A lot of athletes take weed. Far more than you know. But when you read that an athlete was suspended for failing a drug test on the news, it is easy to assume that all drugs are bad. To clear the air, two major drugs used by athletes are opioids and cannabis.
While there are tons of studies that loudly proclaim the negative effects of these drugs, there are just as many that talk about the benefits of cannabis. Pot not only has recreational benefits, but it also has medicinal benefits.
As a matter of fact, the marijuana industry has grown so much that companies that are involved in marijuana and its derivatives are popping up all around. These companies even have public stocks with tradable shares.
The ban on cannabis for recreational and medicinal use has been lifted in about 8 states in the United States, while some have lifted the ban on medicinal uses of the drug alone.
In Canada, you can take your weed without fear of getting caught because it is completely legal. But the use of cannabis by athletes has been under a heavy cloud of debate for a long time.
Many ex-pro athletes are calling for the rescinding of the ban on the use of weed during competitions. Why? Because most of them used this substance during their professional years and reaped its benefits.
This then begs the question: can cannabis really help you win in sports? To answer this question, I will cut the b.s. and go straight to the point.
Can Cannabis Help You Win in Sports
Cannabis has both detrimental and beneficial effects on athletes. When athletes use cannabis, most of them use it for two main purposes: performance aids and recovery aids.
It is important to mention that not all cannabis or its products are the same. Some kinds are better for performance enhancement alone, while some are better as recovery aids.
The substance in weed that makes it effective as a recovery aid is Indica. The more the indica content, the stronger the recovery aiding effect of the weed. Indica has something called myrcene in it, which is a terpene.
It is this myrcene that has high sedative and pain relief effects. While the Indica-dominant strain of weed is great for pain relief, it is not as good as a performance enhancer.
The other strain of weed that makes it more suitable for performance enhancement is the Sativa-dominant strain. This strain can help you attain top levels of focus and energy.
Using this strain of cannabis is perfect for workout sessions. Athletes also use high CBD cannabis in lower doses for stimulation and clear-headedness.
What are the Benefits of Cannabis Ingestion in Athletes
1. Cannabis Helps to Reduce Inflammation
Muscle and joint inflammation are common among athletes after intensive workout sessions. And studies have discovered that high CBD cannabis could help to ease the inflammation.
In addition to that, researchers are looking to see if there is a way they could use the substance to treat autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease. There is no conclusive result on this yet, though.
An expert yoga instructor who is also the founder of Ganja Guru Yoga, Adam Brous, not only uses cannabis during sessions but also recommends it to his clients. He went ahead to recommend topicals and tinctures to athletes who want to take marijuana as an anti-inflammatory substance without getting high or smoking it.
Another testifier of the anti-inflammatory benefits of high CBD cannabis is Jamie Feaster. He was a pro pole vaulter before becoming the current vice president of marketing at Eaze, a marijuana delivery startup.
He said, “As an active athlete, it was a devastating injury and I was open to exploring alternative medicine solutions to help me heal. The CBD lotion really helped me understand the wellness benefits cannabis can provide. CBD is my favorite form, given that it typically delivers the best results when it comes to anti-inflammatory and healing properties.”
2. Helps Ease Pain and Soreness
Cannabis has consistently proven to be a capable pain reliever. Almost any kind of muscular pain can be cured by taking little doses of cannabis. To make things even better, Opioids, the alternative substance that some athletes use for this purpose, have a highly addictive effect.
That is why cannabis is preferred of the two. A beneficiary of the pain-relieving effects of marijuana is Christopher Louie, who is the founder of Made-in-Xiaolin, a cannabis startup.
Christopher said, “My passion for cannabis began when it replaced the opiates I was being prescribed for a gunshot wound I sustained in 2003.
Since treating with cannabis I’ve learned that not only does it help with the physical pain, it helps me mentally—it has greatly increased my quality of life.”
3. Ease Muscle Spasms
Researches have also concluded that cannabis excels as a treatment for muscle spasms. NYU Langone Hospital chief of neurosurgery, Erich Anderer, explained that “There have been studies in rodents showing some beneficial effect in muscle recovery and reduction of muscle spasm, presumably due to the anti-inflammatory properties the compound possesses.”
However, he went ahead to mention that this research is only in the early stages. It has not been extensively conducted on humans. He continued on to say, “I don’t know any rats that do CrossFit, so more research needs to be done before we can recommend it for this use with any confidence. The problem is that right now there is no scientific evidence it works in humans.”
4. Cannabis Improves Sleep
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known to be a good sedative. According to some studies, it also helps to suppress dreams and minimize sleep apnea.
This benefit makes it a capable recommendation for those suffering PTSD. Similarly, CBD has been found to ease a sleep disorder where people act out their dreams.
This disorder is called REM sleep disorder. Rest, in the form of sleep, is highly beneficial to athletes, so you can see how cannabis becomes a hero in this situation.
Taking marijuana as a sedative, however, has some negative effects that are hard to ignore. A study showed that teenagers who had THC before they slept woke up feeling sleepier. And when they woke, they had impaired short-term memories.
5. Cannabis is Safer Than Opioids
Opioids are also taken among athletes for pain-relieving purposes. But the benefits of pot far outweighs the benefits of opioids. Opioids can do the trick and offer short term pain relief, but it is nothing more than a trick.
The long-term effects of the substance are horrible. Not only are they extremely addictive, but they could also ultimately lead to death.
Marijuana, unlike opioids, is not as addictive. But to add to its lesser addiction risks, it has other remarkable uses, including analgesic and anti-inflammatory uses.
Five Sports that Go Well With Cannabis
Cannabis has a lot of users among the fans and players of the following sports:
Basketballers are prone to fatigue, muscle soreness, and pain. These are known areas of expertise of Cannabis. For this reason, many current and ex-pro basketball players are advocating for the use of cannabis without attracting punishments from the NBA.
David Stern, a former NBA commissioner, has also endorsed the use of the substance.
Cannabis received more support from the Executive Director of National Basketball Players Association (NPBA) when he said, “My own view is that there are substantial signs that support its efficacy and the value that it has for us, especially pain management. We’re in talks with the league to see where we can go with it.”
Football and other sports that involve high impact contact are playgrounds for pain, muscle inflammation, muscle spasm, and more. Cannabis, when used in reasonable doses, can help ease these.
Chris Kluwe, a popular ex-footballer said, in an interview with Leafy, that “Like a lot of other guys, I used cannabis during my playing career because it helps take quite a bit of the pain away. I’ve seen what happened with a lot of the older guys — in terms of the guys who played during the ’70s and ’80s.”
“They were hooked on pain pills, and we all saw how they turned out… In the locker room when guys used to talk about it, it wasn’t about, ‘I’m going to go get blazed and tear up the town.’ It was like, ‘Yeah I smoked a bit and passed out on the couch because I felt like crap after practice.’”
Many runners often need performance enhancers, and they turn to cannabis for this. And after their races, they can also return to cannabis to help them recover faster.
This may not be their everyday routine, but many who have tight training schedules often turn to cannabis for relief and enhancement.
Bodybuilding involves constant muscle tearing, leading to inflammation. That is why many bodybuilders often turn to cannabis to help them focus during their workout session, sleep well, and reduce soreness.
Even the former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is also a bodybuilder, is not left out of the cannabis rave.
Yoga helps you to relax, focus, and meditate. Marijuana helps you to relax and focus. What better combination is there in sports if not this?
Negative Effects of Marijuana
While there are many positive uses of cannabis, its negative effects are too glaring to ignore. Cannabis increases heart rate, impairs short term memory, and slows you down by denting your reaction time.
Other disadvantages include low motivation and weakened immune systems. Some other users of the substance reported other disadvantages, such as sleepiness the day after using it, paranoia and anxiety.
Cannabis used to be more popular among musicians, but it is now being tightly embraced by many athletes. A lot of research is still ongoing on the performance-enhancing effects of pot but it is well beyond doubt that the substance is a capable recovery aid.