Cannabis and sports performance: the surprising results of a new study

Cannabis and sports performance: the surprising results of a new study

Classified as a doping substance, cannabis is nevertheless often associated with staying glued to the sofa… Researchers have evaluated its effect on sports performance and motivation and their results are astonishing!

Cannabis is classified among the doping products prohibited for athletes in competition. Should we conclude from this that it is a substance capable of boosting your performance? Faced with this question, experts are not unanimous: for some, it is a doping agent which can reduce stress and increase aggressiveness in the event of regular consumption; for others, it is not a doping agent because it could have a deleterious effect on concentration and reflexes and would have no effect on reactivity or muscle mass. A new study takes stock.

Not a performance-enhancing substance

Researchers asked 42 runners and smokers to test two varieties of weed: cannabis flowers containing mainly cannabidiol (CBD) or flowers with a dominant tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content among regular cannabis users aged 21 to 39.

The athletes, separated into two groups (one testing the effect of CBD, the other of THC), then had to run on a treadmill at average speed for 30 minutes – without having smoked. A questionnaire was assigned to them, in order to assess their motivation, the difficulties linked to training, their potential physical pain, the entertaining aspect of the session, etc.

Then during a follow-up session, they had to run again, after consuming cannabis.

Result ? If all the participants saw their mood improve (the pleasure and euphoria seem to have increased tenfold during the session, especially in the group CBDeditor’s note), the vast majority ran… more slowly. The THC group candidates also specified that the race was “significantly more difficult” after smoking.

It’s pretty clear from our research that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug“, confirms Angela Bryan, professor of psychology and neuroscience and co-director of the study.

For Professor Bryan, this state of fatigue could be explained by one of the proven effects of THC – which leads to an increase in heart rate.

A path for those who can’t do sport?

If researchers do not recommend the use of cannabis during a sports session; they nevertheless assert that the cannabinoids derived from the plant resemble “endogenous cannabinoids“, produced naturally in the brain during intense physical activity. This famous “runner’s euphoria”, also known as “runner’s high” in English, refers to a state of well-being and euphoria felt by some athletes during or after a run or strenuous exercise.

In fact, scientists are wondering whether cannabinoids from weed could be of interest to people who are unable to exercise.

The bottom line is that cannabis before exercise appears to increase positive mood and pleasure during exercise, whether you use THC or CBD. But THC products in particular can make exercise more demanding.”says author Laurel Gibson, a researcher at the Center for Health and Addiction at the University of Colorado

Also an author and public health researcher, Angela Bryan is interested in the potential impact that cannabis could have on those who struggle to exercise, either because they cannot motivate themselves or because it hurts, or because they just don’t like it.

Is there a world where taking a low-dose gummie before going for a walk could help? It’s too early to make general recommendations, but it’s worth exploring“, concludes Angela Bryan.

Athletes who would consider consuming cannabis should be aware that it may carry risks, including dizziness and loss of balance and that this substance is likely to lastingly modify the brain with in rare cases psychotic attacks (delusions, hallucinations …).