Cannabis and Exercise
By Sierra Waldrop –
Many people think that when you smoke marijuana you are stuck stoned on the couch watching TV and eating junk food. But cannabis legalization has begun to show the world that the “stoner” stereotype just isn’t accurate. Although the occasional veg out on the couch may occur, millions (yes millions, estimated to be over 2 million in the United States alone as of May of 2018) of people use marijuana to provide symptomatic relief from a variety of ailments to further lead productive, healthy lives.
Although it may be surprising to some, cannabis goes a step further in healthy living, by going hand in hand with exercising. As marijuana is becoming more available, users are constantly finding more amazing applications for the world’s most magical plant. An increasingly popular use is using cannabis before and/or after workouts. Let’s find out why this rising trend has some merit.
How Cannabis Can Improve Working Out
It Creates a More Fun Activity
Not everyone loves going for a run or going to the gym. In fact, many people may go as far as detesting the practice, but cannabis may change that. Marijuana is known for the feel-good euphoria and fun and happy feelings it creates. Exercise is also known for creating euphoria and feelings of well-being, but that usually comes during or after the workout. One of the things some people most struggle with is the motivation in going to the gym.
Finding the time in a busy schedule and motivating yourself to take that free time working out instead of watching Netflix and relaxing after a long day can be hard, but by using a slight amount of cannabis before exercise, it can create more fun activity. The happy cannabis-induced euphoria at the beginning or during a workout followed by the endorphins created by the workout itself will make a fun activity that may encourage exercise more frequently.
It Can Create a True Exercise High
Tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana that causes the “high” feeling. It is stored in fat cells throughout the body and during exercise, it can be released. A 2013 study concluded that infrequent cannabis users “exercise may elevate blood THC levels by releasing dormant THC from fat stores”
This occurs when the body burns fat during exercise, which releases small amounts of THC into the bloodstream, which can make you feel a light high. This mini-high tends to be short-lived though, lasting no longer two hours after working out. This was found to happen even in those who hadn’t used cannabis in up to 28 days.
It should be noted that there was a distinct correlation between the THC release and Body Mass Index (BMI). The same study found that the higher the BMI, the larger increase in THC was released.
It’s Perfect for Post Workout
Using cannabis before a workout may not be helpful for every type of workout, but it can be extremely beneficial in the recovery from any type of exercise. Marijuana has been proven to have effective anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties, which can both be beneficial to have after a workout.
Anyone who does a substantial workout will experience may experience muscle soreness during their exercise, possibly along with a kind of “good burn” feeling in targeted muscle areas. But when the euphoria caused by the exercise subsides, muscles tend to feel stiff and sore, especially the following day. This reaction is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, also known as DOMS.
DOMS takes effect 6 to 8 hours after exercise (or any new activity that uses your muscles) and is caused by inflammation in the muscle itself. This inflammation and soreness can last up to 24 to 48 hours after exercise and can be somewhat helped by doing gentle exercises such as light stretching or walking. Ice is generally used to decrease any swelling and inflammation.
This is where cannabis can be helpful. Marijuana will not only ease pain from soreness but reduce the inflammation, eliminating the root of the problem.
Apart from reducing soreness, cannabis is perfect for soothing the body and mind after a workout. Calming down from an adrenaline rush, and causing complete relaxation. This may be good for people who do late-night workouts, to further enhance sleep quality.
Other Fitness Benefits of Marijuana
Although there have not been many studies done on the relationship between cannabis and fitness (yet), there have been some very interesting results found so far. One 2011 study concluded that the occurrence of obesity was lower in cannabis users than in nonusers. Recent data found that there is a positive relationship between cannabis use and measures of metabolic health, including smaller waist circumference, lower levels of fasting insulin and reduced incidence of type II diabetes.
Possible Downsides and Risks
It’s important for our bodies to know our limits while we are working out, so we don’t strain or hurt anything by overdoing it. If you use too much cannabis before a workout, the analgesic (pain relief) properties may numb any sort of natural response by the body’s warning of strain. Due to this, if you are planning on using marijuana pre-workout, it is best to use a light amount.
Cannabis may elevate heart rate or disrupt the balance, so it is also recommended to not use cannabis before intense workouts or workouts that necessitate high amounts of coordination.
Additionally, if you are trying to be healthy, eat good foods or follow a strict diet or eating schedule, the appetite-stimulating properties of cannabis can become an annoyance. The “munchies” can be very strong in some strains, and you might find that your post-workout “snack” caused by a stimulated appetite just added a whole lot of calories that did not fit into your plans.
To keep this from occurring, try keeping healthy, pre-made snacks available such as fresh fruit and or pre-sliced vegetables and hummus. Some strains are more prone to stimulating the appetite than others, so speak with your budtender if you are wanting to avoid that in your cannabis strains.
Best Workouts to Use Cannabis
Yoga – A mixture of exercise, breathing techniques and meditation, yoga is known to be beneficial both physically and spiritually. Marijuana can enhance the sense of calm, leading to more peaceful meditation and it can also relax the body, leading to deeper poses and stretches. Due to cannabis affecting balance and coordination, it would more beneficial to more low-intensity yoga-like Restorative or Hatha yoga, instead of the higher intensity Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga.
Running – Cannabis can make running a more enjoyable experience for those who may not particularly find the activity fun. Not only does the re-release of THC into the bloodstream further the so-called “runners high”, but it can also alleviate the boredom that may occur with long runs.
The Effects of Different Strains
There are three different types of marijuana strains that all produce different effects. Depending on the type of exercise you are wanting to do, choosing the right type of strain can be very important.
Sativa – Strains of this type create an energetic high that has a pronounced cerebral buzz. Certain types of Sativa strains also create a sense of creative focus. Sativa may be a good option for more energetic activities, such as running.
Indica – The polar opposite to Sativa strains, Indica strains produce a calming body high, instead of the strong head high. Indica strains may be better for relaxing activities, such as yoga. Indica can cause sleepiness, so be careful not to get too relaxed!
Hybrid – The best of both worlds, hybrids take characteristics of both Sativa and Indica strains to create a simultaneous body and mind high. Hybrids may be Indica-dominant and take on more Indica like full-body relaxation with a slight cerebral buzz, or they could be Sativa-dominant and lean more towards head high that is followed by a lighter full relaxation. Some hybrids can even be a perfect 50% Indica and 50% Sativa mix, having equal effects from both types.
Even though there isn’t much scientific data between fitness and cannabis at the moment, it’s very likely that we will begin seeing more studies and surveys on the correlation between exercise and the world’s most beneficial plant. From the few studies we have available, it is clear to see that cannabis has begun to prove itself as a tool for a healthier and possibly a more active lifestyle.