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What Happens To Your Body When You Smoke Weed & Work Out

As you’re trying to figure out how to do the whole self-care thing, you might be looking to maximize your runner’s high with a different kind of high. Whether you’re a morning jogger, yoga enthusiast, or gym rat, experts say working out while you’re high on weed can help you exercise more effectively, more often, and even more joyfully (you know, if it’s legal in your state).

“Marijuana might reduce the inflammation response in the body after a heavy workout,” says Dr. Gary Starr, MD, medical director of FOCUS, an international non-profit working toward developing cannabis quality management standards. And though a 2017 study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that while pot probably doesn’t physically improve your athletic performance, it may be excellent for getting your mind in the game.

“Using weed before a workout is a great way to get out of your head about what’s to come,” says yoga teacher, body positivity advocate, and writer Jessamyn Stanley. If working out isn’t exactly your favorite thing, it can take a lot of emotional energy to get yourself ready to go. But even if you love exercising, putting your body through its paces day in and day out can lead to a lot of mental fatigue. This exhaustion can make you develop negative associations with working out, making it harder to work out next time. and on and on.

Sure enough, a 2017 study published in the journal Sports Medicine found that the harder people perceived their workout to be, the more mentally fatigued they felt. In other words, if you feel like your workout is painfully difficult, it’s tougher to stay engaged and motivated. This is one reason that Stanley uses weed before her workouts. “Instead of wanting the workout to end, I have to remind myself to stop,” she tells Bustle.

According to the journal Nature, when over 600 people living in states where recreational cannabis is legal were surveyed, about 70% of respondents said that being high on pot made working out more enjoyable. Using weed didn’t only help people enjoy their workouts, the survey found. People who got high before or after exercise spent more time working out than people who didn’t mix it with exercising.

While this direct effect is still theoretical from a research standpoint, Dr. Starr says that pot’s ability to boost your mood in the short-term may help you start to enjoy exercise more and therefore get your sweat on more often. That sense of being present and enjoying yourself can help improve your workout whether you’re a weightlifter or a yogi.

However, there’s a lot that scientists still don’t know about exercising while high. “At this point in time, almost all research into the relationship between marijuana and exercise performance is observational and small,” Dr. Starr tells Bustle.

It’s also important to keep in mind that about 40% of people in the Nature survey who combined pot and exercise reported experiencing higher than usual heart rates and getting too high to continue working out safely. Dr. Starr says that this is not terribly unexpected. “Marijuana is known to cause tachycardia — or an increased heart rate,” he tells Bustle. “In people with underlying heart disease or problems with heart arrythmias, consuming marijuana could potentially put them at risk for heart complications.”

You’ll also want to make sure you’re paying extra attention to hydration, says Meryl Montgomery, co-founder of cannabis startup Barbari. “Because THC puts your glucose metabolism into double-time, it’s important to hydrate frequently and often with good old H2O.”

Figuring out what kind of dose is best for your exercising body is key, says cannabis expert Kendra Freeman, president of business development and product development at Mendi, a CBD company for athletes. Especially if you’re not quite sure how your body reacts to THC (the part of pot that gets you high), Freeman says you might want to add some CBD to the mix to try things out. CBD won’t make you all floaty the way THC will, so you might find yourself able to focus on your workout more.

If you’re interested in mixing up your workout routine with pot, it’s probably best to start small and know your limits (both in terms of exercise and how much pot you use). Listening to yourself is unlikely to steer you wrong, so if you’re feeling ready to start a new adventure, pay attention to your body’s signals.

Readers should note that laws governing cannabis, hemp and CBD are evolving, as is information about the efficacy and safety of those substances. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Always consult your physician prior to trying any substance or supplement.

Kennedy, M.C. (2017) Cannabis: exercise performance and sport: A systematic review. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28392338/.

Jessamyn Stanley, yoga teacher, body positivity advocate, writer

Kendra Freeman, president of business development and product development at Mendi

Dr. Gary Starr, MD, medical director of FOCUS

Meryl Montgomery, co-founder of cannabis startup Barbari

As you’re trying to figure out how to do the whole self-care thing, you might be looking to maximize your runner’s high with a different kind of high. Whether you’re a morning jogger, yoga enthusiast, or gym rat, experts say working out while you’re…

Four terrific ways marijuana can help you in the gym

Weekend warriors are finding that cannabis not only aids in the actual workout, it is an amazingly effective post-workout tonic

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    The Sixties counterculture mantra “Turn on, tune in, drop out” needs a fresh, 21 st century update. How about “Turn on, tune up, drop weight”? Forget the tired trope about lazy stoners, couch-locked in their living room eating Zesty Cheese Doritos while watching SpongeBob SquarePants reruns. The new trend is marrying marijuana with exercise.

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    “Marijuana relaxes me and allows me to go into a controlled, meditational place,” champion triathlete Clifford Drusinsky told Men’s Journal. “When I get high, I train smarter and focus on form.”

    Don’t believe him? He’s not alone. Marijuana has become the drug of choice among surfers, rock climbers, snowboarders, football stars, hoops heroes, mixed-martial arts fighters and perhaps the greatest Olympic athlete in history.

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    But you don’t have to be an elite athlete. Weekend warriors are finding that cannabis not only aids in the actual workout, it is an amazingly effective post-workout tonic. Instead of drinking a post-race beer, try a low-dose edible or beverage. Your body will thank you … and you’ll likely be smiling a bit more.

    As for weight loss? A 12-ounce bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has 175 calories. Let’s say you had two bottles of ale after an enjoyable 30-minute jog. Well, congratulations! You just added back all the calories you just burned off. Cannabis? Zero calories.

    Looking for a way to partake and participate in athletics with a group of cannabis enthusiasts? Check out the 420 Games, which promotes the healthy and responsible use of cannabis. (Don’t worry beer lovers; the 420 Games events include craft brews after the competition.)

    NOTE: If you are using cannabis BEFORE your workout, it is highly recommended that you use a sativa strain. Indica strains, typically, are more effective for post-exercise recovery and relaxation.

    Here are four reasons cannabis may be helpful to keep your body fit:


    Stay in the zone

    Have you ever experienced the runners’ high? What you’re feeling is your endorphins kicking in. Think of exercising with cannabis a different way of getting a similar feeling.

    “The endocannabinoid system works like endorphins,” according to Andrea Giuffrida, an endocannabinoid expert at the University of Texas Health Science Center. A study at the university demonstrated that after high-intensity running, people have elevated levels of naturally occurring endocannabinoids in their bloodstream. So, if endorphins help you push through an intense workout, these endocannabinoids could increase your pain threshold to do the same.

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    Studies in mice have shown that even small doses of THC increase motor activity — so a pre-run toke may result in a little boost in your pace. A French study discovered that when THC hits the brain, it produces more pregnenolone, the chemical that is a precursor to steroids produced by the body. This interaction may increase energy and reduce fatigue.

    “It may help some athletes get into a zone and put their bodies through very tough physical activity,” says Mark Ware, a professor at Canada’s McGill University. “Many long-distance runners admit to using vaporizers or edibles before participating in a marathon, because the cannabis enables them to remove the monotony and stay in a steady rhythmic zone for keeping at a competitive running speed.”


    Raise metabolism

    According to a study recorded in Men’s Journal: The compounds in marijuana may help raise metabolism, speed fat loss, and lower cholesterol.

    “American Journal of Medicine researchers have discovered that pot smokers actually have 16 percent higher levels of fasting insulin in their bodies than those who abstain from marijuana. In addition, the study indicated that cannabis users have 17 percent lower insulin resistance levels as well as significantly smaller average waist circumferences than their non-smoking counterparts,” the report states.

    Want more energy and increased weight loss? Then pay close attention to your controlled insulin levels.


    Reduce anxiety

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    “We have cannabinoid receptors throughout our brains, and when the THC hits those receptors, it triggers a system that reduces anxiety,” says Keith Humphries, a professor at Stanford School of Medicine and a former senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    Researchers at Vanderbilt University discovered that cannabinoid receptors, through which marijuana enters your body, assist in regulating anxiety and the flight-or-fight response.


    Muscle recovery

    Marijuana is an anti-inflammatory medicine. Pure and simple. The U.S. government owns Patent 6630507, which describes the antioxidant, neuroprotectant qualities of cannabis.

    Here is what ultramarathoner Jeff Sperber told Runner’s World: “When you’ve been running for that long, you’ve got swelling muscles and aching joints, and you’re tired. You can take an Advil, which will help the swelling and inflammation, but it’s also very taxing on your liver. I can’t do that stuff and function as a normal human being. As a weed smoker, I can function.”

    After a strenuous workout, you still will feel the burn. But cannabis will help ease the pain.

    So hit the trail. Go to your yoga studio. Play tennis. Do whatever gets your heart pumping. Stay hydrated. And enjoy your cannabis. It does a body good.

    Want to keep up to date on what’s happening in the world of cannabis? Subscribe to the Cannabis Post newsletter for weekly insights into the industry, what insiders will be talking about and content from across the Postmedia Network.

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    Put a little buzz in your squats