Amateur and professional athletes have started to embrace cannabis as a component of training. Are they on to something? We think they are.

It wasn’t long ago professional athletes were harshly criticized for openly discussing cannabis consumption. Careers were ruined, athletes stigmatized, and in the case of Michael Phelps who was chastised in the media after his infamous ‘bong photo’; athletes have been banned from competition after acknowledging (or being caught) consuming cannabis.

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since the Phelps incident of 2009. Laws, policies, and attitudes toward cannabis are changing and a growing percentage of athletes now openly discuss cannabis consumption as a component of their training and recovery programs—and for good reason.

People, understandably, more often associate cannabis consumption with the munchies than they do strenuous physical activity. A growing body of research and real-life practical application, however, has shed new light on the possible uses of cannabis for enhanced athletic performance and recovery.

Brave athletes are standing up to support the breaking down of stigmas associated with cannabis consumption, and equally brave medical practitioners, are standing alongside them.

“We need to let athletes consume cannabis to heal from injuries and manage pain and inflammation.”—Eugene Moore, Baltimore Ravens

Men’s Journal recently profiled a Colorado triathlete who has integrated cannabis into a rigorous training program that includes pre-dawn runs, post-work swims, and long and lonely cycling adventures. The athlete, who asked to remain anonymous (there’s still a stigma), makes enhanced homemade energy bars that he consumes before early morning workouts. According to the article’s author, the triathlete considers cannabis a “genetically engineered workout supplement—a combined focusing agent for exercise, and a pain reliever that numbs his post-workout aches.”

The concept of working out after consuming cannabis, to some, may seem odd. That said, a growing body of evidence pointing to positive outcomes for athletes who incorporate marijuana into their fitness and training programs, and the endorsement of professionals and amateurs who swear by the plant’s medicinal properties—is altering public perception.

“When you’ve got as $10 million dollar player sitting on the sideline because of an injury, how do you justify that as a sports organization?”—Riley Cote, Philadelphia Flyers

Here are five reasons to work cannabis into your overall fitness and recovery program.

  1. Cannabis provides safe and effective way to manage pain.

    As America struggles through the opioid epidemic, a growing percentage of people, athletes included, are looking toward cannabis as a healthy alternative for pain management. Cannabis is an excellent tool to help athletes recover from exercise-induced aches and pains and with CBD, you can manage discomfort without feeling high.

  2. Cannabis doesn’t harm lung function. In fact, it may actually improve it.

    A study conducted over the course of twenty years found low to moderate cannabis consumers displayed increased lung capacity compared to non-smokers. For athletes, the ability to increase lung capacity leads to increased performance and speedy recovery after strenuous exercise. It’s also worth noting, THC has known anti-inflammatory properties and can strengthen the immune system, which may prevent lung irritation from turning into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a devastating lung disorder common to cigarette smokers. While most athletes choose alternative consumption methods, for those who opt to smoke cannabis, it shouldn’t hinder athletic performance.

  3. Cannabis aids in recovery and performance.

    Cannabis enriched salves and topicals help athletes reduce muscle pain and the anti-inflammatory properties of both THC and CBD help to speed up muscle repair, drastically improving recovery time—a key to enhanced athletic performance.

  4. Cannabis helps athletes focus during intense training sessions.

    Athletes who have worked cannabis into their training and fitness programs report an increased pain tolerance and enhanced focus, allowing them to push through the temporary pain of challenging workouts and intense endurance sessions. THC and CBD ease anxiety and increase the pain threshold, giving athletes the extra physical and mental push they need, to make it through the most intense moments of training.

  5. Cannabis promotes neuroprotection.

    An alarming number of NFL players have come forward in recent years describing PTSD-like symptoms as the result of sports-related head injuries. The neuroprotective properties of cannabis make it an ideal tool for athletes experiencing head injuries. Put simply, cannabis helps with brain repair.  

“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.”—Susan Sisley, M.D., Doctors for Cannabis 

The myriad of benefits offered by cannabis consumption, from enhanced recovery and performance, to brain protection and repair, make it an attractive option for athletes looking for a leg up on competition, or for people simply looking for a better way to help before, during, and after hard workouts.

At Lightshade, we are committed to educating consumers on the benefits of cannabis for all. Drop by any of our nine Colorado dispensaries to speak with a budtender to learn how you can work cannabis into your overall fitness and training program.