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Scientists are finally discovering the true effects of weed on athletic performance and recovery

February 8, 2022

The number of athletes who have entered the cannabis industry has been unprecedented, ranging from former National Football League (NFL) pros to Olympic medalists. These athletes understand firsthand the medicinal uses of cannabidiol and its potential for injury recovery, and they want to share their knowledge and experiences with the world.

Even the greatest legends in the world of sports, business, and politics have been dismissed because of their association with what is perceived as an illegal substance. Even though these successful people used marijuana for medicinal benefits, they still had to endure comments about their “losing habits.”

The prohibition and stigmatization of marijuana have also held back research on the plant’s impact on mental and physical performance.

Due to this reason, the researchers from Colorado University believe that this research conducted to test the effects of smoking cannabis is the first of its kind.

“To date, there are no human studies on the effects of legal market cannabis on the experience of exercise,”  Laurel Gibson said.

New research by Gibson will change how people perceive cannabis, as the focus shifts to understanding how cannabis affects physical activity and exercise. As part of this new study, participants will be compensated for their participation.

 This study is targeted at men and women between the ages of 21 and 50 who are experienced with using cannabis and exercising simultaneously.

Only three meetings are required for each volunteer. The first will include a survey and time on the treadmill. During the second session, questionnaires will be used to gauge the wellness of participants, and throughout the sessions, the heart rate of volunteers will be measured while they are on the treadmill.

To create a study that is both successful and safe for participants, volunteers will use cannabis at home before entering the college campus, which also happens to be federal law. A highly-anticipated result of this study could be game-changing for the country’s existing laws surrounding cannabis.


Putting the pot in PhD

 Gibson wants to ascertain why a substantial number of athletes are embracing the use of cannabis in sports.

 Ultramarathoner and participant Heather Mashhoodi has participated in many marathons and ultra-marathons. She has used many tactics to fuel her body during these grueling endurance tests, including a lot of candy. Her favorite mid-workout treat is a single gummy made with marijuana instead of sugar.

A new study bears out that the benefits of cannabis extend far beyond the recreational uses of this plant. As athletes like Mashhoodi can attest, it can be a very effective tool for physical recovery. But it also helps with overall health, including things like increased energy and overall happiness levels.

 Angela Bryan, a CU professor, and her colleagues researched cannabis users in five states about two years ago.

 After the survey, a whopping number of more than 80% shared that they consumed cannabis before they exercised. And about 70% of this group also confessed that it enhanced their joy for exercise. About 78% said it increased recovery, and 52% said it intensified motivation,” according to the news.

According to Gibson, he plans to test the acquired results with her SPACE study.

Star Athletes are Advocating High Performance

After years of stigmas and stereotypes, this survey and study have provided evidence that marijuana users are not less productive than their peers. With the support of well-known athletes like Ricky Williams and Kevin Durant, the image of the lazy stoner is now being corrected.

With the help of studies like Gibson’s, we will understand how marijuana can influence positive outcomes for both amateurs and professionals.

The study for this issue is still ongoing, but it has already identified a few promising case studies. Former NBA players Clifford Robinson and Stephen Jackson admit to smoking before games.

“I just gotta be real,” said Jackson in a 2017 interview with the “I Am Rapaport: Stereo Podcast.”

“You know, it’s been a couple of games where I smoked before games and had great games,” Jackson, the host of the 420-themed “All The Smoke” podcast, recalled three years before the league discontinued THC testing. “And it’s been some games where I smoked before the game and was on the bench after three minutes sitting on the sideline, [thinking] ‘Please calm down. This high has to calm down’—I done shot three shots that went over the backboard.”

Former NBA champion Dwyane Wade has joined the budding industry, launching a line of marijuana strains in partnership with Jeeter. The product launch has attracted much attention, as Wade is considered an important figure in the sports community. With elite athletes like Wade entering the field, more and more people think about incorporating marijuana into their sports experience.


Taking our understanding of ‘runner’s high’ to new heights

It is well known that many endurance athletes experience a euphoric feeling, or runner’s high, from strenuous physical activity. Some have attributed this feeling to the effect of the biochemical known as endorphins, but now, many more are attributing it to the impact of the body’s cannabinoid system. A 2015 study has linked intense exercise to increased endocannabinoids in mice brains.

A recent study discovered that running could help in reducing the effects of stress through its positive impact on the endocannabinoid system. The research was based on two molecular mechanisms underpinning physical & emotional stress and demonstrated how exercise-induced endocannabinoid release contributes to performance.

“[The research] observed that endorphins can’t pass through the blood-brain barrier,” according to Johannes Fuss of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.

The discovery of anandamide in the bloodstream validated the idea that cannabinoids (the chemicals that give marijuana its potency) can exist outside the body and move through the human system (e.g., into the bloodstream). Further research into this relationship later connected cannabinoids to endorphins, which also affect mood and may be responsible for a runner’s high.

“Yet no one [has] investigated the effects of endocannabinoids on behavior after running,” Fuss said regrettably in an interview with Scientific American after his team’s survey in 2015.

However, Gibson at Colorado University is putting more light into the survey.


What is an Endocannabinoid?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a cannabinoid naturally produced within the human body. It’s a part of your endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for helping to manage the body’s internal functions. Remember, the human body produces its cannabinoids and can adversely affect cannabis.

The endocannabinoid system initiates and maintains homeostasis. It coordinates, focuses, and gratifies by sending messages to neurons across the peripheral nervous systems. These messages influence the brain areas associated with coordination and balance, focus and learning, reward, motor control, and sensory perception.

There is still much more research that needs to be conducted on whether cannabinoids positively affect the human body. However, studies show that they may mitigate chronic pain and other symptoms experienced by athletes.

THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, collaborates with its fellow cannabinoids to trigger receptors in the brain. The endocannabinoid system, however, is complex and diverse, so it will take a more rigorous study to determine how and why THC has these effects.


The effects of cannabis products on performance

Consuming cannabis before engaging in sports activities enhances your strength or increases your speed? The answer is a big no.

However, the World Anti-Doping Agency has stood by its decision to ban cannabis for competitors. After the rising star could not participate in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics because of a positive test, it declared that it would further research medical marijuana before reconsidering its anti-cannabis stance.

But recent research from the US National Library of Medicine has confirmed that CBD is not a performance-enhancing drug. And now, according to a recent study from Colorado University, cannabis can’t be considered a gateway drug either. The CU research could reveal even more concrete evidence that professional athletes like Richardson should not be punished for consuming marijuana.

“When I use cannabis and run, I get to feel that at a little less intense mileage,” 31-year-old Mashhoodi explained after participating in the CU study. “When I run for a long time, this thing naturally kicks in, and it makes the colors brighter and makes my thoughts clearer and makes me more emotionally in tune.”

There are many theories concerning the relationship between cannabis and athletic performance. According to Mashhoodi, the good feelings that some athletes associate with using cannabis may be derived from a subconscious head start on the “good feeling” they associate with working out. However, according to Mashhoodi, the positive feelings that some athletes experience while using cannabis do not correlate to unnatural recovery rates.

It’s not unfair for athletes to seek an advantage, but rather unfair for them to do so through unnatural means. Cannabis, while it won’t let you recover and train at abnormal rates, is a far less harmful medicine than many of the pharmaceutical options that are pushed on athletes.

It’s too early for scientists to give proper guidance on this question, but anecdotal evidence suggests that, at the very least, athletes should not use cannabis before working out. Exercising after consuming cannabis is not recommended. Cannabis affects each individual differently and makes it impossible to recommend one dosage as appropriate for everyone.

Josiah Hesse, the author of Runner’s High: How a movement of cannabis-fueled athletes is changing the science of sports, wrote his book after his own experience with cannabis. Hesse says that he felt confident enough to write a 300-page book on the subject after his experience, saying that “many athletes think that they’ve been able to push their physical limits while being able to get more out of their training.

Before incorporating cannabis into his workout routine, Josh Hesse said he could not run a single block. Afterward, he could complete a marathon and run up a hill efficiently.

“When I first started running, I couldn’t run a single block. It hurt, and my lungs burned,” Hesse stated. But after he took a cannabis-infused edible before a workout, it was a whole new ball game for him. “Running up a hill became an easy, playful experience,” he recalls.

More research is needed before making any solid conclusions, but change could be in the air. Stephen A. Smith, ESPN’s resident critic of sports personalities and marijuana, may soon have to change his tune.

Smith uses his catchphrase “Stay off the weed” when talking to NFL and NBA players who were suspended due to their marijuana use. While he claims that he does not have an issue with marijuana, he understands why players utilize the substance. He calls for a change in the outdated THC testing policies currently usedThe NFL and NBA have taken a step in the right direction: they have stopped testing for marijuana. After the NFL decided to stop trying players during their off-season in 2019, the NBA unofficially ended its testing program, and neither league has announced plans to resume.