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marijuana and workout

How Marijuana Affects Your Workout

Ever thought about hitting the pipe before hitting the gym?

Believe it or not, some athletes claim that cannabis and exercise are a winning combination. They say that marijuana gives them a boost of energy, helps them relax, relieve aches and pains, and alleviates the boredom of long-distance running.

Because of marijuana’s legal status, it’s difficult for researchers to study cannabis effects on workout routines. That being said, here’s what we do know:

A “Runner’s High” and a “Stoner’s High” May Have Something Common…

People who run long distances typically experience what is known as a “runner’s high” – that awesome, euphoric feeling that makes you feel like you can conquer the world.

Researchers used to believe that the runner’s high was caused by endorphins entering the brain. But they now know that endorphins aren’t actually able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

So if endorphins aren’t responsible for the runner’s high, what is?

That’s where the body’s endocannabinoid system comes in. It’s responsible for regulating your motor control, memory, appetite, mood, and sensations of pain.

Researchers found that people who exercise for 30 minutes have elevated levels of anandamide in their bloodstream. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that’s linked to feelings of wellbeing and euphoria (the name comes from the Sanskrit word ananda which means “bliss”).

Marijuana as a Performance-Enhancing Drug?

The cannabinoids found in marijuana, such as THC and CBD, interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, producing similar effects as anandamide. Therefore, it might be possible for an athlete to use cannabis to create an “artificial” runner’s high, allowing them to overcome physical and mental fatigue.

Cannabis also acts as a vasodilator, which is a fancy way of saying that it widens your arteries and allows more blood to flow to your muscles, giving them nutrients and preventing soreness.

The Downside of Combining Cannabis and Exercise

  • Cannabis affects your concentration and motor control, which is why driving while under the influence is against the law. This side affect can also affect your ability to do complicated exercise routines in a safe manner.
  • Cannabis can raise your blood pressure and accelerate your heart rate. If you’re at risk for coronary heart disease, using cannabis while exercising could make your condition worse.
  • Marijuana’s pain-blocking ability can actually work against you while exercising. Your body communicates with your brain through pain and discomfort, letting you know where your limits are. If marijuana is blocking some or all of that pain, it’s possible that you could injure yourself and not be fully aware of it.

If You’re Thinking About Combining Cannabis and Exercise…

  • Start with a low dose and a light workout – something straightforward and uncomplicated like jogging or yoga.
  • Experiment with sativa-dominant strains. You probably won’t get much mileage out of the indica strains – at least, not until “couch-sitting” becomes an official Olympic sport.
  • Check out this episode of The Cannabist to hear the story of Jenessa Lea. She overcame a debilitating disease and opioid dependency through a combination of cannabis, exercise, and diet.

Have you ever combined cannabis and exercise? How does cannabis affect your workout? Share your thoughts and stories on the Essence Facebook page!

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