Cannabis and Sports: Debunking Old Myths

April 7, 2021

With cannabis becoming more widely accepted and available, people are learning of the many positive benefits the plant offers. Interestingly enough, cannabis and sports are not mutually exclusive and it can be used to help both physically and mentally by adult athletes.

 There are aspects of cannabis that might surprise people—some strains of cannabis are meant for relaxation and others help with focus and clarity. While there’s much more to cannabis than indica and sativa, the rule of thumb is that sativas help give you focus, energy and uplift and indica strains are more relaxing. When it comes to cannabis and sports, you’ll need to decide what outcome you’re seeking and what might work best for you.

Part of any competitive sport is being able to focus on a singular task. When things begin to go poorly, or the big game is approaching it is not uncommon for even the most highly accomplished athletes to lose focus. Jim McAlpine, founder of the 420 Games, says cannabis brings him into “flow state,” a psychological term used to describe full immersion in an activity wherein a person experiences feelings of focus and enjoyment. Marijuana has the ability to calm down and relax an athlete and they are able to stay focused on the goal in front of them. Getting rid of those pre-game or pre-race jitters or anxiety can be the difference maker between victory and defeat.

Take the sport of running for instance—cannabis can help runners relax during a long run and focus on the activity at hand and pain relief during the run. 

Cannabis also eliminates inhibitions so athletes can take bigger risks in the name of winning, whether this is considered to be positive or negative must be determined by the athlete and the outcome of the action. Some people prefer a more conservative play style, might want to avoid consuming cannabis before a game. Besides the game or sport itself, it is important for athletes to take care of their bodies, cannabis can help in this regard also.

Cannabis, Sports and Pain Relief

The most common and widely known function is the ability to help with pain relief. It has been reported to help reduce pain levels in those suffering from different issues, including fibromyalgia, arthritis, degenerative disk disease and much more.  It is important to note that cannabis for pain or pleasure does not have to be smoked—which many athletes believe to be counterintuitive good health. So alternatives like edibles, balms, and tinctures are an option.

Cannabis can also play a large role on the quality of sleep. Sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to recovery for an athlete. Cannabis is known to help people relax and fall into a deeper more quality sleep and also cannabis aids the body to rebuild damaged muscles from the previous day’s workout.

The Runner’s High

Recent research found that the runner’s high that many athletes feel after a long or challenging run comes not from endorphins as once thought, but from the endocannabinoid system in the human body. See that word inside there? There’s a system in the body that reacts to cannabis consumption and that’s where cannabis can help an athlete with performance and recovery. Cannabis at the right amount can help runners boost the runner’s high by triggering the endocannabinoid system in the body, during and after a run.

Knowledge of one’s own body and its reaction to varying doses of cannabis will be the largest factor at play when considering to use cannabis in athletics, if you’re just getting started with cannabis remember to go with a low-dose or micro-dose—5 mg or less of an edible or if you consume flower, consider small amounts of a low-THC strain.

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Special thanks to guest blogger, Sam Halpern, GVSU Class of 2020