Getting lit and exercising? Most won’t think that to be a combination that goes hand-in-hand, but it does. When you first enter the cannabis community and lifestyle, it’s almost a ritual to single-handedly finish off a variety of junk foods and king-sized chocolate bars (munchies, am I right?). This isn’t strange when your substance of choice is the world’s most effective appetite stimulant. Regardless of it being so, a number of professional athletes are speaking out in reversing this gluttonous, lazy and unmotivated stereotypes associated with marijuana users.
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, triathlete Clifford Drusinsky, and a majority of UFC fighters have collectively shared their views on using marijuana as a training aid for optimum athletic performance. With Power Plant Fitness, the world’s first marijuana-friendly gym also opening in California, many are jumping into this new paradigm of exercise and health. But what does weed actually do to your body? Why and how do athletes take advantage of marijuana in their training? It is unclear from mere observation whether marijuana can lead to a healthy weight loss or gain, but what we do know for sure from the limited research available is that:
1. Marijuana Raises Your Metabolism
Getting a fat-burning boost before exercising sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what marijuana does to your body, it raises your metabolism and lowers your insulin levels. In a study with over 4.600 participants, researchers found that regular cannabis consumers have insulin levels that are 16% lower than their non-smoking counterparts. It also found that these particular participants had a smaller average waist circumference. These findings suggest that cannabis aids in facilitating metabolic function as insulin signals your body’s cells to take in sugar/glucose for energy. As controlled insulin levels are key to energy and weight loss, the study concluded that cannabis can indeed aid in maintaining a healthier weight, speeding up fat loss, and lowering cholesterol levels.
2. Marijuana Helps You Relax & Recover
Although consuming protein and having a trusty spotter can help with that sore or aching pain we get after exercising, lighting up a joint can just as easily do the same. When you ingest marijuana - whether through smoke, vapour, or edibles - its chemical compounds combined with your brain and body receptors can regulate appetite, pain, and emotions.
One main chemical compound is called cannabidiol (CBD) and by being non-psychoactive, it brings about that calm and relaxed feeling we all know and love. The other main compound is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical that generates feelings of euphoria and relaxed inhibitions. It turns out that our bodies can naturally produce these similar compounds after exercising, meaning that ingesting cannabis can also mimic the very natural process of increasing exercise-induced endocannabinoids. In short, marijuana helps you relax and recover; focusing on aspects other than the pain you feel whilst exercising.
3. Marijuana Keeps You IN-DA-ZONE!
If you’re like me and get bored easily whilst exercising, then marijuana can help you stay focused; particularly with repetitive sports such as running, swimming, and cycling. If you’ve ever lit one up and got lost replaying videos in the world of YouTube, then you can probably relate. According to Wellspring Collective, many long-distance runners have admitted to using edibles and vaporizers to promote a steady rhythmic zone for keeping at a competitive running speed. As an anonymous long-distance runner explains, “If I don’t smoke before a run, I’m constantly thinking about the miles and how much further I have to go, rather than just enjoying the experience.”
Other than keeping you in the zone, marijuana can also boost your workout. A study conducted by the University of Sydney found that getting high before exercising can actually increase the effects of marijuana and supercharge your buzz. Even working out for half an hour can trigger a stronger high as researchers found that blood levels of THC were 15% higher on average after participants toked up and engaged in exercise. Even if you’re easily distracted, marijuana can help you stay focused on the exercises you enjoy.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
We all know the devil’s lettuce can give us a dry or ‘cotton’ mouth as it commonly leads to dehydration. For new or inexperienced users, it can possibly spark a sense of panic, headache, or a slight paralysis. Although there are several health benefits to marijuana, it is hard to say with confidence what it would do to one’s body if we throw physical exercise into the mix. Just as stoners come in all shapes and sizes, marijuana can influence each individual user differently, so tread with caution.
From personal experience, I can say I’ve spent weekends toking up and stuffing my face with Patatje Oorlog, Kapsalon, and pretty much anything you can find at a Dutch Snack Bar. But I can also tell you that after four years of regularly smoking cannabis, I was able to lose 30kg and maintain a healthier weight than my previously alarming obese-state. It all depends on how you use the substance and understanding what it can personally do to your own body. Here are some more articles and references that could help you figure that out:
1. 'Weed Smoker are Statistically Skinnier' (Merryjane.com)
2. 'Making the Marijunana Diet Work For You' (Colorado Pot Guide)
3. Reason to Smoke Marijuana Before A Workout (The Alternative Daily)
Author: Sada Piqolette
Image of Michael Phelps by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil used under Creative Commons License 3.0