Most people usually associate sports and exercise with a healthy lifestyle, and cannabis is not generally considered to be compatible with fitness.
I know this might sound a bit controversial, but many recreational and professional athletes use cannabis products after competitions.
So, if you are wondering whether it’s OK for you to smoke weed and work out, the answer is simple — it depends.
First of all, how do you feel when you are high? Do your heart rate and blood pressure increase? What kind of sport are you involved in? And most importantly, how well do you tolerate cannabis?
I’m a very active and outdoorsy person. I take at least 3 dance classes per week, I work out regularly, I run and ride a bike, and I’m seriously into winter sports. But, to be perfectly honest with you, I have never smoked weed right before any of these activities, because I know myself and how pot affects me.
During my workouts, I like to have a perfectly clear head since I can’t afford to get injured. I also want to do every exercise the right way, and during the dance class I need to stay 100% focused. Weed sometimes makes my mind wander off.
However, after exercising I really love to go home, take a nice, warm shower, and light up a joint. It helps me chill out and it relaxes my muscles. The times I don’t smoke weed after working out I often feel deep tension in my muscles, no matter how much I stretch and, more often than not, I have difficulties falling asleep.
After a few puffs, the bliss I feel is priceless. But that’s just me.
To put all of this into a more objective perspective, here are the 6 scientific reasons why smoking marijuana can be a good addition to your exercise routine.
Marijuana relieves exercise-related pain
You worked out so hard that you now feel satisfied just because you pushed yourself to the max. But, after you cooled down, you felt a sharp pain in your hamstring. You don’t want these little injuries to set you back? Perhaps a joint could help you overcome these smaller obstacles.
Cannabis is a well-known painkiller and has been used for treating acute and chronic pain. Many studies have proved that cannabinoids have the power to switch off the pain signals in our body (1) so we don’t feel it as much of it. In other words, marijuana makes the pain bearable.
Please keep in mind, depending on the cause of the pain, that cannabis most likely cannot fix your problem. It will help you numb the pain but it cannot heal torn ligaments.
Although I have danced and worked out with minor to moderate injuries, I don’t think that’s the best thing to do. If you feel pain after a workout, you should get to the bottom of it and seek a doctor’s opinion.
Untreated injuries can lead to more severe injuries and can even develop into chronic pain, which can be very difficult to manage. Sometimes, if it’s a minor thing, it’s better to just skip a day at the gym and rest.
Cannabis protects your brain from injuries
In contact sports (boxing, hockey, football and the like) athletes are prone to head injuries like concussions. If it’s a minor injury, it usually heals within a week or two. However, severe concussions can lead to more severe consequences.
When you suffer a blow to the skull, your brain starts swelling, which damages brain cells and alters brain functioning.
So, what does weed have to do with brain injuries?
Well, cannabinoids like CBD have anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce the swelling in the brain, which helps you recover from the injury itself. (2)
And that’s not all — according to a 2014 UCLA study, the death rate among concussion patients who had THC in their system (meaning patients who used marijuana before the injury) was much less compared to patients who did not use the herb. (3)
Be aware of marijuana’s impact on you and the type of activity you are engaging in. If the sport requires a quick reaction time, it’s better to smoke weed after you have finished with your activity. You don’t want to end up with a brain injury because of weed-induced motor skill impairment.
Pot boosts your metabolism and makes you slimmer
Although stoners take in up to 600 more calories per day than non-consumers (4), that extra energy doesn’t seem to necessarily turn into fat.
It’s been scientifically proven that cannabis strains high in THC increase the appetite, and if you can’t help it, increase the overall calorie intake.
So how the hell do so many of these seasoned stoners have a tiny little waist with no body fat?
Well, according to a 2016 study, marijuana users tend to have a better carbohydrate metabolism. The same study also noted that marijuana users were less obese than those who did not consume weed.
Besides that, they have lower fasting insulin levels and seem to be less resistant to insulin. (5) That’s why people diagnosed with diabetes have recently begun to use cannabis to maintain low blood sugar levels.
Although we still lack research in this area of cannabis use, those who have researched the issue agree that “prevalence of obesity is lower in cannabis users than in nonusers”. (6)
Weed gives you the focus you need, but can also take it away
As I did the research for this article, I found that the opinions of recreational and professional athletes seem to be divided on the subject of smoking cannabis while playing sport.
Marijuana can be good when you need to focus on repetitive tasks, which might be why so many recreational runners enjoy running while high. They argue that taking a few puffs before heading out for a long-distance run can make the run itself more enjoyable.
Can you just imagine running by the lake and being even more aware of the nature surrounding you? That kind of bliss can most likely aid your performance and make you run farther than you planned to in the first place.
Because weed helps you get into the zone, it’s a much-appreciated supplement among those who like to meditate and do yoga.
But please remember, if you want to get the focus you need, it’s all about choosing the right strain. Some strains could make you lazy and induce the couch-lock effect. But if you find the right sativa, with the right ratio of CBD to THC, you just might get the effect you’re looking for.
Although cannabis can be good for repetitive activities, studies have shown that THC slightly decreases reaction time and impairs motor skills. (7) So, sports that require quick judgment and reflexes should be performed completely clear-headed and without weed.
Marijuana wipes away the pre-workout anxiety
Never been to the gym before? The thought of being judged by all those experienced lifters makes you anxious? Well, weed can help with that version of social anxiety.
Although marijuana can make some people paranoid (f it happens don’t worry, as it will go away as soon as the high wears off), with high CBD strains you’ll walk into the gym like a boss without being anxious.
No more sore muscles
You have just started working out and after that first training session your muscles are so sore that you wish you never entered the gym in the first place.
Cannabis can help with that, too.
CBD (cannabidiol) is proven to relieve inflammation in the body, including the muscles. So consuming a high CBD strain after your workout will make the soreness go away much faster. Also, by taking a few puffs before your activity you’ll avoid the soreness and pain in the first place.
Be sure not to smoke too much
Take into account that working out can make you even higher. You probably need to smoke much less weed if you want to have a nice workout afterwards.
Let’s say that you already know how cannabis affects you and you feel safe to use it and get through your activity of choice. In this case, just a few puffs will be enough to keep your high on a mild level for the right amount of time.
Smoking too much weed can make you stoned, fatigued, paranoid and make your workout a complete mess.
Bonus tip: Runner’s high (get high without getting high on weed)
Weed and physical activities have much more in common than you think. And believe it or not, you can get high without smoking weed.
The phenomenon known as the “runner’s high” is why many long-distance runners are in love with this activity. But you can’t feel it by running a couple of miles. For this high, you have to work.
The first time I felt it was when I ran my first half marathon. When I reached the finish line, I had this rush of euphoria, motivation, and incredible satisfaction. It felt like I could keep on running forever.
After I’ve reached the finish line, I felt like I was high. And it was awesome.
I was not really sure what I was feeling, but this “high” triggered my curiosity and that’s when I found out about runner’s high.
Researchers from the University of Heidelberg found that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in producing this effect. After running, our bodies produce chemicals called endocannabinoids, that are similar to cannabinoids found in marijuana. (8)
These endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as chemicals found in marijuana and have similar effects, which helps explain why there are so many people obsessed with running and why so many runners love to smoke weed after a long run.
The most important thing to remember is to put safety first, at all times.
If you are a recreational athlete and are allowed to consume cannabis, make sure you take all concerns into account before getting high and working out. Let your local budtender help you choose the right strain that will keep you motivated and focused.
If you are a professional athlete, you should stay away from THC products and just stick to CBD, which has recently been removed from the World Anti Doping Agency banned substances list.
- Manzanares J, Julian MD, Carrascosa A; Role of the Cannabinoid System in Pain Control and Therapeutic Implications for the Management of Acute and Chronic Pain Episodes; Current Neuropharmacology; July 2006; 4(3):239–257
- Lopez-Rodriguez AB, Siopi E, Finn DP, Marchand-Leroux C, Garcia-Segura LM, Jafarian-Tehrani M, Viveros MP, CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor antagonists prevent minocycline-induced neuroprotection following traumatic brain injury in mice, Cerebral Cortex, January 2015, 25(1):35-45.
- Nguyen BM, Kim D, Bricker S, Bongard F, Neville A, Putnam B, Smith J, Plurad D. Effect of marijuana use on outcomes in traumatic brain injury. The American Surgeon, October 2014, 80(10):979-83.
- Rodondi N, Pletcher MJ, Liu K, Hulley SB, Sidney S; Marijuana use, diet, body mass index, and cardiovascular risk factors (from the CARDIA study); The American Journal of Cardiology; August 2006; 98(4):478-84
- Penner EA, Buettner H, Mittleman MA; The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults; The American Journal of Medicine; Jul 2013; 126(7):583-9
- Strat YL, Foll BL; Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results From 2 Representative National Surveys; American Journal of Epidemiology; 174(8): 929–933
- Peeke SC, Jones RT, Stone GC; Effects of practice on marijuana-induced changes in reaction time; Psychopharmacology; July 1976; 48(2):159-63
- Fuss J, Steinle J, Bindila L, Auer MK, Kirchherr H, Lutz B, Gass P; A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; October 2015; 112(42):13105-8