This is your brain on pot:
But can weed really deliver all the fitness benefits of a nutritious, protein-packed fried egg?
If you ask most people, they’ll likely define the common stoner as a lazy, unmotivated heap sprawled out on a couch with a bag of chips and a 7-Eleven Slurpee. But if you ask scientists, you get quite a different picture.
Smoking Weed and Working Out:
Contrary to popular belief, marijuana users actually have an affinity for fitness. In fact, researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder discovered that 80% of marijuana users in weed-legal states reported consuming cannabis shortly before or after exercise, and more than half consumed cannabis both before and after working out.
Okay, well these are just chronic stoners, not fitness gods, right? Wrong. A recent 2020 study found that about 25% of elite athletes used some form of cannabis in the past year.
Additionally, scientists have found that over half of research participants who incorporated cannabis into their exercise regimens reported increased motivation, while a vast majority said it increased enjoyability and improved their recovery.
There’s plenty of hard evidence to suggest that incorporating cannabis into your routine could benefit your beach bod. For example, research done by Maksud and Baron in the 1980s found that cannabis users were likely to have less fat than non-users.
Those who consumed marijuana had significantly lower BMI and body fat, a common observation found in most similar studies. That means that people who use cannabis are more likely to be in better physical shape than those who don’t!
There certainly seems to be more than meets the eye when it comes to the cannabis-fitness combination. People who smoke marijuana don't seem to meet the couch potato stigma that they are often associated with. But how does one maximize the benefits of cannabis in their workout?
Should I smoke weed before my workout?
It may seem counterintuitive to consume marijuana in your pre-workout ritual, however, there are many gym rats who would disagree.
Plenty of people believe that cannabis can positively impact focus and “flow” during a workout, as is shown in a recent 2018 study where 77% of participants felt that their performance at the gym was enhanced by marijuana when using it before or in the midst of their workout.
Stress and anxieties can be a burden on your fitness routine, and marijuana is a proven anti-anxiety tool.
Is that beautiful woman on the glute machine staring at you? Is that jacked dude judging your arm-curl form? Using weed before the gym might help quell these anxieties so you can simply focus on yourself and get in the zone.
Cannabis consumption is not an ideal pre-workout ritual for everyone though. Before a championship game or a marathon might not be the best time to smoke pot. According to experts, this could make for an unsafe situation since weed can have a tendency to impair mental and motor abilities, especially if you are attempting a new type of workout, or an especially challenging one.
However, since cannabis is tried and true when it comes to pain control, experts and medical doctors alike say smoking weed can positively impact your low-key training days.
Similar to a runner’s high, marijuana can improve an athlete’s endurance and numb their aches when used before or during their training sessions.
Cannabinoids work to heighten fitness in various ways, but mainly by releasing endorphins, which is exactly what happens during a runner’s high. Cannabis also works to counteract conditions like back pain or chronic knee pain so that an athlete can work out longer and happier.
But isn’t smoking detrimental to the lungs?
After all, oxygen is an imperative component of fitness. The science says that marijuana isn’t much of a factor when it comes to breathing easily in a workout.
Some of the best predictors of athleticism include oxygen uptake, carbon dioxide output, heart rate, and minute ventilation.
A 1986 study compared cannabis users with non-users and found that there was virtually no difference in all of these categories between the groups, even when the participants were exercising at peak performance.
So smoking marijuana before your workout can be an effective way to increase enjoyment without harming your heart and lungs.
Should I smoke weed after my workout?
Although there is plenty of anecdotal praise when it comes to using weed before working out, a quick skim of Reddit and other popular forums lead to a common consensus: “Never before, frequently after.”
Athletes who were surveyed across a variety of studies overwhelmingly touted the benefits of including cannabis in their post-workout rituals, namely pain reduction, sleep aid effects, and overall calming.
When it came to using pot before physical activity, there were substantially fewer endorsements as athletes usually felt that pot might decrease motivation and impede performance.
Who doesn’t like to reward themselves for dominating a session at the gym? Smoking a joint can be an ideal way to pat yourself on the back after a challenging workout.
Not only do the effects of cannabis become stronger after physical activity, but marijuana can also be a fantastic aid for post-workout recovery. Research is increasingly pointing to marijuana as an ideal tool to improve important factors in recovery like inflammation and appetite.
The most common use for cannabis in the fitness world is pain-management. Take UFC fighter Nate Diaz who made headlines when he vaped CBD after a fight with Conor McGregor that left him bloodied and bruised saying, it “helps with the healing process and inflammation and stuff like that.”
In fact, CBD, a chemical in the cannabis plant, is getting so popular among athletes that the World Anti-Doping Agency recently removed the chemical from its list of banned substances.
Being one of the most popular cannabinoids, and a legal one at that, CBD is widely used and respected in the fitness world.
But CBD is just one of many components of cannabis, and being such a dynamic plant with hundreds of potentially biologically active chemicals, there can be a variety of effects that can either help or hurt physical activity.
Conclusion: Is weed good for working out?
There is much more research to be done to define the best elements of marijuana to use for a workout, including the many effects of various combinations of cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which show great promise.
Just keep in mind that even if one cannabis product doesn’t improve your workout or recovery, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a type of strain or edible that can deliver the effects you want to become a better athlete.
And with no chemically addictive properties, no hangover, and increasing accessibility, cannabis products are quickly becoming preferable to drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines which can easily impede a fitness routine.
As opposed to putting harmful lab-made drugs into their bodies, many fitness aficionados are increasingly turning to cannabis as a natural alternative.
Whether you’re seeking better results in the gym, faster and improved recovery, or simply need some motivation to get back in shape, adding cannabis into your workout routine could very well be the boost you need to take your training to the next level.
Enjoy your workout, and enjoy your weed too!