As you're trying to figure out how to do the whole self-care thing, you might be looking to maximize your runner's high with a different kind of high. Whether you're a morning jogger, yoga enthusiast, or gym rat, experts say working out while you're high on weed can help you exercise more effectively, more often, and even more joyfully (you know, if it's legal in your state).
"Marijuana might reduce the inflammation response in the body after a heavy workout," says Dr. Gary Starr, MD, medical director of FOCUS, an international non-profit working toward developing cannabis quality management standards. And though a 2017 study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that while pot probably doesn't physically improve your athletic performance, it may be excellent for getting your mind in the game.
"Using weed before a workout is a great way to get out of your head about what’s to come," says yoga teacher, body positivity advocate, and writer Jessamyn Stanley. If working out isn't exactly your favorite thing, it can take a lot of emotional energy to get yourself ready to go. But even if you love exercising, putting your body through its paces day in and day out can lead to a lot of mental fatigue. This exhaustion can make you develop negative associations with working out, making it harder to work out next time... and on and on.
Sure enough, a 2017 study published in the journal Sports Medicine found that the harder people perceived their workout to be, the more mentally fatigued they felt. In other words, if you feel like your workout is painfully difficult, it's tougher to stay engaged and motivated. This is one reason that Stanley uses weed before her workouts. "Instead of wanting the workout to end, I have to remind myself to stop," she tells Bustle.
According to the journal Nature, when over 600 people living in states where recreational cannabis is legal were surveyed, about 70% of respondents said that being high on pot made working out more enjoyable. Using weed didn't only help people enjoy their workouts, the survey found. People who got high before or after exercise spent more time working out than people who didn't mix it with exercising.
While this direct effect is still theoretical from a research standpoint, Dr. Starr says that pot's ability to boost your mood in the short-term may help you start to enjoy exercise more and therefore get your sweat on more often. That sense of being present and enjoying yourself can help improve your workout whether you're a weightlifter or a yogi.
However, there's a lot that scientists still don't know about exercising while high. "At this point in time, almost all research into the relationship between marijuana and exercise performance is observational and small," Dr. Starr tells Bustle.
It's also important to keep in mind that about 40% of people in the Nature survey who combined pot and exercise reported experiencing higher than usual heart rates and getting too high to continue working out safely. Dr. Starr says that this is not terribly unexpected. "Marijuana is known to cause tachycardia — or an increased heart rate," he tells Bustle. "In people with underlying heart disease or problems with heart arrythmias, consuming marijuana could potentially put them at risk for heart complications."
You'll also want to make sure you're paying extra attention to hydration, says Meryl Montgomery, co-founder of cannabis startup Barbari. "Because THC puts your glucose metabolism into double-time, it's important to hydrate frequently and often with good old H2O."
Figuring out what kind of dose is best for your exercising body is key, says cannabis expert Kendra Freeman, president of business development and product development at Mendi, a CBD company for athletes. Especially if you're not quite sure how your body reacts to THC (the part of pot that gets you high), Freeman says you might want to add some CBD to the mix to try things out. CBD won't make you all floaty the way THC will, so you might find yourself able to focus on your workout more.
If you're interested in mixing up your workout routine with pot, it's probably best to start small and know your limits (both in terms of exercise and how much pot you use). Listening to yourself is unlikely to steer you wrong, so if you're feeling ready to start a new adventure, pay attention to your body's signals.
Readers should note that laws governing cannabis, hemp and CBD are evolving, as is information about the efficacy and safety of those substances. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Always consult your physician prior to trying any substance or supplement.
Kennedy, M.C. (2017) Cannabis: exercise performance and sport: A systematic review. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28392338/.
Van Cutsem, J. (2017) The effects of mental fatigue on physical performance: A systematic review. Sports Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28044281-the-effects-of-mental-fatigue-on-physical-performance-a-systematic-review/.
Nguyen, T. (2019) Working Out With Weed. Nature: Outlook, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02529-0
Jessamyn Stanley, yoga teacher, body positivity advocate, writer
Kendra Freeman, president of business development and product development at Mendi
Dr. Gary Starr, MD, medical director of FOCUS
Meryl Montgomery, co-founder of cannabis startup Barbari