There is a new face of cannabis, and some may find it surprising: athletes are now coming out of the shadows in support of cannabis use for fitness and wellness.
With the general belief that cannabis can act as preventative medicine for injury, and also reduce inflammation in sore joints, more athletes and fitness gurus are choosing the plant over the pill bottle.
Opening the Conversation in Public Spaces
Many Canadians will remember the 1998 Olympics at Nagano when snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was accused of having cannabis in his system. At the time, cannabis stigma was strong, and Rebagliati defended himself by saying that his exposure to cannabis was from second-hand smoke.
At the time, Rebagliati was stripped of his gold medal and disqualified, but later to have the decision overturned and his gold medal returned to him.
Now, Ross Rebagliati is the owner of a cannabis brand called Ross’ Gold, and has become an advocate for cannabis in sport.
In August 2016, the topic of cannabis in sport was brought to the public conversation again when Nate Diaz, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter was openly vaping at a press conference following a fight. "It’s CBD. It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, [and in] training,” said Diaz at the press conference.
Cannabidiol or CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, which is nowadays getting as much attention as it’s psychoactive counterpart THC.
As a result of Diaz’ revelations about cannabis, a larger conversation in sport opened up, eventually leading the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to add cannabidiol to its list of permitted substances (while cannabis and synthetic cannabis remains banned).
The Science Behind Cannabis and Sport
There are many reasons that athletes turn to cannabis both pre- and post- workout. Here is some of the science behind why many are turning to the vape over the prescription pill bottle.
Athletes and those who are into fitness use cannabis to prevent inflammation before it begins. Andrew Muroff is the CEO of the Canadian medical cannabis app and data company called Strainprint, and is also an avid athlete. Every day, he chooses to vape CBD as a preventative support for past sports injuries and the pain from arthritis in his knees. “If you can find the right strain that works for you, the anti-inflammatory properties can be amazing,” he told Green Market Report.
Cannabis is known for its neuroprotective properties; its ability to literally protect the brain from injury. Some sports, like football, hold an inherent risk of brain and head injuries. “There’s already substantial data suggesting that cannabis can promote neuroprotection,” says Dr. Suzanne Sisley who studies cannabis and head injury in athletes to Men’s Health, “…It can be really useful for athletes experiencing multiple head injuries. They could use it as a preventive tool for brain repair.”
Bringing Focus to the Sport
Individuals like Vancouver’s Bethany Rae are advocates for Microdosing cannabis in connection with fitness. Microdosing is an increasingly popular practice where individuals will consume small or trace amounts of cannabis so to get the benefits of the cannabis, but without a powerful high.
“When I consume a small, measured dose of cannabis, my mind is relaxed and focused,” says Rae, “In this relaxed mental state, anxiety and negative thinking recede and limitations are reduced.”
Fitness guru Angelina Blessed at a Hamilton, ON Women and Cannabis event recently revealed that she microdoses 10mg of THC, with the same amount of CBD, as well as smokes some sativa flower before a heavy workout. “It helps me get out of my head,” she says.
Of course, those who use cannabis pre-workout advocate for the safe use of cannabis and dosing, especially around heavy workout machinery or in high-impact sports. There is also some evidence that cannabis rises heart-rate, increasing the strain on the heart during high-impact activities.
Post-Workout Pain Reduction
Many people will experience pain, or a stiffness in the joints or muscles after a heavy workout. Following Nate Diaz’ revelation about his CBD use, CBD and its properties for reducing inflammation have been getting much more attention.
CBD specifically works to reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it, that acts as a response to that inflammation. As a result, many more athletes are turning to CBD over harmful prescription drugs so help them nurture their muscles back to peak performance.
Helps in Weight Loss
It’s been a long-known fact that cannabis increases appetite, however it’s a little less known that cannabis also helps kick-start metabolism. In fact, one study published in the American Journal of Medicine concluded that there is a significant correlation between cannabis use and having a smaller waist circumference.
In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, cannabis yoga or more commonly named “ganja yoga” is cropping up everywhere. “I think many people don’t understand how to give their bodies the space they need to move and heal, which can be enhanced by the plant medicines,” says Celina Archambault, a Vancouver yoga practitioner.
Cannabis-infused yoga practice begins with the participants ingesting a 1:1 (THC:CBD) cannabis infused oil while they are guided through low-impact movements and deep stretches. “It helps you let go of surface tensions so that you’re starting your yoga immediately from a higher base line of relaxation,” says Archambault.
Raw Cannabis Nutrition
THC-A and CBD-A are the un-activated compounds of cannabis that are found in the raw cannabis plant protein, along with high amounts of fibre, antioxidants, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, including Omega-3s. It’s being considered the next superfood.
Many athletes have turned to juicing their cannabis as a way to consume healthy fats and fibres and get a strong dose of the vitamins and minerals that promote overall health.
Cannabis and Fitness: Use Responsibly
Those who are incorporating cannabis into their fitness and sports regime should be acutely aware of strain choice, dose, and method of consumption.
For instance, if you’re going to run a long distance, perhaps a cannabis oil is more appropriate than a bong hit which could be harsh on your lungs.
Similarly, it’s not a good idea to get “totally stoned” during fitness, as the safety of your environment and performance must be kept at top of mind at all times. Embrace Microdosing as a healthy practice and complement to your fitness routine.
Use responsibly as an enhancement, rather than a detractor, to your sport and fitness performance and results.