While using cannabis as a pre-workout supplement may sound crazy, it is not uncommon for elite athletes to use cannabis as a recovery tool as well. After an intense workout or training session, you may be tired, sore, or even nauseous. Many people in this situation may toss back two or three Ibuprofen, crack a beer to take the edge off and call it good.

However, what you may not realize is that NSAID drugs like Ibuprofen and Aleve are extremely dangerous, especially when used with regularity. If deaths from the toxic effects of NSAID drugs were tabulated separately, these drug toxicities would constitute the 15th most common cause of death in the United States.

Therefore, we suggest athletes stick to a more powerful, less toxic, and naturally occurring substance like cannabis. In this guide, we will help you understand the benefits of cannabis as a recovery tool and how to garner these benefits in your own post-workout regimen.

Now you might be thinking “I just had a great workout, my head is clear, the last thing I want to do is get ‘high’.” You don’t have to – you can reap the therapeutic benefits of cannabis with no psychoactivity. How is this possible? Simply put, cannabis is comprised of several different beneficial compounds known as cannabinoids; some are psychoactive and others are not.

What is CBD?

Of the 85 known cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are usually present in the highest concentrations and are therefore the most widely studied. Your typical ‘street weed’ was grown for maximum THC, the specific compound that gets you ‘high’. In fact, several studies suggest that CBD actually counters the high caused by THC.

On the other hand, strains grown for maximum CBD typically have lower concentrations of THC and are bred for medical and therapeutic applications. To increase the efficacy of CBD, it’s often extracted from the plant and used as a concentrate. This makes CBD ideal for treating parents, athletes, children, the elderly, and those who want to remain clear headed.

Speak with your caregiver or budtender and ask for a ‘high-cbd’ flower, like Lifter strain and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. from Canna Comforts (shown in image below). You can also get CBD in many other forms.

Post-Workout: Indica or High-CBD

When using cannabis for physical and mental recovery, you will likely be looking for pain relieving, relaxing, anti-inflammatory strains. These properties are found primarily in indica strains and those strains containing high levels of cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis strains of the indica variety provide athletes a deeply relaxing body high that helps both the mind and the muscles relax.

If you’re looking to avoid feeling ‘high’ or getting stuck on the couch, you should try a non-psychoactive CBD-rich strain. CBD has a wider scope of therapeutic benefits than any other cannabinoid and is effective even in small doses. Thus, it is my recommendation that you choose an indica dominant strain and/or a CBD-rich strain to take advantage of these beneficial post-workout effects.

How to Consume CBD-rich cannabis

CBD-rich strains can be found in flower, concentrate, and edible form. However, the best consumption method for you will depend on how quickly you seek relief. For instant relief, we recommend smoking or vaporizing high-CBD flower and/or concentrates.

If you seek instant relief without the respiratory irritation, we recommend loading a high-CBD concentrate in a Pebble for storage in the Safety Case vaporizer kit. Simply pack the protective case in your gym bag or backpack and you will be ready to vape as soon as you finish your last mile.

For sustained relief throughout the day or evening, we suggest consuming a high-CBD edible. Start with a 10 mg dose of CBD to see how your body responds and then continue to increase dosage as needed. Keep in mind that it may take up to 90 minutes before the effects of the edible begin to kick in. This is why so many athletes pair the edible with one of the fast acting consumption methods above.

What are the benefits?

Pain: Cannabis is an analgesic, helping to alleviate pain both during and after exercise. Many athletes, like Olympian Ross Rebagliati, use cannabis following their workouts to continue managing pain from achy muscles.

Inflammation: Both CBD and THC are extremely effective in managing inflammation post exercise. Cannabinoids are potent anti-inflammatory agents and they exert their effects through induction of apoptosis, inhibition of cell proliferation, suppression of cytokine production and induction of T-regulatory cells (Tregs).

Sleep and Relaxation: Cannabinoids are known to have both relaxing and sedative effects on users. In fact, cannabis with concentrations of CBN approaching 1% by weight can be useful in treating insomnia. Getting the required sleep each night is perhaps the most important aspect of being a healthy athlete – muscles grow and recover best during deep sleep.

Decreasing Nausea: Cannabis has anti-emetic effects, helping athletes reduce nausea during and after exercise. In fact, many studies have shown that for treating nausea and vomiting, cannabinoids are more effective than older medications such as phenothiazines (e.g., Stemetil®) or antihistaminics (e.g., Dramamine®).

Reduction of Muscle Spasms: Cannabinoids are known to have antispasmodic properties. Some causes of muscle spasms in athletes include straining of a muscle, dehydration, trauma, and damage to nerves or to the spinal cord.

Increasing Appetite: Cannabis is a safe way to stimulate appetite. Powerlifters, MMA fighters, and other athletes with demanding eating regimens often find that cannabis encourages them to take in more calories than they might have otherwise. Cannabis increases the levels of two key hunger-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin, without significantly altering insulin levels.

Protection of Heart, Lung, and Brain: In several studies, CBD has been shown to decrease inflammation while offering protection for the heart, lungs, and brain during and after injury. In fact, the short-term neuroprotective effects of CBD in the brain continue to be researched for purposes of treating sports concussions.

A Quick Note About CBD & Drug Testing

If drug testing is a part of the conditions of your employment, competitive status, or sponsorship, you might be concerned about the potential of CBD to cause you to test positive for THC. This isn’t an unfounded concern — however, there isn’t exactly a cut-and-dry way to answer it.

Much of the data we have about CBD is anecdotal, and its potential impact on drug testing is no exception.  There are very few peer-reviewed studies on the subject, but there appears to be a small risk of a false positive for some users. Avoiding full-spectrum products containing traces of THC can reduce your risk of a false positive, but that may not eliminate the risk entirely.

If you are concerned about passing a drug test, you should consider this potential risk when deciding whether CBD is right for you. To learn more about the science of CBD and drug testing, check out our article for a more thorough discussion of how to minimize your risk of a false positive.