Marijuana Moxie: Cannabis’ Potential for Exercise Motivation and Recovery

Recent trends have shown that consumers are looking for new and healthier ways to supplement cannabis as part of their daily self-care routine.

In order to appeal to this new breed of consumer, a number of companies entering the cannabis space are focusing more on products devoted to health and wellness. These products include suppositories, topicals, tinctures and “health-friendly” edibles.

For people that use cannabis in conjunction with exercise, this is music to their ears. So, why are gym enthusiasts and athletes alike turning to cannabis for pre workout fuel and as a post workout recovery tool?

Getting Started

To really understand how cannabis can be beneficial to an exercise routine, we first have to understand how our bodies process cannabinoids. All humans and vertebrates have an endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS is a complex network of receptors, molecules, and enzymes that work together to help maintain cellular balance, or homeostasis, within our bodies. This balance allows cells, organs, and systems to function optimally. In simpler terms, the ECS’s purpose is to respond to endogenous cannabinoids produced within the human body. One such endogenous cannabinoid is anandamide.

Runner’s High

Anandamide was first discovered by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and Dr. Bill Devane in 1992, shortly after the ECS was discovered. The name Dr. Mechoulam may sound familiar to you. The justly nicknamed “Father of Cannabis” was the first to discover the molecule tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC. Anandamide is known as the “bliss molecule” aptly named after ananda, the Sanskrit word for “joy, bliss, or happiness.” In the case of prolonged exercise, anandamide levels increase. This increase is thought to decrease some of the pain, whether it be physical or emotional, in order to bring our bodies and emotions back to normal levels. Recent studies have shown that this endocannabinoid, not endorphins, could actually be responsible for the ever sought after “runners high” but that is still up for debate.

Selecting Strains

Current trends seem to show that more and more people are using cannabis as a pre workout fuel and as a post workout recovery tool. When trying to figure out whether or not to use a Sativa or Indica strain, go with what you know. Sativa strains tend to be more uplifting and cerebral whereas Indica strains are usually more sedating and pain relieving. With that information, a Sativa strain would be great for pre workout and an Indica strain would be better for post workout. Just remember that cannabis strains are subjective and can affect everyone differently. Iit is also worth noting that cannabidiol, or CBD, is shown to have great potential in “muscle recovery and anti-inflammatory effects.”

Recent Studies

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health sought out to examine the relationship between cannabis use and exercise in states that have legalized cannabis.

According to the study done by the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, findings show “that many cannabis users in states with legal cannabis access use in conjunction with exercise, and that most who do so believe it increases enjoyment of, recovery from, and to some extent the motivation to engage in exercise.” Furthermore, “using cannabis with exercise may play a beneficial role in the health of cannabis users.”

Another interesting find shows that states that have legalized cannabis have higher rates of physical activity. “For whatever historical, political, or economic reasons, it is the case that states with legal access to cannabis are, without exception, more physically active than the national average.”

The authors of the study also suggest that people who use cannabis before and after exercise are more likely to exercise more frequently, have less pain and be more motivated to start and finish a long workout. However, since the study did not “query potential negative consequences of co-use, any recommendations are premature.”

One possible negative consequence of co-use, that is using cannabis pre and post exercise, is that of injury while intoxicated. Cannabis can have an “opioid like effect” on the bodies response to pain which can lead to over exercise and inevitably injury.

Final Words

While some studies are showing that using cannabis in conjunction with exercise can be beneficial, there are still naysayers who believe it can be detrimental to your health. As we move closer to federal legalization one thing is for certain, more research needs to be done in order to assist consumers in making educated decisions when it comes to cannabis and their health.

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