Sport Performance Cannabis
5 min

Effects Of Weed On Sports Performance

5 min

There are several benefits but also drawbacks to the different ways of consuming marijuana that can be used while working out to achieve better results.

When thinking of the stereotypical stoner, the athletic type is not exactly the first to come to mind. Most people think of pot smokers as couch locked people with a chronic case of the munchies who sit and binge watch series and movies all day. This is not as set in stone as you might think; nowadays stoners come from all different backgrounds of society and have all kinds of hobbies and interests. Sports being among them, contradictory as that may sound. Perhaps some sports have a closer relation to cannabis use than others, just look at skateboarding and snowboarding culture or surfing and you can see how the culture of the sport fits in with cannabis use, either during or after a training session.

There is a lot of research being done lately on the benefits of cannabis, on the medicinal side but also on the athletic side. The studies regarding cannabis use in combination with working out have been rather ambiguous though. Most of the experiments were done using lab animals and to whatever extent those results translate into human anatomy is left uncertain. The effects can be performance enhancing or they could be hindering, depending on the amount of cannabis consumed and the kind of workout you are aiming to complete.

Consuming cannabis after a workout helps with muscle recovery and acts as a painkiller, besides the relaxing and stress relieving properties it has cannabis is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that enable you to work out longer on end. When under the influence of marijuana, however, there is an increase in impulsive responses that lead to riskier behaviour even though is does not affect decision-making. This can make an athlete more aggressive in competition and that can be a major advantage. So there is a physical and a mental benefit to be gained by dosing and timing when you use cannabis; after a workout to relax or before a competition or race to get in the zone.

Using cannabis might make you feel invincible, but there is the risk of putting yourself in more danger. If you are planning on doing complicated tasks or unfamiliar exercises you perhaps need to reconsider combining it with being under the influence of cannabis. It impairs your motor skills, your depth perception and it divides attention. Perhaps even more import to consider; the effects can last up to 36 hours after usage.


THC Cannabis sport performance

When we exercise, our bodies start to produce endocannabinoids by itself. These endocannabinoids are a naturally occurring form of THC, which in combination with endorphins comprise the fabled ‘runners high’. The human brain contains cannabinoid receptors throughout and when the THC reaches those receptors a system is triggered that reduces anxiety and makes you feel more aggressive. This is a natural reaction to the drug; by using cannabis you are simply skipping ahead to that ‘runners high’.

The parts of the brain that are adversely affected are perception, attention and memory. Being under the influence of THC can cause disturbances in short-term memory recollection, decreased reaction times and cause disadvantages with hand-eye co-ordination. THC can also divide attention, making it difficult for the user to focus when performing more complicated tasks or exercises that are less familiar. There was also a report that posited that THC acts like oestrogen but this study was done on rats in a lab and not on humans so the results may not be exemplary for the human body. As of yet, there is no definitive evidence that marijuana depresses sex hormones long-term.

The moment you consume THC also makes a world of difference; use it before an intense workout and it can help you increase your appetite, enabling you to gain more mass and build muscles faster. Use it on a more frequent basis and it actually lessens the hunger signals, therefore, enabling you to lose weight a lot faster.


Cannabis Cookies Edibles

There are several ways of ingesting cannabis and some are more hazardous to your health than others. Although it can still be medicinally beneficial when lighting up a joint, smoking comes with far too many health complications for most athletes. Not to mention that only 50-60% of the precious cannabinoids like THC actually reach the bloodstream when smoked; the rest is lost to combustion and side stream smoke. If you do decide on smoking your cannabis the total THC absorbed per hit will probably range from 1 mg to 15 mg. Even when no tobacco at all is used when rolling your joint harmful carcinogens are still released when inhaled and these can create several health issues for an athlete. If you do prefer to inhale your cannabis to ingesting edibles or applying cannabis oil there is also the option of using a vaporiser. Because the cannabis is combusted at lower temperatures there are no carcinogens released.

Because edibles and oils pose no hazard to your health but still deliver the medicinal befits they would be the obvious choice for most athletes. By eating your cannabis or applying it on an oil to your skin you actually decrease the number of cannabinoids absorbed by 10-20%, but because these are converted by the liver it doubles the time the psychedelic effects stay active and makes the effects way more intense. Eating or applying oils won’t pose a hazard to your lungs or expose you to the toxic substances that are released when smoked.


THC Sport performance

Cannabis-using athletes report that they recover faster, are able to run longer stretches all the while eating the same. They suggest that weed helps to relax the muscles once they have become fatigued, making it easier for athletes to foam roll or stretch post-run.

If you use marijuana on a longer term several studies have shown that the CB1 receptor of rats, which is indirectly responsible for building muscle by synthesis of proteins, is inhibited and that could thereby inhibit the growth or your muscles. The study was done using large amounts of THC and on rats, so how much of this is applicable to the human body is not clear. Human studies also show that THC inhibits the secretion of growth hormones, which is also responsible for muscle growth.

Perhaps using a combination of THC and CBD oils is the key to reaching the ultimate balance between relaxation and muscle gain. Overall a lot more studies are required to give definitive conclusions about the benefits and hazards of cannabis for muscle growth.


There are also hindering factors when using cannabis, it affects parts of the brain that might limit the professional athlete. When you realise that weed affects reaction time and hand-eye coordination, traits that are of the utmost importance to an athlete’s maximum performance, you might refrain from using cannabis before competing other athletes.

A human study done among pilots in a simulator showed that when they were under the influence of marijuana the major and minor errors significantly when compared to the pilots that had smoked placebo cigarettes. Their performance was negatively influenced for at least two hours after smoking, returning back to normal for no less than levels six hours later. Other studies show that long-term cannabis use can decrease alertness, negatively impact your short-term memory, lower your reaction time, accelerate muscle fatigue and even cause cardiovascular disease. Using cannabis can also increase the rate of your heart, so if you are a runner you might reach your limits faster and have to cut your sessions short.

Of course, we all know that smoking can cause a hazard to your lungs and your health, but many people do not realise that smoking weed also poses a risk. It might be a smaller risk but cannabis smoke can also contain carcinogens and it has been associated with an increased likelihood of chronic bronchitis.


Nowadays professional athletes wanting to compete are tested for drugs constantly, if you are a user of marijuana this is a problem; The World Anti-Doping Association bans cannabis use during competition, citing studies that say the drug keeps athletes calm during competition because it decreases anxiety and it increases the air flow to the lungs because it also acts as a bronchodilator. Even though cannabis is in no way the same as using steroids it is still banned and can get you disqualified. To a lot of athletes, it feels the same as banning meditation or taking vitamin pills so this is an issue that is now more and more up for debate.

If you do consider to compete professionally as an athlete you do this at your own risk though. There are several ways of being tested for THC and CBD but most of the time you will have to give a urine sample

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.
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