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  • D. H. Reilly

Can Marijuana Enhance Athletic Performance?

is marijuana a performance enhancing drug?

Here is a reason to get your Alabama Marijuana Card that you may not have thought of: Marijuana is a performance enhancing drug!

Well no, marijuana isn’t actually a performance enhancing drug, or it isn’t one in the usual sense of the phrase. A 2017 review of 15 studies found that marijuana does not help boost strength or speed, and some of the studies found it was detrimental to athletes’ performances.

Nevertheless, athletes of all stripes, from amateur weekend warriors to ultra marathoners, are starting to incorporate marijuana into their fitness regimens.

As physician and psychiatrist Suzanne Sisley told Men’s Journal, “I think all athletes—whether they’re NFL or NBA pros or just serious athletes wanting to better their fitness—are learning about the therapeutic potential of this plant. Athletes are teaching each other how to do this. It’s like a peer-mentoring process.”

While it may not be a traditional performance enhancing drug, marijuana can help you get the most out of your physical fitness, whether you’re an athlete or you’re just trying to keep healthy.

Is That Why Marijuana is Banned from the Olympics? Because it Gives You an Unfair Advantage?

No, not exactly.

Yes, Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from the U.S. relay team after testing positive for THC, and she won’t be competing at the upcoming Olympics as a result. But that suspension isn’t because THC is a performance enhancing drug.

Olympic athletes are drug tested by The World Anti-Doping League (WADL), which uses three criteria in determining which substances it bans: “It can enhance or potentially enhance performance; it represents an actual or potential health risk; or it violates the ‘spirit of sport.’” A substance can be banned for failing to live up to any two of those three criteria. Yes, the WADL has banned THC, but it hasn’t disclosed which combination of the three criteria led to that ban. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem likely that marijuana has been banned because it is a performance enhancing drug when one recalls that review of marijuana studies we mentioned.

So If It Won’t Enhance My Performance, How Can It Up My Exercise Game?

So if it can’t make them faster or stronger, why are all those professional athletes Dr. Sisley mentioned adding marijuana to their regimens?

Marijuana Can Reduce Exercise Recovery Time

If you want to get the most gains, it’s important to get adequate rest between your workouts.

As Everyday Health explains, workouts cause stress and inflammation. The immune system then goes to work repairing that damage. When your body tissues recover, they come back a little more fit than they were before, resulting in less damage the next time you perform the same workout.

It’s repeating this cycle of damage and recovery that improves physical fitness, and marijuana can help in the recovery part of the cycle.

As professional ultramarathoner Avery Collins told Men’s Journal, “After a 30- to 40-mile run, I’ll sit down, and my legs will keep throbbing and pounding; it’s like they think they’re still supposed to be going. That’s when the CBD compounds help tremendously. They calm down your legs and, because they’re anti-inflammatory, let them recover faster.”

A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that marijuana helped athletes tolerate pain better, decreasing their needed recovery time and allowing them to workout more vigorously and more often.

As soccer great Megan Rapinoe told Forbes, “CBD has become part of my all-natural recovery system that I use throughout the day to help with pain and inflammation. Instead of taking Advil or other pain management meds, I've almost exclusively substituted with Mendi CBD products.”

Rapinoe’s approach seems to mirror an emerging trend among athletes that Men’s Journal reported on. The magazine said that “this new wave of sports-world acceptance puts cannabis forward as a ‘biohack.’ That is, a plant-based alternative to opioid pain-relief drugs such as codeine or OxyContin.”

You Snooze, you Win: Marijuana and Sleep Quality

Getting good sleep, and enough of it, is an important part of recovery. It’s also another aspect of your workout game that marijuana can improve.

Not getting enough sleep, or not getting good sleep, can be so detrimental to your workouts that some experts say you should even skip working out if you didn’t sleep well the night before.

And if you’re having difficulty sleeping, CBD might be just what you’re looking for. The Sleep Foundation reports that “CBD can help with a number of sleep disorders, including insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder, and excessive daytime sleepiness disorder. Additional preliminary research suggests CBD can also help patients improve sleep and reduce anxiety.”

Oh, That Reminds Us: Anxiety Relief is Another Way Marijuana Can Enhance Performance

Sometimes your physical performance issues start in your head.

As an article published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine put it, “It is well known that sport has the potential for high levels of stress and anxiety, and that practicing and employing a range of psychological strategies can be beneficial in anxiety management. Equally, growing evidence also suggests that anxiety can play a role in sport injury prevention, occurrence, rehabilitation, and the return to sport process.”

In other words, lowering anxiety raises results, and medical marijuana can lower anxiety.

While anxiety is not yet recognized as one of the qualifying conditions in Alabama, it is in many states, and with good reason.

According to research published in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology, patients who treated their anxiety with marijuana “had largely improved cognitive performance, reduced clinical symptoms and anxiety-related symptoms as well as a reduced use of conventional medications, including opioids, benzodiazepines, and other mood stabilizers and antidepressants.”

So all of these different aspects of your overall health influence the quality of your physical fitness regimen. Lowered anxiety leads to better performance and reduced recovery time. Better sleep means less anxiety and recovery time. And reducing inflammation means better recovery time and tolerance for pain.

And the ingredient that can optimize them all for you? Medical marijuana.

Is Medical Marijuana What Your Workouts Have Been Missing?

Whether you just want to feel better or you’re looking to perform better, medical marijuana could be what you need.

Why not start finding out if you could experience the same benefits so many others have? Reserve an appointment with one of our doctors today, and we’ll schedule your exam just as soon as Alabama’s medical marijuana program is up and running.

Not only will you save $25 off the cost of your appointment, but we’ll refund your cost entirely if you and your doctor determine that medical marijuana isn’t right for you. You have literally nothing to lose, and you might end up with some crazy impressive workout gains!

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