The therapeutic elements of marijuana are no new knowledge. The plant has long been known to alleviate pain, stress and fatigue. Cannabis also has mood-lifting effects. Thus, it is not a surprise that both recreational and professional athletes who engage in long hours of arduous training sessions are turning to cannabis to enhance Performance during workouts. As the wind of pot legalization sweep through major states, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of athletes opting for infused edibles and high quality concentrates that offer 100% bioavailability.
Generally, the downsides of cannabis usage have been linked with exhaustion, delayed response times, and loss of focus. It will be a contrast if a substance with such side effects is considered a performance enhancer, especially for professional athletes. But as more research on cannabis compounds is carried out, results consistently demonstrate that cannabis can, in fact, have significant positive benefits during times of exercise and physical exertion. Cannabis and pot-infused products, can indeed, serve as performance enhancers during workouts.
What We Know About Cannabis
This is what we know about cannabis: The plant has chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids. These naturally occurring compounds in cannabis bond with pain, mood, appetite, and memory-regulating receptors in the brain and body. Researchers suggest that these receptors have a function in aerobic activities (the runner’s high).
“The endocannabinoid system works like endorphins,” says Andrea Giuffrida, an associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center and an expert on endocannabinoids. Giuffrida and his colleagues have done research with findings showing that after high-intensity treadmill running, naturally occurring endocannabinoids in the bloodstream of people are elevated. This suggests that just as endorphins help you push through an intense workout, these endocannabinoids could perform the same functions by increasing your pain threshold, to do the same.
We also know that marijuana acts as a bronchodilator by increasing airflow to the lungs. For this reason, cannabis has been investigated for its asthma-fighting properties. It is yet another proof that cannabis could help athletes improve their overall performance. The heart, brain and muscles all need a steady supply of oxygen to function optimally. A boost in the supply of oxygen can result in a corresponding increase in the overall performance of the entire human body.
It is possible that cannabis has other athletic advantages besides pain relief. Research has established that minimal doses of THC enhance motor activity in mice. This may be synonymous with a little extra speed in athletes. An interesting study from France’s the University of Bordeaux discovered that when the brain has contact with marijuana, it reacts to the THC by producing more pregnenolone. The chemical pregnenolone is a forerunner to the natural steroids produced by the body. Typically, pregnenolone is often used as a supplement to boost energy levels and reduce tiredness.
The History of Cannabis as a Performance Enhancer
Marijuana use for the improvement of physical and mental health has a long history. In many cultures, Cannabis was used to spur warriors back into the fight, boosting their composure and confidence, and giving them a feeling of valor. In prehistoric cultures when men were yet to stumble upon scientific methods of restoring themselves back to health, cannabis was a common but potent treatment.
During this epoch, there was no clear distinction between warriors and gladiators (athletes). Warriors engage in sports and athletes go to war. In Ancient Greece, there is certain proof of both soldiers and athletes using hallucinogenic potions and herbs to improve performance. Records also have it that Indian warriors and athletes used bhang for centuries. Bhang is a traditional cannabis paste that is strongly associated with a wrestler and physical fitness groups till present day. There is also the possibility that several tribes in sub-Saharan Africa used cannabis in warfare during the nineteenth century, such as the Zulu, also used it in their many competitive sporting events.
Today, some athletes testify that using marijuana or its extracted active ingredients (concentrates) such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) as performance-enhancing drugs alleviate anxiety. It also increases pain threshold while keeping them focused, so that they can push themselves over their normal limits during workouts.
Cannabis use by Present day Athletes
Clifford Drusinsky is a 39-year old athlete from Colorado. He wakes up at 3 a.m. for his routine exercise. But before he sets out, he opts for 20 milligrams of THC in a marijuana-infused energy bar. By the time the THC starts to take effect, he’s either started an hour in the pool, a three-hour bike ride or a 13-mile run. Drusinsky says that marijuana relaxes and allows him to go into “a controlled, meditational place.” He affirms that getting high makes him train smarter and focus on form.
Drusinsky weed-fueled regimen seems to be working, as he spreads the good news of cannabis-infused fitness at his personally owned gym in Denver, F.I.T.S. Conditioning. He encourages his clients to partake of his edibles before guiding them through dynamic stretches and TRX drills. Drusinsky, 39, mounted the pedestal for athletes in his age group in nine major triathlons in 2013. His accomplishments include a 1st place finish at the South Beach Triathlon in Miami. Drusinsky, however, carefully notes that he was never under the influence of cannabis during any of the races. He is well aware that the legalization status of marijuana may make transporting marijuana from one state to another illegal.
In May 2016, an article of Avery Collins, a 25-year-old marathon athlete was published in the Guardian. Collins was an athlete who makes extensive use of cannabis edibles during his regimens. He believes ingesting cannabis compounds allows him to “stay in the moment and embrace what’s going on right then and there”. He never uses cannabis during competitions and does not feel that his achievements should be attributed to cannabis. But he is certain that using cannabis-infused edibles during training enhances his experience considerably.
As is so often the case, a lot more studies need to be conducted on the effect of cannabis on physical exertion in humans before we can fully understand the process. However, there are several studies which indicate the potential of cannabis having a beneficial effect on athletic performance in humans.
It has also been established that cannabinoids (mainly CBD and THC) have strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. This means that an athlete who uses cannabis during exercise can expect to experience fewer aches and pains the day after exercise. But it also means that pain and muscle spasms will also be reduced during exercise.