Since sports organizations like the NFL, MLB, and NHL have started allowing competitors to use cannabis and / or CBD, you might consider taking a punch before you hit the gym. And hey, it’s 2021 – you probably wouldn’t be the only one there taking your training to a “higher” level.
As with pre-exercise supplements, cannabis improves energy levels for some users during exercise and is also reported to aid post-exercise recovery. A 2019 survey by CU Boulder showed that eight out of ten participating cannabis users consumed cannabis shortly before or after physical activity, and that these users exercised more frequently and for longer than those who did not use cannabis for exercise.
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But research on cannabis use in athletics is purely anecdotal. So while you can consume cannabis before a workout, the question of whether you should do it gets a little blurry. To clear the air, we asked health professionals to tell us about the benefits and risks of using cannabis as a pre-workout.
When it comes to using cannabis as a pre-workout, some potential benefits are:
1. It can help you to concentrate and to be more aware of your body
There’s a reason cannabis-infused yoga is taking the country by storm. According to Dr. Kenneth Weinberg, Chief Medical Officer at Cannabis Doctors of New York, consuming CBD or cannabis before exercise encourages many users to concentrate – both on the task at hand and on the body itself.
“It makes my patients much more aware of their muscles and what they are doing,” Weinberg told GreenState. “You really focus on your body after using cannabis in ways that you normally don’t.”
This acute awareness is ideal for exercises where mindfulness is key, but can be beneficial for any type of training. It can also benefit people with attention disorders like ADHD.
2. It can relieve pain
While there aren’t many studies looking at how cannabis directly affects exercise, there is research that strongly suggests that THC and CBD can reduce inflammation in the body, which would explain why many users say it’s pain soothes. Weinberg says cannabis enables many of his chronic pain patients to move when they otherwise couldn’t.
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“I can’t tell you how many overweight patients I’ve seen with chronic pain,” Weinberg said. “They tell me that cannabis not only relieved their pain, it also relieved them enough to allow them to exercise again, which makes them feel better both emotionally and physically. You can move more, lose weight and feel better. “
Weinberg added that the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis and CBD can also aid post-workout recovery, just as pre-workout supplements could. Last year, Olympic athletes were allowed to use CBD in training for the first time, and some chose to use it as a supplement or alternative to potentially harmful pain relievers.
3. It can help you overcome the mental blocks that are preventing you from exercising
As we all know all too well, working with your body begins with your mind. According to herbalist Kathryn Cannon, cannabis can be a great way to eliminate the negative, critical thoughts that keep you away from the gym.
“Using cannabis as a pre-workout can help us clear mental blocks related to performance,” Cannon told GreenState.
Studies suggest that both cannabis and CBD have anti-anxiety properties that could contribute to this effect. Many people suffering from depression and anxiety have found that cannabis is a useful addition to therapies, medications, and other treatments for mood disorders.
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4. It can relax the muscles
An almost universally accepted effect of cannabis is that it helps the body relax. While nothing has been proven, Weinberg believes this effect can help muscles repair themselves after exercising.
“I have a lot of patients with multiple sclerosis and products high in THC are really helpful for them because THC relieves muscle spasticity,” Weinberg said. “Cannabis increases blood flow, so it makes sense that tense muscles can relax and repair better after exercise if you consume cannabis immediately after exercise.”
5. It can open your airways
For those looking to add a little more cardio to their workouts, here’s some great news. Some studies suggest that THC can be a bronchodilator, which means you can breathe better during exercise if it is consumed before exercise. Cannon said this could be especially helpful for people with respiratory conditions like asthma who find exercise challenging.
“If you have an existing lung condition, THC can open your airways when taken in low doses,” said Cannon.
So far it is believed that only Delta-9 THC (i.e. the type of THC found in most cannabis products that causes psychoactive effects) and Delta-8 THC to a lesser extent cause this effect. CBD doesn’t appear to be a bronchodilator.
So what’s the catch?
While the benefits make using cannabis as a pre-workout seem like a breeze, consuming cannabis before intense physical activity carries some risk. Cannon and Weinberg warn that cannabis often slows people’s reactions, which can increase the likelihood of accidents. In addition, consuming too much cannabis can significantly increase your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. If you experience these symptoms while exercising, stop and see a doctor right away.
To avoid these unwanted effects, Weinberg recommends consulting a doctor before incorporating cannabis into your exercise routine. Then start with the lowest possible dose and work your way up from there.
Cannon also recommends trying different forms of consumption as needed.
“The delivery method makes a difference,” said Cannon. “A few drops of a tincture can be enough to make a difference in performance. I recommend using topicals after training to reduce inflammation and pain. “
Cannabis affects everyone differently. The only way to really find out which dosages and products are best for your health and wellness goals is to keep track of what works for you and what doesn’t. Make notes of how you feel with each product and dosage, and adjust your treatment as needed.
Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to email@example.com.