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How Can Cannabis Influence Athletic Performance

By Guest Author – Mathews McGarry
As time goes by, natural remedies once considered harmful are being legalized in a growing number of states.
Still, state laws do not always coincide with sport laws and this gap is more than capable of influencing professional athletes’ careers.
The famous mixed martial arts fighter Nick Diaz was recently fined with $165,000 and a five-year suspension for using medicinal cannabis.
But, how justified was this fine, and what does that mean for all other professional and unprofessional athletes using this substance? Let us take a closer look.

Cannabis and Athletes’ Personal Experiences

Today, marijuana (cannabis sativa) is banned by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), and USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency), but ironically, a strong direct relation between this substance and performance-boosting properties is yet to be determined.
The strongest evidence to these claims can be found in athletes’ individual experiences.

Namely, a number of athletes have said that consuming marijuana helps them become more focused before training, ease anxiety and increase pain threshold, but such claims can be either contributed to placebo, or THC’s psychoactive effects.

How Can Cannabis Influence Athletic Performance

Effects on Power Output and Muscle Growth

The actual effects of cannabis on real-life power output and muscle growth are very vague. According to a 1975 research, subjects of the test experienced a drop of 25% in power output after they smoked marijuana. Another research (1977) found decreased motor control among a group of six participants. Finally, a 1976 study showed that marijuana inhibits the secretion of growth hormone, and thus inhibits muscle building. It should be pointed out, however, that participants in the first test all had asthma, so consuming marijuana could have triggered their already present asthma-related problems, the participants in the second test have not experienced significant drops in reaction time, while the last study used very high doses of THC (210 mg).

THC, CBD, and mTOR

Although inconclusive and dated, all of these studies pointed out some negative effects of cannabis, more precisely THC, on athlete’s performance, but THC is not the only substance which can be found in cannabis, and if you take some time to learn about strains you will see that they can be used as a workout supplement. For instance, one of the other substances found in cannabis is the non-psychoactive CBD (cannabidiol), which causes a number of health-promoting effects, regulates mTOR, and thus counteracts the negative effects of THC. This way, as long as you balance the THC effects with enough CBD you should enjoy its benefits.

Cannabis – Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Cannabis and Athletes’ Personal Experiences

One of the better-researched and more certain influences of cannabis on athletic performance is related to its anti-inflammatory effects. Namely, cannabinoids, marijuana’s active substances, are very safe, and widely used treatments for nausea, pain, and other ailments. It should not be too much of a surprise that both hardcore and recreational athletes undergoing exhausting multi-hour training regimens find cannabis a very efficient means for dealing with workout-caused pains, and pushing themselves further during the training. One of cannabis’s strengths, in this case, is the variety of intake methods, many of which do not cause damage to the lungs.

Influence on Weight Loss and Post-Intake Release

In a recent study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers have come to the conclusion that obesity prevalence is lower amongst cannabis users than non-users, while some other researches point out that burning fat by exercising helps the body release and enjoy the benefits of small amounts of stored THC up to 28 days after consumption. This makes cannabis both the cause of weight loss and consequence of workout and fat burning process, which can help the body reach higher athletic levels as a result of consumption.

As we can see, cannabis’s effects on athletic performance, although not critical, are not to be underestimated. While professional athletes will have to stay away from it until sport institutions do not find an agreement with health institutions, amateurs and casual athletes will be able to freely enjoy all of cannabis’s benefits.

 Mathews McGarryAuthor:

Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and  sharing tips for better life. Follow him on Twitter.



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