Do You Even Lift Bro?
Weed + Fitness? Feels like a sketchy combo, yeah? Like they could never coexist? But for some athletes, cannabis is as common as compression pants.
The first time I saw cannabis and fitness come together was a couple of years ago in a dark California gym parking lot. My friends and I were about to go show Leg Day what’s up. Before we went in, they wanted to hotbox the car. They invited me to join, but I just stood there dumbstruck.
Why would I want to go to the gym high? What about smoke’s effects on my lungs? What about weed making me lazy? What about Leg Day?!
Since that night, I’ve come to appreciate how The Reefer, in all its forms, can be a great workout companion. Hot boxing before Leg Day is still not quite my jam… but a high THC topical massage for sore muscles? CBD edibles to reduce inflammation? Linalool before yoga? Yes, please!
There is still a lot to learn about cannabis and it’s impact on physical activity. We know cannabis contains phytocannabinoids that act on a system called our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a role in our ability to regulate mood, pain, and inflammation, all of which can influence your ability to take part in, enjoy and recover from a workout.
The trick is finding what works for you and timing your dose appropriately. Go slow. Try different forms; different varieties. Think about your goals. Start with small doses. (New to cannabis dosing? Start here)
As with all things having to do with your health, take ownership of the process and listen carefully to your body.
While cannabis and fitness might work for some folks, please keep in mind reefer and working out might not be for you. Mixing the two can be anywhere from plain ineffective, to slightly uncomfortable, to potentially dangerous.
Cannabis can lead to effects on the heart and potentially lowered blood pressure (read: dizziness). Hydration is also very important if you decide to experiment. Always consult a doctor if you have specific medical concerns.
PRE / POST WORKOUT:
Pain & Inflammation Management:
Everyone knows working out can make you sore. “Vitamin I” is a term you might hear around the gym because of how often folks will “pop ibuprofen like a vitamin.”
Some folks take ibuprofen before a workout, in order to manage soreness and minor aches. A recent study found “NSAID use by runners during their marathon remains high despite published medical guidance advising against its use”.
To be clear, popping “vitamin I” is not recommended. It does, however, point to a long-standing practice in sports of using substances to reduce the inflammation caused by working out.
It turns out, certain compounds in cannabis can be just as effective at reducing minor pain and inflammation. THC and CBD have both been shown to help with inflammation and pain. CBD heavy options can be best when trying to minimize the more intoxicating side of reefer.
Inhaling gives the most immediate effect, but for those monitoring your VO2 Max, combustion can be tough on the lungs. Vaping is a solid non-combustion inhalant option if looking for fast relief without the fire. There are also many non-smokable products such as tinctures, edibles, and topicals if you prefer to experiment without inhaling. Be aware that all of these methods will take longer to take effect.
Next time you’re sore and have an evening free, here are some experiments to try:
A cannabis topical to massage your sore muscles. It’s an excellent way to begin experimenting with cannabis, and might help with post-workout soreness. Physic Field Balm is one of my go-tos.
Comfortable with edibles, but want to avoid intoxication? Wyld makes a strawberry, all-CBD gummy that could be a good place to start.
Already consume THC on the regular for workouts? Why not try CBD for recovery? Mr. Moxey’s Mints has a lovely 1:1 (CBD:THC) Peppermint (bonus points: low in carbs)
Focus on Your Entourage
If you haven’t heard about terpenes yet you’re missing out. Check out this primer on them and The Entourage Effect. In short, these are secondary compounds that give cannabis its aroma. They’re thought to contribute to the wide variety of experiences felt when consuming various cannabis chemovars. Terpenes might be why different strains have different effects.
Remember that sketchy California gym parking lot? As soon as those fellas got out of the car, I couldn’t stop grilling them about what Leg Day was like stoned. I heard stuff like “It just helps me get in the zone,” “It makes me feel like a machine,”and “I feel so focused on my movements.”
Turns out, there are a couple of terpenes that might explain that “crushing it” feeling my friends enjoyed. Limonene has been linked to both an increase in testosterone and a feeling of euphoria. Terpinolene is a terpene some folks love for increasing focus. And pinene tends to be fairly clear headed for folks as well as a bronchodilator.
A strain high in Limonene, Terpinolene, and/or Pinene could potentially lead to a focused, powerful, clear headed high. Strains like Voyager #1 and Jack Herer are some of my favorites in this category.
Physical activities with a little more of a flow to them: pilates, climbing, running, etc. might benefit from varieties dominant in linalool and/or β-caryophyllene (BCP). Some folks find ocimene adds a bit of “floatiness” to a high, making it a potential compliment for more meditative activities like yoga or dance.
Strains with Linalool, BCP, and/or Ocimene tend to be fairly relaxing for folks in the body and mind, without bringing much too much of the couchlock. Zkittles and Raspberry Tart are some strains I enjoy in this category.
If you’re looking for a specific feeling, or for something that might enhance a specific activity, let your budtender know. Same goes for specific terpene profiles. The more you know about what you’re looking for, the better your search for the perfect workout entourage will go.
Think about your goals.
If your goal is to win a real gold medal, or compete at any level really, please keep in mind…Michael Phelps… But also: cannabis is a substance.
Not only are substances prohibited at most levels of competition, but there is no concrete evidence cannabis can make you a better athlete. There are lots of anecdotes about folks perception of improved performance. But the science is still TBD and the rules of some organizations are very clear around substance use of any kind. (Though, the times, they are ‘a changin’)
Be open minded. Find what works for you. But above all: Be safe and be responsible. Always consult a doctor if you have specific medical concerns.