Can athletes benefit from using marijuana?
With many U.S. states legalizing marijuana, an increasing number of athletes are coming out of the closet about their weed-smoking habits. Athletes such as Avery Collins (ultramarathoner), Clifford Drusinsky (triathlete), and Nick Diaz (UFC fighter) have turned to marijuana as an aid for their swimming, running, lifting, fighting, and cycling training. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger said in 2007 that marijuana is “not a drug, it’s a leaf”, and was filmed smoking a joint in the classic documentary “Pumping Iron” (1977).
Marijuana has long been known to improve mood, decrease nausea, and alleviate pain, which is why its legalization is accompanied by a surge of marijuana use among both hardcore and recreational athletes. They are also turning to versions of weed that don’t affect the lungs, such as pot-based energy bars, edibles, and vaping. However, whether marijuana affects athletes’ performance is disputable due to conflicting research results.
The effect of marijuana on the brain
Cannabis has more than 700 compounds (collectively known as cannabinoids), and when you consume it, these compounds combine with receptors in the body and brain. As cannabinoids control appetite, emotions, memory and pain, the user feels relaxed. The compounds that bring the feelings of drowsiness and euphoria, causing the high, is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
These receptors may play an important role in the neurological benefit of aerobic activity (also known as “runner’s high”). After high-intensity treadmill run, the levels of naturally-occurring endocannabinoids in our bloodstream are elevated, and they could increase our pain threshold to help us push through an intense workout (just as endorphins do). Low doses of THC can slightly increase motor activity, which could mean that a little bit of weed brings a little bit of extra speed. According to a team of researchers from the University of Bordeaux (France), the brain exposed to cannabis responds to the THC by producing more pregnenolone. This naturally produced hormone is precursor to the naturally produced steroids, and is frequently used as a supplement to reduce fatigue and increase energy.
Eventually, it comes down to the user – some people get high and fall apart, while some get high and feel like they can’t miss (as their muscle memory locks in).
Benefits of marijuana to athletes
The first benefit to mention is the “runner’s high” that you’ve probably already heard about. It’s a state in with the body produces compounds similar to those of cannabis while we exercise. So, by consuming a small dose of marijuana right before exercising, you can boost the natural process of endocannabinoids production. How the “runner’s high” actually helps is that it minimizes distractions during your training for longer because you’re enjoying it.
Cannabis also acts as a painkiller and muscle relaxant. Muscles wear out after exercise, due to muscle pain, so when an athlete ingests or smokes marijuana after exercise, it makes them feel more relaxed. Inflammation is another reason why you can’t work out for as long as you like, and one of many benefits of marijuana is its anti-inflammatory properties.
Choose your strain and find your measure
Not all weed is created equal. If your sport requires you to have a sufficient oxygen intake in order to reach your peak performance, then smoking marijuana isn’t the way for you to go. Instead, you can consume edible cannabis concentrates, or use a vaporizer and inhale cannabis water vapor. There is also a lotion with cannabidiol you can use to rub your fatigued muscles. When considering your weed strain, please don’t try smoking the dry plant from your friend’s basement. With the legalization of marijuana, you now have marijuana dispensaries where you can purchase cannabis with different amounts of THC. Different cannabis strains produce different psychoactive sensations, so try not to get a strain that will turn you into a couch potato, but opt for a sativa strain that will boost your alertness and energy.
However, THC is one of the compounds that athletes are tested for before sports competitions. High levels of it in your bloodstream will get you disqualified. Despite various studies on the benefits and harmlessness of cannabis, it is still discouraged by sports regulations.
Author Bio: Luke Douglas is a fitness and health blogger at Ripped.me and a great fan of the gym and a healthy diet. He follows the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life and loves to share his knowledge through useful and informative articles. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about him and his work.