This article is meant to highlight the research on Marijuana smoking and exercise. Whether or not you use it is entirely up to you. I recommend sharing it with any friends that you know that may be involved in smoking the ‘herb’. Let’s dive in.
So Marijuana was legalized in Canada not so long ago (it became legal in October 2018). There are many people smoking it now than ever before. But is it really a good idea, especially if you are trying to optimize your health and fitness? In some cases, especially fat loss, consuming marijuana might not be the greatest thing to do. However, at times, consuming derivatives of marijuana, typically without the THC, can be beneficial, such as CBD. Let’s dive deeper than ever before and answer all the questions you might have on this touchy subject.
First we will discuss the issues and negatives with marijuana smoking. Keep in mind the complications are not limited to smoking marijuana but also the compound within known as THC. Many health organizations have touched upon the issues surrounding marijuana in some capacity when warning individual of cannabis consumption. We will also discuss the alternatives such as CBD oils. Here is a quick list of some long and short term changes:
- Respiratory complications not limited to carbon monoxide consumption
- Cardiovascular events including stroke, myocardial infarctions etc.
- May lead to anemia with heavy consumption (the research here is variable but if you consider the harmful levels of carbon monoxide, it may add up)
- Impaired brain development especially in adolescence
- Altered emotional stability
- Periodontal disease (as seen with any type of smoking)
- Kidney disease with long term smoking
- Work commitment issues
- Fertility complications
- Decreased insulin sensitivity and increase in adipose tissue
As you can see the list can be quite long. If you’re really interested in seeing how marijuana can affect an individual, I suggest checking out the following research study as there is a table that breaks things down easily: RESEARCH ON ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS
Now let’s delve into the real reason why you’re here. So, does marijuana affect your gains? To be more specific, does it affect your workouts and potential progress made outside of exercising?
-Exercise intensity can be reduced. In one study, it was witnessed that blood pressure went down and a higher level of stress hormones were produced. Ultimately, exercise performance went down. This was demonstrated in acute smoking of marijuana. Read more here. The article goes into the details as to how the nervous system is affected.
One study which compared the effects of nicotine, caffeine, ethanol and THC found that although research is quite limited, exercise performance does indeed go down. Although, one case where an asthmatic patient was exposed to THC had no changes in exercise performance as the THC led to bronchodilation (helped them breathe better). It was suggested that this may have been an indirect effect due to the way THC acts on the nervous systems receptors. The study also found that motor control was significantly reduced; so it might be a good idea to stay away from doing back flips or anything that requires a high degree of awareness when exercising especially in sport. Read more here
-Individuals who have a history of cardiovascular disease are advised to stay away as angina can return during exercise and coronary artery disease can be exacerbated
–Increase food intake. This can be a problem depending on your goals. But if you’re trying to get shredded or lower that BMI, there’s a risk of eating more which will definitely set you back
-There is also the case of impaired insulin sensitivity. So if you thought you could use marijuana to enhance your appetite so you could ‘gain weight’ it might not be the best thing to do as you might end up putting on more adipose tissue or just make your fat cells happy. So if you’re diabetic, it is a terrible idea. Hardgainer? Also a bad idea as you will be sabotaging your ability to exercise and paying the price for it while trying to gain muscle mass.
-Higher cortisol levels. Although the following study did not discuss the impact during exercise, cannabis has been shown to increase cortisol levels (a stress hormone). There seem to be a few disadvantages when considering how this can affect exercise such as increased energy usage or as mentioned above, accelerated heart rate. The study also stated that due to the increased stress response, the prefrontal cortex was stimulated leading to higher levels of alertness but boredom was associated with this. This probably falls into a ‘before’ category for exercising but essentially there is the possibility that consuming cannabis before exercising might just stop you from exercising. The real question is, out of those who smoke marijuana before going to the gym, how many of them actually make it there?
-A recent study found that consuming marijuana before a workout led to increased enjoyment from the activity. This could lead to a positive priming effect and an individual may associate exercise as a reward from marijuana consumption. The real question is does this really happen outside of a lab setting?
So what is CBD or Cannabidiol? It is essentially a derivative of the cannabis sativa plant. There a multiple therapeutic effects. There have been cases where CBD has been used to treat certain types of cancers, pain, epilepsy, anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis and a few other things. It also does NOT bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the body and can make for a great antioxidant. THC is also an antioxidant but comes with the psychoactive effects which are not typically preferred by most.
To provide a quick summary of how CBD affects an individual in a positive way include: antioxidant properties, reduced blood pressure, and increased mood. The funny thing is that exercise on its own can provide all those. I’ll let you think about that one.
If you are someone who has a likening to marijuana, I would recommend switching to CBD, it will save you from most of the negative effects from consuming marijuana. If you are someone who is on CBD and wants to continue to exercise, it does not at the moment seem to pose much risk, however long term studies are still needed. Depending on your needs and the assessment of a qualified health practitioner, you might benefit from some form of the cannabinoid plant or not at all. Most of my clients do not smoke marijuana as they are serious about optimizing their body composition, reducing their chance of injury and improving their performance.
To be updated. References are built into hyperlinks for you reference. For a full list, please contact the author.