Photo via Luemen Rutkowski

Learn | 04.22.2024

Smoking Weed And Working Out: Everything You Need To Know

Navigating the highs and lows of exercise with cannabis.

As cannabis gains mainstream traction, numerous athletes and gym-goers claim enhanced focus, endurance, and recovery from weaving cannabis or CBD into their workout routines.

But is mixing marijuana and muscle really a good idea?

The evidence is mixed. While some studies suggest that combining cannabis and exercise might compromise endurance slightly, others point toward a boost in workout enjoyment and more frequent gym sessions.

Plus, CBD-rich products, which are more widely legal, appear to aid in workout recovery, reduce anxiety, and help regulate sleep.

Let’s take a closer look at what the research says about the impact of cannabis on exercise.

Research On Cannabis Use And Physical Performance

Photo via Cavan Images

A 2021 review sifted through various studies and found that the conclusions on cannabis’s impact on exercise aren’t well-established.

Some studies support its use, and various others assert that cannabis negatively impacts workout performance.

The authors also highlighted that some research lacked the conditions to form solid conclusions today—many relied on outdated methods or insufficient data.

A 1975 study explored how smoking cannabis could affect prolonged physical activities like cycling.

Participants who smoked a moderate dose of cannabis (18.2mg) before cycling couldn’t last as long as those who didn’t smoke before cycling.

Researchers initially linked this to an increased heart rate, a finding later questioned since THC is known to naturally elevate heart rate.

It was also noted that the study’s methods might not meet current research standards today.

You may feel tired earlier on in your workout if having consumed cannabis.

Following up on the previous findings, a 1986 study found that those who smoked cannabis tired out earlier than those who didn’t smoke before the workout. But the difference was minimal–about a minute less of exercise time.

This small gap led to some skepticism about the study’s conclusions; was one minute really significant enough to deem cannabis a workout dud?

Other factors they measured, like heart rate and the volume of exhaled carbon dioxide (VCO2), showed no changes due to cannabis use.

This further fueled the debate over just how much—or how little—cannabis affects physical performance.

It turns out that frequent cannabis users aren’t exactly falling behind in the gym – according to several studies the review evaluates.

When comparing frequent users with those who steer clear of cannabis, the studies found almost no differences in several key areas of fitness:

  • Aerobic fitness (VO2 max)

  • Blood pressure

  • Muscular strength

  • Prolonged physical activity

  • Total amount of work performed

  • How hard they felt they were working out

This all suggests that regular cannabis use doesn’t necessarily impair your physical fitness or ability to engage in strenuous exercise.

An online survey taken in 2019 sheds light on how adults in the U.S. feel about their cannabis use and exercise. The survey polled 605 adults in states where cannabis is legal.

Here’s what they found:

Many Use Cannabis

Over 80% of the participants incorporate cannabis into their fitness regime. This group largely consists of younger males.

Increased Activity

Those who combined cannabis with working out reported exercising more each week than those who didn’t use it. Many users noted that cannabis made their workouts more enjoyable.

Enhanced Recovery

Half of the participants felt that cannabis improved their recovery post-exercise, suggesting potential benefits in muscle repair and pain relief.

While research is catching up to either back up or debunk cannabis helping with exercise, some evidence suggests there may be positive impacts of using CBD.

CBD And Exercise

Photo via Resilience CBD

In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) made a significant move by removing CBD from its list of prohibited substances. This decision opened the gates for athletes around the globe to incorporate CBD into their training and recovery routines legally.

Since then, the buzz around CBD has only grown louder in locker rooms and on practice fields.

Athletes aren’t just using CBD to bounce back faster post-workout; a recent 2022 study reveals they’re actually enjoying their workouts more with CBD in their system.

Athletes who took 300mg of CBD before exercise reported a boost in workout pleasure, though it came with a slight trade-off in oxygen efficiency.

Beyond just making tough training sessions more enjoyable, CBD is gaining traction for its ability to tackle insomnia, cut down anxiety, and soothe inflammation-related pains—common hurdles that athletes face in their daily grind.

Cardiovascular Risk

Photo via Stock

Cannabis use impacts your heart rate, especially after smoking. Depending on the amount of cannabis consumed, the risk of heart complications can increase.

For individuals in good health, these temporary increases are usually not significant enough to impact a workout. However, for those with existing heart conditions, the cardiovascular effects of smoking cannabis could pose additional risks during physical exercise.

It’s wise to consult with a healthcare provider about cannabis use, especially if you have underlying health concerns or are considering incorporating it into your fitness regimen.

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