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Delta-8 THC and Athletics – Why the Two Go Together

Delta-8 THC athletics
Written by Sarah Friedman

For many people, the idea of smoking cannabis and exercising, are not things that go together. However, as cannabis becomes more popular for its medical benefits, how it can be useful for physical activities is becoming more clear. While it might not be beneficial to consume any kind of cannabis prior to exerting oneself physically, something like delta-8 THC and athletics might just be a great combination.

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Delta-8 THC

Before getting into why delta-8 THC might be good for athletics, let’s take a look at exactly what this compound is we’re talking about. It’s not delta-9 THC, but it’s also not far off. Delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring derivative of delta-9. When delta-9 THC oxidizes upon contact with oxygen, it loses electrons, and the compound changes. The change can be seen specifically in where the double carbon bond occurs. In delta-9 THC, it occurs on the 9th carbon atom in the chain, for delta-8 THC, it happens on the 8th.

It seems this one minor difference, actually causes quite an impact. Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC have many of the same medical benefits, including help with nausea and vomiting, particularly related to cancer and AIDS treatment cases, as well as appetite stimulation. They both have antimicrobial properties, benefit disorders like epilepsy, and have shown strength in dealing with neurodegenerative diseases.

However, they have important differences as well. Delta-8 THC is known to produce less psychoactive effect, and to cause less anxiety, panic, and paranoia behaviors. Users have reported a more energetic high than associated with most forms of delta-9, and a more clearheaded high, which might help indicate why delta-8 THC is possibly beneficial for athletics.

delta-8 THC and sports

Is delta-8 legal?

The question of delta-8 legality is its own mess, with no clean-up just yet. The whole reason delta-8 became widely known, is because of the 2018 US Farm Bill which legalized hemp, and products derived from hemp for different purposes. Now, since delta-8 THC can be sourced from any delta-9 THC, it doesn’t matter if it comes from high-THC marijuana plants, or low-THC hemp plants. So, if it’s sourced from low-THC hemp plants, it falls into a legal loophole. THC might be schedule I, but products derived from hemp, are not.

To attempt to clear it up, the DEA issued an Interim Final Rule, which was meant to shed further light on the topic. It didn’t really do that at all, making it even more complicated. The Interim Final Rule states that THC and all synthetic derivatives are still federally illegal, regardless of sourcing. However, delta-8 THC does not require being made in a lab, as it is naturally occurring, and this would leave it as an exception to this rule. On the other hand, since it occurs at such a low rate, it is often produced in a lab in order to speed up the process and attain a greater amount of the compound. Some might see this process as producing a synthetic. And so, delta-8 THC remains in gray area, with no further explanation or definition that would help explain legality.

And though it hasn’t yet spread that much outside of the US, delta-8 THC businesses are flourishing within the US, with little – if anything – being done to stop them. In fact, the best the government could recently do, was institute a vape ban, in the form of a tobacco vaping ban which affects all tobacco and cannabis vape products, as cannabis falls under the category of tobacco products according to the Tobacco Control Act of 2009. The ban – Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, isn’t a ban at all, as nothing was outlawed including buying, selling, or producing the products.

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It’s actually just a set of more intense-than-necessary regulations that make the shipping of such products so legally complicated, that the cost of shipping them goes up exponentially. The US government is using this premise to keep USPS from making vape shipments, and UPS, FedEx, and DHL opted in, as a way to not have to deal with the complicated legal and taxation issues. None of this pushes any kind of illegalization measure for products like delta-8 THC, however, it merely works as a barrier from obtaining certain products. Luckily, with cannabis, there are other ways to gain its benefits without vaping…or smoking.

Delta-8 THC and athletics

One of the things about delta-8, which separates it from delta-9, is the clarity of mind. Regular marijuana is not usually known to help a person focus harder, although there is a large range when looking at indicas and sativas. So, consider that even compared to a sativa, which is less likely to make a person tired and spacey, delta-8 THC is reported to produce more clarity of mind and focus overall, as well as helping some athletes enjoy intense exercise more.

It’s not a subject that has been specifically medically investigated, so there aren’t a bunch of reviews to substantiate anything. However, there are ways to hear personal experiences. I don’t consider Reddit – for example – to be the beacon of truth in life, but it is a good source when looking for answers to questions or basic opinions or experiences. And this does exist for delta-8 THC and working out, or athletics in general. Here you can see people directly answering the question of how it is to work out with delta-8. If you’ll notice, the grand majority point to a good experience, can say how it helped them, and yet didn’t sound to be made more-than-human in the process.

cannabis and athletics

Cannabis and athletics

One important thing to know about delta-8 THC and cannabis in general when it comes to athletics, is that as of 2004, cannabis was added to the list of prohibited substances for sports competitions by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA – established 1999), the group set up to police what substances can and cannot be used in official sporting competitions. The World Anti-Doping Code lists three criteria in order for a drug to be banned from competitive sports.

  1. If it can enhance performance
  2. If it poses a risk to the athlete’s health
  3. If it violates the spirit of sport

I haven’t found much to give meaning to that last measure. To me it sounds like one of those blanket statements that can be molded to fit any cause…in this case, banning cannabis from sporting competitions. If you’re wondering what the ‘spirit of sport’ means, I was too. According to WADA:

“The spirit of sport is the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind, and is reflected in values we find in and through sport, including Ethics, fairplay and honesty; health; excellence in performance; character and education; fun and joy; teamwork; dedication and commitment; respect for rules and laws; respect for self and other Participants; courage; community and solidarity.”

Breaking it down

The only thing I can pull out of this that might apply to cannabis, is the ‘respect for rules and laws’ part, since if its used where illegal, this would constitute breaking a law…I guess. But in that same vein, any athlete with an unpaid parking ticket is just as guilty. Yet somehow, unpaid parking tickets have never been the reason for exemption from major sporting competitions, so perhaps the logic isn’t so great on this one.

When it comes to the 2nd provision, there are some things to consider, and the main one is that when this was put together, vaping wasn’t a thing, and neither was cannabis oil, or patches, or any other method of ingestion. At least, not outside of a laboratory. So the only ways to consume it, were to smoke it, or to use it as an edible, with the former being the much more popular and widely used method.


In fact, world-wide, it still is. In that sense, regardless of whether it actually enhances performance like a steroid, it does pose a risk to health through actively smoking it. That would go for any substance – tobacco, cannabis, and other herbal remedies, as well as wood, paint, or plastic. Anything that gets lit on fire and inhaled. For this reason, I can understand why it would be on this list, since at the time, it would have been advocating for smoking, which is never a good idea, and certainly not for athletes.

However, with the inclusion of vaping, using oils, availability of patches, and more edible options, the idea of why it might have caused a risk to health, essentially disappears. Let’s remember, that since the inception of vaping until early 2020, the total number of associated deaths was 68, while 480,000 people die a year from smoking. Considering all the medical benefits now being associated with cannabis (which have technically been known about for thousands of years), and that the death rate can be cut so substantially by simply not burning it anymore, it makes it hard to see how #2 on the list has any value at this point.

If we back up to that first reason, let’s remember that smoking itself is a hindrance to performance if something burning is inhaled. But even considering that cannabis can be taken without lighting it on fire, it has turned up in investigation to not be a performance enhancer according to this study from 2018. I suppose it could be argued that simply allowing a person to think more clearly might make delta-8 THC a problem for athletics, but then any supplement would have to be banned, as well as eating a healthy diet.


No one is going around saying everyone should use cannabis before exercising, but there is definitely something to be said for the use of cannabis – and specifically delta-8 THC and athletics. While smoking it might detract from health, the multitude of other ways it can be consumed make the ability to use it while working out, seem generally healthy, or at least, not unhealthy. Every interested individual will have to see how it works specifically for them.

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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a medical professional, I have no formal legal education, and I’ve never been to business school. All information in my articles is sourced from other places, which are always referenced, and all opinions stated are mine, and are made clear to be mine. I am not giving anyone advise of any kind, in any capacity. I am more than happy to discuss topics, but should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a professional in the relevant field for more information.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.