This Is How Cannabis Affects Athletic Performance

Find out what athletes are saying about cannabis and sport

It’s some of the newest and most prevalent anecdotal evidence about cannabis out there — how marijuana affects sports. More and more professional athletes are coming forward and talking about how they use cannabis to help them train. And with cannabis making an appearance on the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), people are talking about cannabis and sport more than ever before.

Even though athletes are calling for cannabis to be removed from WADA’s banned list, the agency claims that cannabis can enhance athletic performance. Is this true? And how?

The Lazy Pothead is a Myth

A survey run by the University of Colorado found that seventy percent of respondents who consumed cannabis prior to exercising said that the experience was more enjoyable. Just take a minute to let that seep in. For decades, stereotypes of lazy potheads with the “munchies” have persisted, and according to this survey those stereotypes might not be altogether true. As more positive anecdotal reports come in, we’re seeing that THC and athletes were made for each other.

By making the experience of exercise more enjoyable, cannabis can make it easier to train. And the secret to making an impact on your body and improving in a particular sport is, in fact, training. Athletes have reported that by consuming cannabis for a workout, it’s easier to zone out and enjoy the process. This may be one of the reasons WADA claims cannabis enhances performance. It might, but in an indirect way.

Cannabis Can Help You Recover

Pro-athletes are also saying that their preference for cannabis and sport lies in its ability to treat aches and pains. Cannabis, and CBD especially, can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. By reducing inflammation in the muscles and joints, it can make the recovery time following an intense work out all that much easier.

Along with reducing inflammation, cannabis can also help with pain. When dealing with a sport injury or just a hard day on the body, cannabis can ease your brain’s perception of pain. But not only that, both THC and CBD work to suppress cytokines in the body. Cytokines cause muscles to inflame after training, which in turn causes aching muscles. 

Marijuana can also help you sleep, which is also integral in the body’s recover process. The better you sleep, the better your athletic performance will be. And the more you exercise, the better you’ll sleep. Cannabis can help fuel this healing process. While you sleep, your muscles are also rebuilding themselves.

Cannabis Might Encourage Muscle Regrowth

The science is still in its most preliminary stages, but research is showing that a cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG) might help encourage protein synthesis. By doing so, it’s possible that CBG could help reduce inflammation and contribute to muscle growth. However, science has yet to catch up to the trend of cannabis and sport with more information. Meaning, more research needs to be done. 

But what we do know if that cannabis can indeed help with inflammation and it can help you sleep. Both of those factors lead to better recovery, making cannabis and sport a good match when it comes to improving your performance.

However, there is a downside. When talking about cannabis in sports, it might not always be the best option. If your sport is a fast-paced, high impact activity — like downhill mountain biking — you might not want to be high while you’re doing it. Marijuana can affect your cognitive abilities, slowing your reaction time. This can lead to minor mistakes or miscalculations that could leave you in an injury-inducing accident. 

But if your sport is slower paced, drawn-out and safe — like running — getting a little high beforehand might actually help. There is evidence that weed can enhance the feeling of runner’s high, making the activity all the more rewarding. Athletes have also reported that consuming marijuana before lifting weights made them feel more present and aware of their muscles. Having that sort of awareness while lifting weights can fine-tune the process and lead to even better results.

So, before you smoke weed and head out for your favorite sporting activity, just consider what you’ll be doing and whether or not a slower reaction time will affect your overall safety. But when it comes to getting high and improving your athletic performance, it seems that cannabis and sports go well together, even if its just to reduce your overall recovery time.

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