Does weed affect workouts? We now have athletes endorsing marijuana from indica seeds as natural post-exercise supplements and sativa as pre-workout. Between that and the mass push for legalization, this question has grown more relevant by the day.
The simple answer is—yes, weed does impact training. How? That’s the tricky part. The existing evidence is unclear and often conflicting.
Some studies state that cannabis is beneficial before, after, and during exercise. Others argue against consumption in any form.
As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Read on for a comprehensive overview of marijuana for movement. We’ll discuss the general science behind this plant before analyzing its effects on workouts across four relevant categories.
How Does Cannabis Influence the Body?
Cannabis contains over 100 active compounds called cannabinoids. Two are the topic of most medical research—THC and CBD. The scientific community considers them relevant because they directly interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS regulates various internal processes to maintain balance in the body. It plays a role in mood, pain and stress responses, immune system, and sleep. Here’s how THC and CBD affect the ECS:
- CBD is non-psychoactive, so it doesn’t cause a ‘high.’ Instead, it’s mostly a substance to soothe anxiety, nausea, sleep troubles, and pain.
- THC is psychoactive and binds directly to the ECS receptors. People report euphoria and creativity, increased appetite, and less pain.
User experiences show that the effects aren’t as potent with THC and CBD in isolation. So we can’t focus only on cannabinoids. There’s another part of marijuana chemistry to consider—its terpenes.
Terpenes are aromatic chemicals found in most plants, including marijuana. When combined with cannabinoids, terpenes seem to exhibit an entourage effect, lending various therapeutic properties to marijuana. They fight inflammation, improve your mood, and soothe anxiety.
At the moment, we have to use these general conclusions to arrive at specific ones. After all, medical research on marijuana and sports performance is near-non-existent. So we must use toker anecdotes and general studies to gauge how it influences exercise.
Even drawing from these basic facts, it becomes obvious that cannabis could be a beneficial way to enhance your fitness regimen. It’s also evident that its usefulness hinges on chemical composition, which brings us to our next point. No two strains of weed are identical.
Know Your Cultivars
The modern marijuana market is brimming with cultivars from two cannabis families—indica and sativa. Countless hybrids have emerged, some displaying clear dominance of one family, others delivering a blend of these effects.
So, how does smoking weed affect athletes? It depends on what the athlete is smoking.
The general rule is that indica relaxes while sativa energizes. However, you can’t rely only on the family, but consider the chemical makeup of your strain. Here’s what athletes are after:
- A blend of THC and CBD—CBD can inhibit the intoxicating properties of THC. When combined, the two may soothe pain, improve performance, and promote recovery while keeping you lucid.
- High limonene, terpinolene, and pinene contents for pre-workout toking. These terpenes appear to increase energy levels and sharpen focus.
- High myrcene, linalool, and caryophyllene contents for post-workout toking. These terpenes might mitigate inflammation and improve sleep.
An additional variance between strains stems from their cannabinoid and terpene contents. A 15% THC and 25% THC smoke affects you very differently. So dosing is another variable to keep in mind.
Find Your Dose
The interaction between marijuana and your system is highly individual. It depends on your weight, nutrition, tolerance, and the dose you’re ingesting. And understanding your reactions to cannabis is central to using it to enhance your sweat sessions.
As a rule, it’s better to start low and go slow, increasing the dose by tiny increments until you find what works. It’s also a good idea to start with CBD-rich strains, as they inhibit THC and lower the overwhelming influence of cannabis.
Always find your optimal dose before trying weed for exercise. Once you feel you did, it’s time for light bodyweight training at home. Track your responses and only tax your body at the gym when you’re 100% stable.
Now that you know how cannabis affects the body, let’s see how these properties translate into athletic activities before, during, and after your workout. We’ll then tackle the potential reasons to avoid pot for exercise.
1. A Puff Could Inspire Movement
The pre-workout impact of cannabis on fitness is strain-dependent. It’s also double-duty, aiding your efforts in the short and long term.
No matter the type and chemical composition, marijuana is a favorite recreational and medicinal compound because it’s an effective pain-reliever. It may also assist with psychological maladies like anxiety, depression, and bad moods.
The terpene cocktail affects how you use your new found mobility and motivation. Here’s what may happen.
Indica-dominant and hybrid cultivars without couch-locking properties put you at ease. If you’ve been avoiding activity because it’s too painful, a dose may reduce it enough to make movement possible and comfortable.
Sativa strains rich in energizing compounds exert a more direct influence. These specimens cause an instant energy rush and inspire you to move. It’s no wonder there are frequent accounts of sports people using weed before working out.
Besides these acute benefits, cannabis could promote better exercise habits. This idea may sound counterintuitive, but surveys support it.
People report greater levels of enjoyment when training high. This effect creates a positive feedback loop. You have a good time during your workout, and you’re much more inclined to give it another go, whether you’re a first-time exerciser or struggling with motivation.
Also, novices and people with body image issues may find it hard to muster the confidence to step into the gym or a class. They may find it easier to overcome anxiety and start moving with a slight cannabinoid infusion.
2. Marijuana May Boost Performance
The second area of marijuana influence happens during your workout. The benefits of training high have the least scientific backing; you’ll have to trust athletes before trying it yourself.
We’re dealing with strains once again. Combusting a THC-rich, couch-locking indica isn’t likely to lead to maxing out on your lifts.
On the other hand, picking the right weed could assist your exercise performance. In general, go for strains from the sativa cannabis family, ideally those with moderate CBD contents and high levels of energizing terpenes.
Your gym performance is a matter of mindset and physical power alike. According to athletes, here are the two ways marijuana may positively impact training.
Raw Physical Power
Let’s get one fact out of the way. According to evidence, cannabis won’t increase your objective strength or aerobic capability levels. A puff can’t turn you into an Olympic lifter or expert sprinter. However, some strains make you feel like one.
Surveys discovered that people feel less pain while they train under the influence. There’s a temporary endurance boost, sometimes invaluable for finishing that last set or mile.
This perk doubles if you struggle with fatigue. Weed might act as a natural replacement for an espresso or energy drink. Combined with a high-calorie pre-workout meal, it supplies enough power to complete your routine.
Getting in the Zone
The mindset is as important as the physical energy levels for smashing your sesh. Since THC and CBD improve your mood and eliminate sluggishness, a puff could also help on this front.
Besides motivating you to exercise, several terpenes in cannabis were found to increase focus. Consumption may get you out of your head, clear the cobwebs, and generate the right state of mind for a powerful workout.
This benefit also relates to exercise enjoyment. Tokers report fewer instances of getting bored or losing the will to train halfway through the routine.
3. Toking Might Improve Recovery
Recovery matters as much as movement for your overall fitness levels. So, is weed healthy for athletes? Evidence is scarce for the workouts themselves, but the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ regarding the post-workout period.
Medicinal studies into marijuana found that its terpenes and cannabinoids counter pain, inflammation, and sleep issues—troubles that could prevent returning to your routine or even cause injury.
Many athletes are using cannabis to get back to exercise sooner and alleviate the side effects of strenuous activities. Here are the four reasons why.
No More Inflammation
Training strains your muscle, and the body responds with a robust inflammatory response. In simple terms, muscle soreness means that your body is working to recover from the tears you caused.
That might sound bad—and it surely doesn’t feel good—but it makes you stronger. Luckily, it seems that marijuana might mitigate this response.
Reduced muscle inflammation is among the most promising areas of weed research. Scientists found that both CBD and THC regulate the body’s response to stress, including the discomfort of inflammation.
Weed is helpful post-injury, too. Novice and professional athletes who undergo surgery often experience pain in muscles and connective tissue even after they’ve technically recovered. Many turn to cannabis instead of opioids to get back in the game.
Smoking Soreness Goodbye
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) usually begins 6–8 hours after your training and lasts for around 48 hours post-exercise. This effect can leave you less inclined to go back for another session. Weed is a potent pain-reliever, and it may aid in the short and long term.
Pain relief comes hand-in-hand with the anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana. The plant has proven invaluable for alleviating acute and chronic pain, including DOMS.
Several cannabis compounds are also antioxidative and pain-mediating. Since oxidative stress is as much of a culprit for DOMS as inflammation, toking soothes post-workout discomfort in more ways than one.
Fueling Your Body Right
The ‘munchies’ are one of those classic stoner stereotypes with factual backing behind the idea. Most cultivars enhance the appetite. Since eating well helps your muscles recover, many people find this effect invaluable after a strong sesh.
Exercise leaves you ravenous no matter what, but toking can encourage a wholesome meal even in the face of nausea. It guarantees that you’ll fuel your body after taxing it.
Pick an indica-dominant strain for this purpose and let it nudge you towards the kitchen. Just skip salty and fatty snacks and pick something healthy and high-protein!
Sleeping the Strain Away
Your body needs sleep to grow strong and stable. No anti-inflammatory substance is as valuable as eight hours of shuteye for this purpose, and cannabis may ensure you get them.
Researchers found that THC improves sleep quality. It may reduce apnea symptoms and prolong the most restorative sleep stage.
Although not sedative, CBD can also be a valuable sleep aid. It may ease REM sleep disorders and daytime fatigue, building the foundation for impressive athletic performance.
Cannabis for sleep has a different chemical makeup than what we discussed above. Go for marijuana with higher THC levels to doze off with ease. Choose cultivars rich in sedative terpenes for deep, rejuvenating sleep.
4. Not Without Side Effects
Cannabis seems like the perfect fitness substance! Learn the weed chemistry, and you can get in the groove much easier, smash your sesh, and recover faster.
Why do so many people still oppose it if that’s the case? Does weed hurt athletic performance in any way?
Unfortunately, it might. You can take advantage of the beneficial effects while bypassing the harmful ones, but it’s a balancing act.
We aren’t arguing against cannabis as an exercise enhancer, but we suggest caution. If you decide to take your workouts higher, here’s what to look out for.
Cannabis & Coordination
Cannabis is an intoxicant that can impair your motor skills. Your stability, balance, and reaction time reduces, which can pose a hazard when you run on unfamiliar ground and lift heavy objects.
If smoking THC-heavy strains, your perception might also shift. Resistance training requires awareness of your body in space; an altered mind state can put you at risk.
Tackling this side effect: Always stay within your limits. The more THC you take, the greater the coordination impairment. Test new strains and consumption methods at home before taking them outdoors.
Cannabis & Mindfulness
Many tokers say that marijuana boosts their mind-body connection. As a result, they often pair marijuana with yoga, pilates, swimming, and stretching, where the flow is central to the workout. It’s a different story with more dangerous training types.
Reduced pain perception may leave you blind to signs of overexertion. You might push past your capabilities only to find yourself inexplicably sore or injured the next day.
Some exercise styles—particularly weight lifting and martial arts—require clear headedness. Weed-induced mindfulness doesn’t work well with these activities.
Tackling this side effect: Listen to your body extra hard while working out with weed. Don’t try to hit a new PR, and always practice novel moves sober before trying them high.
Long-Term Side Effects
Long-term side effects of weed aren’t well-corroborated. Cannabis has only recently entered the limelight of medicinal research. There are numerous unknowns about its influence on the body over prolonged periods.
Healthy individuals seem unaffected by chronic weed use, with or without exercise. Looking at training, researchers often cite these two risks.
Cannabis elevates the heart rate and blood pressure for an hour or two after consumption. This effect may slightly increase heart attack risks for the toker.
This influence is mostly negligible unless you have an underlying health condition. However, when paired with sudden exertion, this potential danger grows.
Tackling this side effect: Be extra careful about your blood pressure and heart rate. If you have a heart issue history, consult a physician before beginning a fitness regimen or introducing marijuana into the equation.
Healthy lungs are the cornerstone of a functional immune system; they need to remain strong for aerobic activity. So, does smoking weed affect athletic performance? Yes—this way to get high is the riskiest of the bunch.
Like tobacco, marijuana cigarettes, vapes, and bongs may cause structural lung damage. The smoke contains toxins, irritants, and carcinogens that could harm lung capacity and put your overall health at risk.
Tackling this side effect: Choose alternative ways to ingest weed. Cook with cannabis, ingest sublingual extracts or apply it topically. These consumption methods bring similar benefits without endangering your lungs.
In the end, does weed affect workouts? Yes. Is its influence positive or negative? It can be both, depending on your consumption choices.
Existing studies and toker anecdotes are good pointers, but we still lack definitive evidence in one way or another. Here’s the long and short of what we know so far:
- Pre-workout: Some people find it easier to begin exercising after cannabis consumption
- Workout: Certain marijuana strains make training more productive and enjoyable
- Post-workout: Most weed cultivars contain beneficial compounds for physical recovery
Real risks do exist, particularly for smokers and those with underlying conditions. Nevertheless, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives for most individuals.
So why not try it yourself? Buy seeds and grow organic weed plants at home. Make edibles and tinctures, and track your responses to make the most out of it.