Should You Be Smoking Weed Before a Workout? Some Athletes Think So
We’re seeing a new breed of athlete emerge: the motivated marijuana enthusiast.
- There’s a long list of purported benefits associated with marijuana, but some say it can also help improve endurance during a workout
- Some athletes, like former NFL linebacker Eben Britton, have been open about the perceived fitness benefits of marijuana, but there are still many who are “in the closet” due to the stigma of drug use
Historically speaking, fitness and marijuana have never been considered the best of workout buddies. In fact, you’ve probably thought of them as diametric opposites. In one corner, you had the health and fitness-conscious; in the other, the Cheeto-munching stoners.
But as cannabis laws have relaxed — medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, while recreational marijuana is legal in nine —, we’re seeing a new breed of athlete emerge: the motivated marijuana enthusiast.
“It’s become a social movement,” says Jim McAlpine, founder of the pot-friendly athletic event series the 420 Games, as well as the San Francisco-based, cannabis-friendly gym Power Plant Fitness, which he co-owns with former NFL running-back Ricky Williams. “There are so many of us who are in the closet.”
McAlpine, Williams, and their cohorts are part of a new generation of cannabis user – one that enjoys a highly physical lifestyle not despite the fact that they smoke pot, but because of it.
Pro-pot athletes tend to embrace cannabis for a number of reasons. “It activates your brain and gets you in The Zone,” says McAlpine. “I love to smoke before I ski or mountain bike or go surfing. It puts me in a place of higher focus, the Eye of the Tiger type thing. It’s not for everyone, but for some people who are more athletic and coordinated, it works.”
While coordination and focus might not be the first things that come to mind when you think about the powers of pot, McAlpine isn’t alone in his belief that firing up before a workout can fine-tune an athlete for fitness. According to ex-NFL offensive lineman Eben Britton, who has been vocal about NFL players using cannabis for pain management, smoking pot “connects me mentally and emotionally into my body, which allows me to get a more fulfilling workout.”
Britton vapes cannabis concentrate before working out to help loosen up stiff muscles and scar tissue as well as his mind. “It’s very uplifting mentally. It allows me to push through that last couple reps,” he told MensHealth.com. “I might be fatiguing, but it gets me into a flow state and allows me to push through.”
“It’s become a social movement. There are so many of us who are in the closet.”
If you’re skeptical about marijuana’s fitness benefits, you have reason to be. For years, marijuana has been touted as a treatment for everything from epilepsy to opioid addiction to sleep apnea, so it’s not surprising that some athletes would swear it could help them improve their performance, too.
That said, there’s very little evidence to suggest that toking up before a workout can, in fact, increase your gains. “Cannabis has been shown to be a performance-degrading drug, so for peak performance you should not use cannabis,” says Harvard-trained physician and cannabis therapeutics specialist Jordan Tishler, MD. If you’re smoking pot before a new or particularly difficult workout, it can be downright unsafe: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration , “the more difficult and unpredictable the task, the more likely marijuana will impair [mental and motor] performance.”
But here’s where the alleged benefits come in, says Tishler: “cannabis has been shown to be good for pain control and can be useful while training at non-peak levels. Like a runner’s high, cannabis can help with endurance.”
Integrative cannabis physician Dr. June Chin agrees. Provided an athlete isn’t injured or at risk of hurting themselves, she often suggests they use cannabis “during the training season to help recover, ease pain, and push to the next level. The goal is that they don’t get bogged down by that stubborn knee or lower back pain. They can run the longer distance, be faster and more efficient. They can power through it.”
The evidence is particularly strong for CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana (re: it doesn’t get you high) that many athletes claim enhances recovery. Following his UFC bout with Conor McGregor, for instance, a bloodied, bruised, yet laid-back Nate Diaz sat down for a press conference and vaped CBD oil, telling reporters it “helps with the healing process and inflammation and stuff like that.” Diaz isn’t alone in this belief: in fact, the World Anti-Doping Agency was apparently so convinced by CBD’s therapeutic properties that it recently removed CBD from its list of banned substances for 2018.
Now, in a world filled with countless cannabis products and strains that deliver wide-ranging effects, how can you determine which will best support your fitness goals — or, for that matter, if you should be using cannabis at all?
Well, for starters, you should check the legal status of cannabis in your state. You should also probably not dabble in smoking weed before your workout if you were the type of person to, say, get super stoned and freak out when you had a pot brownie in college.
“Each individual varies on how their liver breaks down cannabis and how rapidly it is absorbed into the blood and distributed to the rest of the body, including the brain,” says Chin. “I suggest starting with small doses and not trying a strenuous exercise routine.”
“It’s worth noting that cannabis can impair motor control and judgement, so it should only be used in a safe setting,” Tishler adds. He advises against activities like “street running, cycling, bungee-jumping, and skydiving” (though perhaps the latter two go without saying), and also suggests starting on a small dose.
“Edibles are not great for exercise because they’re so unpredictable about when they’ll kick in that it may not be timed well with your exercise plans,” he says. “A little goes a long way.”An increasing number of athletes are openly speaking up about using cannabis before a workout, giving the term “high-performance athlete” new meaning.
Cannabis Use and Weightlifting
Cannabis Use and Weightlifting: Professional Journalist Proves the Two Are Not Mutually Exclusive
When most people think of Cannabis use, they don’t think about fitness and weightlifting. Characterization in the media would have you believe that people who smoke weed are lazy, unmotivated, and live in their mom’s basements.
In the last decade, marijuana has stepped out of the hazy cloud and into mainstream spotlight. Cannabis use is legal in a dozen states recreationally and medical use is even more prevalent. Pot smokers are able to be more open about their use, and it has forced society to face some of the stereotypes we have had about them.
We wanted to find out if there were cannabis users who worked out, and how it effected them.
Journalist and Gym Junkie
We were lucky enough to run into professional journalist and cannabis enthusiast Jon Olsen-Koziol. Jon is an impressive guy by any standards, he has been a a professional journalist and leader in Pacific Northwest cannabis lifestyle juggernaut Respect My Region for 2 years now. He also loves hitting heavy weights and burning through high intensity cardio.
Jon agreed to be interviewed on AdvancedWeightlifting to shed some light on how cannabis effect his fitness.
Jon told us in inspiring fashion about his workouts, ” The Physical activities I enjoy the most are heavy weights and intense cardio, especially on my Peloton bike. Intense physical exercise is the ultimate perspective enhancer for me. When you’re battling through a heavy workout, it’s like slaying my inner demons and kicking them right in the nuts.”
How Cannabis Motivated Jon Into a Physical Lifestyle
“I dabbled with a fitness lifestyle since I was 21, but it really became my way of life after I tore the ACL in my right knee Sept. 2014. I had complete ACL reconstruction surgery and had to re-learn how to do simple tasks like standing on one leg and walking up stairs. This radically changed my perspective about the importance of physical well-being in your life.”
Jon talked more about his injury and how Cannabis was there to help him through it. The idea of Cannabis as medicine is not uncommon. In fact many people opt for Cannabis instead of narcotics to deal with pain, but what Jon talked about was more than medicine, it was motivation.
“Cannabis was important during the rehab process because anytime I was high and slacking on my physical therapy/rehab, there was a voice in my head saying “hey bitch. Get to work. You wanna walk again? You wanna run again? Shut the fuck up and get to work” Cannabis has always made me ruthlessly self critical and it’s my favorite part about smoking cannabis and being high. It helps me hold myself accountable.”
Ganja gains or Couch Potato
We asked Jon what he thought about the lazy stoner stereotype. He had a nuanced view, “I think some humans are destined to be lazy stoners. Cannabis just reacts with some people differently and maybe they can’t be productive on cannabis, but that’s never been the case with me. And for those people, Cannabis becomes the excuse to be lazy, it’s not the plant’s fault.”
Maybe there is more to it than just a yes or no answer to the question. Jon went into more detail. “If anything cannabis helps hold me accountable and responsible in life. If I’m high, it’s hard to avoid things because that voice pops up “hey. Shut the fuck up and get to work” I think it’s important to understand your own personal relationship with cannabis.”
Jon has even worked out that Cannabis has different effects on different styles of workouts. “I keep it simple: for cardio I love being high and it absolutely increases my performance. It helps me focus on my breathing and my running form like they’re applications running in the background. When I’m lifting weights, I like being sober. I don’t like holding heavy weights above my head when I’m high, it feels hella sketch. And I’ve never found cannabis to enhance my performance while I’m lifting. I used to just be high for any kind of workout and it took a few years of experimenting to really hammer down how to incorporate cannabis Into my workout routines.”
Dabs and Discipline
We asked Jon how he manages to stay so committed to fitness while having a full time job, and still finding time to toke up. He answered, “I just make time no matter what. I write down my goals for the week and I hold myself accountable. If I have three weight sessions and three cardio sessions planned, I do them. Even if I have to sacrifice an hour of sleep to get a workout in because I have website and work obligations, I’ll do it. If I have to sacrifice some personal time to get my workouts in, I do it. I’ve developed incredible discipline over the last few years though sacrifice and repetition. The physical and mental benefits are too immediate and worthwhile for me to not work out five to six days a week.”
We were blown away, because honestly, we wish half of us were this disciplined. The fact that Jon regularly uses Cannabis, and yet achieves so much in and out of the gym says a lot about who he is, and that Cannabis doesn’t have to hold people back from being productive or active.
Jon’s Message to Readers
Jon left us and readers with an inspiring message, “I implore everyone who isn’t physically active to start being physically active. And I’m not talking about doing anything crazy or being a meat-head gym rat like me. Just move your body. Sweat and get your blood pumping. You’ll feel better. Your brain will work better. Your body will move better. Your perspective will be more clear. Whether it’s walking, yoga, racket ball, pick-up basketball or whatever. I believe if you’re a human being, there’s no way exercise/physical activity won’t make your life better. “
We think Jon settles the debate that regardless of your lifestyle choices, you can be as active as you want. Who you are as a person will determine how successful you are in fitness and in business. We could have talked for hours, but Jon had to run because his company is gearing up for the 420 electronic music festival they are putting on in Spokane, WA called EVOLVE, and lets be honest, he probably wanted to get a few squats in!Cannabis Use and Weightlifting: Professional Journalist Proves the Two Are Not Mutually Exclusive When most people think of Cannabis use, they don't think about fitness and weightlifting. Characterization in the media would have you believe that people who smoke weed are lazy, unmotivated, and live in their mom's base ]]>