In a way I’d like that to be what the word “high” means, an elevated state. But the word is so convoluted with more intense psychoactive stimulated places, and this is more of a benefit in mood that comes from exercise. Human beings evolved to be movers, to be exercisers, to be endurance runners, that other members of the evolutionary family that we came from – hominids – we evolved to be runners and anthropologists have long questioned why engage in this kind of risky behavior. What motivated our hominid ancestors to start running long distances? Part of that answer is the endocannabinoid system is being utilized by the brain to feel good, and also to regulate your energy. I mean, we understand the metabolic aspects of it much better then we used to. The endocannabinoids help to improve how much you enjoy food, which is the object of our running, foraging behavior, evolutionarily speaking. They help to store energy, just like cannabis can promote feeding behavior. When you run and your endocannabinoids go up that helps to promote feeding behavior and storing of fat deposits and saving energy. At the same time, it helps to dampen inflammation because when one is living an active lifestyle, you don’t have the spare calories for inflammation. [Excerpt from an interview neuroscientist Greg Gerdeman by Project CBD]
Cannabis can target certain parts of the body, depending on what and how it is consumed. For those with shallow aches and pains, CBD topicals can be applied directly to the pain point. If you suffer from chronic, deeper pains, consuming a combination of CBD and THC may be most beneficial, as these compounds can then target internal cannabinoid receptors quickly and efficiently.
Workouts, often days later, can cause extreme soreness and discomfort in your muscles and joints. This soreness is caused by the production of small proteins like cytokine and t-regulatory cells throughout the muscular system. When cannabis is consumed, however, the production of these compounds is inhibited. Cannabinoids work to prevent this type of cell growth, lowering overall muscle inflammation and inflammatory disorders.
This means that consumption before or after your workout can, for some, has the potential to significantly reduce soreness and overall pain in the days following intense exercise. For some consuming cannabis before you hit the gym can help to stimulate motivation to prolong exercises, allowing you to push further (and longer) than before.
The fact that cannabis is being proven to be successful in recovering from intensive exercise is life-changing for many, but particularly for professional athletes. These men and women dedicate their daily lives to fitness and exercise, constantly pushing their bodies to limit. Cannabis allows for their recovery time to be reduced considerably, and for the overall process to be less painful, as well. Take, for instance, the laundry list of retired NFL and NBA players who have come out sharing their experiences of training, playing, and consuming.
Even if you’re not a professional athlete, the soreness from a hard beating in the gym or during practice is enough to throw us off our daily routines. Thankfully, cannabis can make it a bit easier to recover and soothe our hardworking muscles.
Whether you’re hitting the vape pen before a long run or day of strength-training, cannabis can be the perfect pre-workout to focus the mind. Your brain contains numerous cannabinoid receptors that, when combined with actual cannabinoids, can ease anxiety and incite motivation. To achieve this, however, it’s crucial to understand the chemistry and dose of what you are consuming. More is not always better - small doses of cannabis may be more helpful to the active body than large doses.
More is not always better - small doses of cannabis may be more helpful to the active body than large doses.
Cannabis helps many people achieve a state of focus during exercise and activity. Appropriate consumption allows these users to switch their attention from the pains and discomfort of working out, to tune into the specific action the body is making. Earlier this year, a study was conducted to see the effect of cannabis on those who exercise regularly. Out of the 600 people surveyed in legalized states, 52% said that consuming cannabis before their workout made them more motivated to be physically active, and 70% reported that it made their workout significantly more enjoyable. Combine this with the relief that cannabis brings post-workouts, and exercising becomes something to genuinely look forward to.
Are you ready to take a HIIT?
Cardio is one of the most popular forms of exercise, not only challenging muscle groups and the respiratory system but also your brain and circulatory system. The intensity that cardio brings can be intimidating and occasionally unappealing, even for fitness-lovers, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Research has begun to link cannabis and cardio, and we are finding that the phrase “runner’s high” holds more truth than we may have thought.
Along with binding to cannabinoid receptors in the body, THC and CBD also bind to our body’s fat cells. When we perform cardio, like running, these fat cells begin to melt away, and the compounds bound to them are re-released into the body. Therefore, running can cause a mild high, depending on how much THC is still in the body (and your body’s BMI). This will create some of the most relaxing and motivating runs of your life. Not only that, but your body will be sure to thank you afterward.
It is important to note that your method of consuming cannabis can affect the way your body reacts when doing cardio. If your typical method of consumption is out of a traditional pipe versus a water bong or vaporizer, your lungs may struggle a bit more during air intake. However, cannabis differs from tobacco smoke in its effects on the lungs, and cannabis studies are currently inconclusive when it comes to long-term effects on the respiratory system.
For some, stretching is a dreaded requisite that goes along with physical exertion. For many others, stretching the body’s muscles provides a sensation of bliss and a state of meditation. Cannabis can be a catalyst for achieving the latter.
Cannabis and stretching are a match made in heaven - tying together the benefits each can stimulate within the mind and body. You can look up various stretching sequences or yoga practices on YouTube, grab your PAX, and hit the mat to achieve mental and physical bliss.
Incorporating a bit of cannabis before grabbing that barbell or hitting the elliptical is becoming more and more popular every day. As research continues to be conducted, light is continuously being shed on the plant’s medicinal benefits when paired with daily exercise. We are even seeing the emergence of cannabis-based exercise competitions. Events like Civilized Games promote the union of fitness and healthy cannabis consumption.
Whether you enjoy a puff before your yoga session to loosen up muscles and calm the brain, or you’re someone who winds down with cannabis after an intense upper body workout, both your body and mind have the potential to benefit from conscious cannabis. Partake in your favorite consumption method, and see for yourself just how valuable the relationship between cannabis and physical activity truly is.