Will Smoking Weed Enhance Your Workout? Here’s What Experts Say

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You may be familiar with the runner’s high, but there’s a different kind of high amid athletes, specifically long-distance runners, now that weed is legal in some states. Apparently, passing the grass before hitting the track may have its benefits. “There's still a paucity of good scientific research, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence pointing to definite advantages of the use of [weed during workouts],” says Stephen Brenner, MD, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon in New Jersey and chairman of Diagnostic Lab Corporation. “Talking to various athletes and people on a personal basis, many feel that they can lift more weight or that their recovery times are actually shortened between workouts.” For more encouragement, just look to the pro-pot gym in California, weed-fueled competition series called the 420 Games, or famous athletes who swear by #puffingthemagicdragon before crushing a workout.

So, scientifically speaking, what exactly are the benefits of toking up before a workout? According to Dr. Brenner, in addition to shortening recovery times, marijuana can act as an antispasmodic and an anti-nausea agent, both of which have applications in pre- and post-workout settings. He also notes that there has been some indication that the components in marijuana can decrease lactic acid buildup (a culprit of muscle fatigue), and that the CBD can act as an anti-inflammatory “more powerful than an aspirin and right up there with nonsteroidals drugs.”

But before you spark up on the way to your next SoulCycle class, it’s important to remember that the scientific verdict is still out on this. “Be skeptical of this sort of advice, because marijuana isn't a prescribed medication with a consistent content or dose.” Keith Humphreys, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University. “Marijuana from one plant can make you feel calm, but marijuana from another plant can cause a panic attack.” He also notes that while marijuana may help you go harder, better, faster, and stronger, it may be because you’re ignoring injuries that could come back to haunt you later. Plus, he says, the cannabis could impair your attention and lead to an accident.

Bottom line: “In terms of the science, we just don't know enough about it,” J. Michael Bostwick, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic, told GQ. “One person's anxiety medicine can make somebody else sluggish. We don't have enough long-term evidence to say it's not problematic.” And while weed isn’t technically classified as a “performance-enhancing drug,” it is a banned substance in many competitions. So, if you decide to enhance your performance during training, keep clean during a race or competitive sport.

Feel free to test the theory yourself and report back. At the very least, it could make for the most comical workout you’ll have all week.