Before we get into research and methodology, let’s take a moment to discuss what we already know about cannabis. First and foremost, it’s loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds that are incredibly beneficial when you’re putting any type of stress on the body. We also know that cannabis is great for managing mild to moderate pain – another workout benefit, especially on the recovery front. And we are aware of the fact that it can help with sleep and appetite, both of which are crucial components to building muscle faster.
Taking all this into consideration, it seems that cannabis and exercise go together like salt and pepper, or a bong and lighter. Let’s talk more about the research, how it all works, and different ways to incorporate weed into your workout regimen.
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Cardiovascular training vs strength training
Or otherwise put, cardio vs weights, or aerobic vs anaerobic. Some people prefer either-or, but a good combination of both workout methods is the healthiest option. Both types of exercise are very different from one another, but equally important to your overall fitness goals.
The main objectives most people have when working out is to lose fat, build muscle, and increase endurance; and one of the quickest ways to do this is through regular strength training. The effects of this type of exercise are cut and dry: shed fat, replace it with muscle, and get stronger. Several types of exercises build your strength and endurance such as lifting weights or doing heavy reps on weight machines, push-ups and sit-ups, squats, resistance bands, stair climbers, yoga, planks, and many more.
However, to build up your stamina, which will help with anything physical you plan to do in life, you’ll want to make sure to include some cardio in your routine as well. You don’t want to overdo it, but two or three days of cardiovascular exercise is vital. Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes per week, but if you’re going for moderate-intensity, then 75-150 minutes would be better. Swimming, walking, running, cycling, jumping rope, and dancing are great examples of cardiovascular exercise.
Working out with weed
All that said, the type of workout you do will determine the best time and method for your cannabis consumption. For example, if you’re doing cardio, it might be best to hold off on any smoking or vaping until after your activities, for obvious reasons. But if you do like to get stoned and run, there are some other options for you. You could eat a gummy or take a drop or two a nice tincture to get in your zone before beginning.
If you’re doing strength training, on the other hand, weed can be a great way alleviate any aches and pains that may be hindering your stamina. I love getting stoned and hitting the weights, and a lot of times, I even take a couple tokes between reps. I personally feel that I can lift heavier when I work out stoned, and because I get lost in my head a bit and the act of exercising is more pleasurable, I may even end up doing more reps or an extra set or two.
When we look at the main reasons for why people don’t stick to their workout regimens and fail to meet their goals, it makes sense how cannabis can help. Over the years, studies have found that the few common elements that make people want to quit working out are: difficult recovery, low enjoyment of working out, and lack of motivation.
Research that looked specifically at the idea of working out with weed, found that 70 percent of nearly 500 respondents claimed that cannabis “increases enjoyment of exercise,” and a total of 78 percent said that it aids in their recovery. Just over 50 percent said it increases their motivation to work out. Additionally, those who used cannabis beforehand worked out for longer than those who didn’t use any. To be more precise, those who used cannabis exercised of for an average of 43 minutes longer when doing aerobic exercise and 30 minutes longer for anaerobic exercise.
The results were published in the Frontiers in Public Health journal. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to survey attitudes and behavior regarding the use of cannabis before and after exercise, and to examine differences between cannabis users who engage in co-use, compared to those who do not,” the study authors wrote. “Given both the spreading legalization of cannabis and the low rates of physical activity in the US, it behooves public health officials to understand the potential effects—both beneficial and harmful—of cannabis use on exercise behaviors.”
There’s plenty of research that can be found regarding the effects of cannabis on pain on oxidative stress, so that alone speaks volumes. But in addition to the aforementioned survey, another interesting study on the topic of working out with weed came out in 2003. The study was titled Exercise Activates the Endocannabinoid System, and the focus of the research was on exactly that.
The study looked at male college students, having the subjects run on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary bike for 50 minutes at roughly 70-80% of maximum heart rate. It was found that this level of exercise quickly engaged the endocannabinoid system, and as a result, the participants had higher levels of anandamide in their blood. Anandamide, also known as the “bliss molecule”, is one of the few endocannabinoids created by the human body and is responsible for maintaining balance and homeostasis.
Additionally, when it comes to addressing possible concerns (the main one being issues relating smoking a product before doing any type of exercise), a study has been conducted on that too. Despite the irrefutable fact that inhaling combusted plant matter of any sort, be it tobacco or cannabis, is not the healthiest thing you could do for your body, this systematic review from 2020, titled Chronic Cannabis Consumption and Physical Exercise Performance in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review, found that smoking weed before exercising had almost no negative impact on any aspect of athletic performance.
More specifically, the only measurable difference that researchers were able to find was in resting heart rate, and that was only noted in one study which stated that cannabis users have a higher resting heart rate than non-users. Aside from that, other areas that were analyzed included cardiorespiratory fitness, endurance, strength, stamina, and overall peak workout ability – and no quantifiable differences were observed.
Although cannabis has long held on to the reputation that consuming it makes people lazy, as it turns out, that simply is not accurate. As a matter of fact, research has determined that the opposite holds true. Being lazy, makes you lazy, whereas weed might actually motivate people to work out by making the experience less painful and more enjoyable.
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