Working out is a major chore. Humans are creatures of comfort, and as anyone who’s spent a little time on a comfy sofa or bed can attest, getting up and moving, let alone exercising, can be tough. But that’s the irony of life, isn’t it? A lot of the things that are good for us tend to be unpleasant, at least at first, and exercise has to rank at the top. After vegetables, of course.
Doctors everywhere recommend it, and the American College of Sports Medicine advises at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity each week. But working out isn’t usually easy. You have to move around a lot, lift heavy things, and in most cases, push and strain yourself till you’re exhausted. Now, these guys want to add weed to the mix?
Well, weed gets a bad rap a lot of the time. It’ll only make something that takes a lot of effort even more difficult, right? The evidence paints a different story, though. But, before we talk about how marijuana can enhance your workout and recovery time, let’s discuss what a workout does to your body.
Wear and Tear
If you’ve ever exercised or done any strenuous physical activity, you probably felt a little sore later. Or a lot, depending on how much activity you did. The science nerds call that delayed onset muscle soreness or D.O.M.S for short, and these bad boys can suck.
Very simply, the strain your muscles and joints go through during intense or unfamiliar physical activity results in wear and tear. This leads to soreness that peaks a day or two later, hence the name. In science terms, the stress you put on your muscles causes micro-tears, which trigger inflammation that results in exhaustion and the dreaded D. O. M.S.
If you’re just starting to work out, you’ll probably feel the soreness and fatigue more than someone who’s been doing it for a while. Some people prefer to wait for it to go down, others prefer to work through it, but one thing that’s certain is that it can be extremely uncomfortable.
So, how can weed and CBD make your workout and recovery a little easier?
Someone once said that the fear of something is often more terrifying than the thing itself. For many people, just the thought of getting up and working out is scary enough. Tell them they’ll be all sore afterward and there’s really no incentive left. Here’s where a puff or two might help.
Researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder ran a study among cannabis users in states where recreational use is legal, and they found that 8 out of 10 users used marijuana shortly before or after exercising. And get this, those who used the drug within four hours of their workout reported getting 43 more minutes than those who didn’t. 52% of those who integrated weed into their workout regimen said they were more motivated to work out and 70% said it made their workouts a lot more enjoyable.
Weed takes care of the morale problem that keeps a lot of people from exercising. On top of that, it makes working out fun. You know how random, mundane activities suddenly seem so vivid when you’re high? The effect is similar when you work out.
CBD carries a lot of cannabis’ medical potential. The extract is currently huge, with tons of people swearing by its medical ability, and a market worth millions of dollars. A powerful anti-inflammatory, it works beautifully against painful and sore muscles. But perhaps its most appealing aspect, at least in regards to recovery, is its ability to induce sleep.
And not just the low quality sleep you get after blacking out from weed or alcohol, but a night of deep, restful sleep. After intense activity, especially a workout, your muscles need time to repair and grow even bigger and stronger. This means tons of protein and sleep. CBD is known to induce sleep, and a healthy dose will give your body the time it needs to repair and build the muscles.
Here’s the science behind it
Inflammation is the root cause of a lot of the body’s issues, and it’s one of the main reasons you hurt so much after an intense workout. According to David. O. Draper, a professor and the director of the graduate program in sports medicine/athletic training at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, D.O.M.S usually occur when the muscle is performing an eccentric or lengthening contraction, such as running downhill or doing a bicep curl.
The muscle strain creates microscopic tears to the muscle fibers, resulting in inflammation, and the combination causes soreness and pain. Cannabis is widely renowned for its pain-relieving ability, and here’s where it comes in. In moderation, the weed in your system will tamp down on the inflammation, making your workouts and the recovery less painful.
You’ll be able to do those last few reps that matter with a little more ease and a little less pain. On top of that, your recovery will be faster.
Whenever you work out, your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone. It’s a catabolic hormone that reduces protein synthesis and in some cases, prevents the growth of new tissue. It also makes it difficult to fall asleep, since it puts the body in a state of anxiety and stress. And if that’s not enough, these hormones also break down muscle mass.
That’s really not what you want to hear after a workout. If you want maximum gains, you’ll have to take something that regulates how much cortisol is released into your body and, wouldn’t you know, CBD can do just that. By reducing the amount of catabolic hormones like cortisol released into your body, you’ll be able to build more muscle and retain it over time.
Now let’s talk a little about dosing before wrapping up.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Marijuana affects everyone differently. The plant itself produces chemicals called cannabinoids, and we know a little about a few of them. THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is responsible for marijuana’s infamous high, and cannabidiol (CBD) has made quite a name for itself as a sort of cure-all. There are lots of other cannabinoids, and they all interact with the body in a unique way due to the endocannabinoid system.
The ECS is a peripheral nervous system discovered back in the nineties by folks who were researching THC. It consists of endocannabinoids, and receptors called CB1 and CB2 receptors. Cannabinoids interact with these receptors to influence certain functions like pain, sleep, and motor control. THC, CBD and other cannabinoids produced by weed are similar in nature to the ones produced by the body, and they can also interact with these receptors.
However, unlike most drugs that have gone through numerous clinical trials and have universal dosing standards, weed doesn’t have a constant effect on everyone. For instance, a dose might make someone who was anxious more chilled and mellowed out, but make another guy anxious and paranoid.
So, how do you figure out the correct dose?
I wouldn’t advise you to medicate and workout if you’re not familiar with weed. Like alcohol, it takes people a while to figure out how much weed it takes to get them sufficiently high. But since you’re not doing it for pleasure, you’ll need a much, much smaller dose.
It’s called micro dosing, and it’s where you consume a small amount of weed at intervals for a longer-lasting, milder high. Just enough to affect you while you work out, but not so much that you can’t think clearly. Dr. Dustin Sulak, an osteopathic physician and founder of Healer hits the nail on the head,
“It’s typically lower than people expect, and certainly lower than what people are used to doing for recreation, for lack of a better word. Assuming you already know how marijuana affects you, you’ll probably be good with about one or three puffs.”
He advises a week of cautious use to get past the initial sensitivity to THC if you’re new to weed. It will also give you enough time to figure out how much weed you can handle in a sitting.
Wrapping it up…
While there aren’t any conclusive clinical trials to prove whether weed can affect your workouts, there’s plenty of evidence that it acts against the symptoms that make workouts so unappealing. Inflammation and soreness top the list, and weed is a proven anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, so you can be sure your workouts and recovery will be more bearable.
CBD, on the other hand, makes recovering a breeze. It will regulate cortisol levels, and reduce inflammation, making it easier to relax and get the sleep your body needs to recover.
Don’t believe is? Here’s what Jim Alpine, founder of cannabis-friendly 420 Games and Power Plant Fitness, which he co-owns with former NFL running back Ricky Williams, has to say. “It activates your brain and gets you in the zone. I love to smoke before I ski or mountain bike or go surfing. It puts me in a place of higher focus, the Eye of the Tiger type thing.”
What more can we say?