The idea of a pre-workout routine is commonplace in the world of athletics. Maybe you pound a protein shake, visualize your run, or go through your favorite warm up. However, for many athletes, cannabis consumption is an essential component of their pre-workout routine and they consistently travel with a stash. In addition to the mental piece, cannabis also induces physical effects that can enhance athletic performance – or at least make it more pleasurable. You’re probably wondering, how can cannabis possibly be considered a ‘performance enhancing drug’? Cannabis provides many benefits that athletes are able to harness before, during, and after activity. This guide will help you understand how cannabis aids in athletic performance and how to leverage these benefits in your own athletic endeavors.
Start with Strain: Cannabis Sativa
Weed is weed, right? WRONG. Just like there is good weed and bad weed, there are two primary species of cannabis, they are known as cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. You can think of this like red wine and white wine. Whether you’re an experienced consumer or just learning, selecting the appropriate strain is one of the most important, yet often overlooked steps.
As a general rule of thumb, most athletes will benefit from incorporating a sativa strain into their pre-workout routine, as opposed to an indica strain, which is better suited for recovery. Sativa strains provide increased energy, focus, creativity, and euphoria. On the other hand, indica strains provide stress and anxiety relief, suppress nausea, and appetite stimulation, which are great choices for your post-workout cannabis therapy.There are also hybrid strains that take on characteristics of both the indica and sativa species. Because each of us has a unique brain and endocannabinoid system wiring, we all respond to cannabis is slightly different way. This means that selecting strains is easier said than done, but a quick conversation with your budtender or caregiver should help you find the appropriate sativa for your next workout.Popular sativa strains often end in ‘haze’ like Super Silver Haze, Super Lemon Haze, Purple Haze, Ghost Train Haze. Other popular sativas are Sour Diesel, Jack Herer, Durban Poison, Acapulco Gold, East Coast Sour Diesel, Strawberry Cough, and Green Crack.
Use a Vaporizer or Eat Edibles
Vaporizers, edibles, tinctures, and topicals are best suited for athletes. Despite its prevalence, smoking cannabis is not actually the preferred consumption method for most athletes. Smoking is simply not as effective at delivering isolated cannabinoids (the therapeutic compounds in cannabis). Remember, the THC in your edibles or vaporizer came from cannabis buds, so make sure the cookie or concentrate is labeled sativa.
Vaporizing: Vaporizing either flower or cannabis concentrates will deliver immediate benefits and the effects will last anywhere from 30-90 minutes. You’ll achieve the same effects if you dab as well. A solventless sativa-hybrid dab before skiing really helps us find the flow.
Edibles: Ingestion of cannabis results in a delayed onset time. Relief likely wont be felt for 30+ minutes; however, the effects will last for 2-4+ hours, which is ideal for endurance activities like running, backpacking, climbing, or swimming.
Tinctures: One of the more discreet options, but a bit more challenging to acquire in non-legal states (although you can make your own). Relief likely won’t be felt for 15+ minutes; however, the effects will last for 1-3+ hours.
Topicals: Perfect for treating muscle, joint, and surface-oriented pain. This type of treatment does not provide the typical THC ‘high’, it is simply localized pain relief similar to Bengay or IcyHot.
Start with a Small Dose
Managing dosage can be the most challenging part of the process. That said, you should try any new cannabis products at home in a comfortable setting to see how your body responds before incorporating them into your exercise routine. Research and anecdotal evidence shows that there is a fine line between enhancing performance and detracting from it. Dosage in this case refers to managing the amount of THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis (as other beneficial compounds like CBD are non-psychoactive). You will notice that the recommended dosages vary with each consumption method.
Vaporization: Take just a couple slow and steady inhalations; the effects will be felt within minutes. Wait a minimum of 15 minutes before deciding to repeat. You can always bring a portable vaporizer with you for additional dosing.
Edibles: For occasional consumers, we recommend 5-10mg of THC. In the state of Colorado, 10mg is considered a single serving size.
Tinctures: 2-4 drops of the cannabinoid-rich liquid under the tongue is often a sufficient starting dose. The effects will be felt within roughly 15 minutes.
Topicals: Start with a few sprays and apply more as desired. Because they are non-psychoactive, you run little risk of overdoing it.
Going to the gym is probably not going to deliver the experience you’re hoping for. The energetic nature of cannabis sativa can sometimes create anxiety, so you don’t want to be on the treadmill or bench press and wondering if everyone knows you’re high. Hit the park, the trail, the beach, the mountain…anywhere with some fresh air and space to connect body and mind.
Choose the Right Activity
For your first high activity, it’s important that you pick an activity that you are competent in and passionate about. Consuming cannabis before trying any new sport probably won’t go too well, unless you’re Travis Pastrana. It is also important to set challenging but achievable goals in conjunction with the activity. Practically, this means picking the right ski run or a realistic run time.
Cannabis is a mood enhancer that increases your pain threshold, which means you won’t hate that grueling hill or that final lap quite as much. As some athletes say, the THC helps you embrace the suffering.
Find Your Zone
Everyone reacts differently to each type of cannabis, which means some activities and strains are going to pair better than others. For example, someone doing one hour of yoga will want a totally different strain, dosage, and consumption method than a backpacker. To learn more about how choose, check out a few of our favorite cannabis exercise ideas.
Use CBD for Recovery
Cannabis is an extremely potent plant from a medical perspective. There are specific strains that are rich in a compound called CBD. Instead of getting you ‘stoned’, CBD works in myriad ways to heal your body.
What are the Benefits?
Increased Pain Tolerance: Cannabis is an analgesic, helping to alleviate pain both during and after exercise. Some athletes are actually able to increase their pain threshold by using cannabis prior to exercising. Andrea Giuffrida, an associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center, explains “the endocannabinoid system works like endorphins” – aerobic exercise actually activates the endocannabinoid system in the same way that the cannabis plant does. Thus, endocannabinoids (produced naturally in the body without aid from cannabis), which regulate pain, mood, and memory, can actually help you push through an intense workout similar to the effect of endorphins.
State of Flow: Cannabis helps athletes induce a mindset that is ideal for entering the state of flow. Consuming certain cannabinoids leads to increased focus and energy levels. For a more on how cannabis helps athletes get in the zone, check out our guide.
Creativity: Cannabis stimulates creativity by allowing the brain to connect seemingly unrelated concepts. This allows athletes like skiers, surfers, and mountain bikers to pick more creative lines and make connections they otherwise may not have made. Many athletes self-report an increased sense of fluidness or float when using cannabis with sport.
Improving Mood: Cannabis is a mood enhancer, helping athletes enjoy and focus on repetitive athletic tasks.
Anti-Inflammatory: The potent anti-inflammatory effects of THC and CBD can be used to help athletes loosen up prior to exercising. Cannabis helps alleviate stiff, sore muscles and joints.
Consume cannabis sativa via vaporizer, dabbing or edibles
Trying the delivery method and dose at home beforehand to find your preference
Get outside, do an activity you’re competent in, and enjoy