Marijuana and Lifting Weights: What the Science Suggests

The health effects of cannabis are only just being explored. The existing benefits of marijuana are already astounding. Marijuana has been linked to the successful treatment of glaucoma, skin cancer, chronic pain, insomnia, Parkinson’s, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Chron’s Disease, schizophrenia, Bi-Polar, arthritis and more. But these benefits are related only to treating existing diseases and conditions, not obtaining something called super health. The current approach to wellbeing is to avoid disease instead of increasing vitality to superb levels. But cannabis can have miraculous effects that go beyond merely treating diseases, including helping to increase metabolism, enhance creativity and increase gut health. We are going to see marijuana smoothies and the leaves of the cannabis plant actually contain more nutrients than Kale or Spinach. When THC is not heated it remains inactive so the marijuana can be consumed in its natural state. There is a whole health industry about to emerge with regard to cannabis, and it is not related to preventing disease but enhancing health.

How Marijuana Works

When people refer to the benefits of marijuana, what they are really referring to are the compounds contained in the plant known as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids (primarily THC) have an effect on the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for sleep, mood, memory, appetite, temperature and emotional processing. THC mimics a cannabinoid that is naturally produced in the human body, known as anandamide, the bliss compound. There is a whole theory of disease relating to the endocannabinoid system, suggesting that all diseases have a basis in this system due to a lack of a certain cannabinoid. This would explain why marijuana is so effective in the treatment of somany different types of conditions; They are all linked to a cannabinoid deficiency, and marijuana provides cannabinoids to repair the damage, wherever it came from and whatever it may be.

Cannabis and Lifting Weights

Unfortunately, there has not been many studies completed on cannabis and its direct effects on exercise. This is partly due to how the drug is classified as an illegal substance in many states, so funding and studies become increasingly difficult to perform, although there have been a few studies that have providedsome insight into the effects of cannabis and THC on sports performance. The studies that have been completed were all done in past decades with little modern approaches, and all seem to have very small sample sizes which can lead to many problems and biases.

Of the few studies completed, the trend seems to be a slight decrease in performance, or no effect whatsoever. For example, an older study from 1986 looked at the effects of marijuana on subjects who performed maximal exercise testing to exhaustion. Researchers had 12 healthy individuals split into two groups: A group who did not ingest any marijuana and a group that performed 10-minutes after smoking a marijuana cigarette.

Researchers found that the group who smoked the marijuana cigarette experienced a slight decrease in performance duration. The marijuana group had a cumulative performance time of 15-minute, while the non-smoking group had 16-minutes. But at peak performance, researchers found no significant differences between the VO2 (oxygen uptake), VCO2 (carbon dioxide output), heart rate, and VE (minute ventilation).Another study that looked at the relationship between THC and strength in 1968. The study observed 16 males aged between 21-44. They performed 6-10 minute bouts on the treadmill and finger ergograph (a tool to assess a muscle’s work output). The authors didn’t publish the fingerergograph’s results, but noted within their study that Weakness was clearly demonstrated on the finger ergograph”. 

Long Term Weight Lifting

It has to be said that there is no single study that indicates that cannabis has a positive effect on performance. It seems most likely given the evidence that it has a negative effect on weight lifting performance. But the weaknesses of the handful of studies that have been completed is that they are representative of people who lift when they are high. What should really be tested is for those people who smoke and then lift when they are not stoned against those who never smoke. This would be the ultimate test, as cannabis works in many ways on the mental, emotional and physical elements.

It may well be possible that all the benefits of cannabis could translate to an increase in weightlifting performance over the long term and not the short term. The main criticism of all the studies completed is that none of them took long term weight lifting performance into account. Presently, there is no credible data to suggest that marijuana increases weightlifting performance. But there is ample evidence to suggest that it will improve confidence and psychological health, key metrics in weight lifting. And for rest, relaxation and recovery the health benefits of topicals and joints after a workout are bound to increase performance over time. As a muscle relaxant, marijuana is incredibly potent and this has not been studied.


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