In athletic competition, as well as when working out, athletes of all skill levels are always looking for an edge—whether it’s the best replacement for lost fluids from sweating, gels for an energy boost or a post-workout recovery mixture.
A rising trend that’s quite interesting is athletes incorporating cannabis into their pre- and post-workout routines. Those who use it claim that it helps them get into the “zone” so that they’re able to concentrate on repetitive activities and muscle movements.
Some athletes also feel they’re less sore and recover more quickly, perhaps due to the anti-inflammatory properties of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) & cannabidiol (CBD).
A variety of factors come into play when considering cannabis and exercise, such as:
Thus, coming up with controlled studies to test the effectiveness of cannabis in boosting athletic performance is somewhat challenging. Athletic performance without the addition of performance-enhancing substances already varies on a day-to-day basis. How do you test the benefits of cannabis in lieu of these other confounding factors?
Because of these difficulties (and other issues, like cannabis’s contraband status in most parts of the world), few studies have attempted to look into this topic. A 2013 review article in Sports Medicine acknowledges that cannabis has the potential to enhance performance, based on anecdotal reports.
And according to a study that surveyed French student-athletes, cannabis is interestingly more frequent in athletes who practiced a “sliding sport” such as bobsled or luge, than in other sports. Researchers theorize this could be due to the danger of those sports, and that thrill-seeking may be involved. These findings align with anecdotal evidence from athletes who say cannabis helps reduce anxieties and inhibitions they often have during competition.
The study on French athletes doesn’t really address if cannabis affects performance—and so far, no research has attempted to take on this subject. It simply showed that chronic recreational users of cannabis tend to also use cannabis for sporting activities.
Given the growing popularity of cannabis use for sports performance, it’d be beneficial for organizations—both federal and athletic-oriented—to fund research that further delves into the pros and cons of this topic.
Photo credit: Josh Nuttall