Is the lazy stoner stereotype true, or does smoking weed before a workout enhance overall performance during that exercise session?

To answer this burning question, researchers from CU-Boulder recently completed the first-ever study to examine how legal, commercially available cannabis shapes how exercise feels.

The study comes almost exactly 10 years after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. Now, cannabis users are increasingly mixing THC and CBD with their workouts, whether it be via edibles, vaping, or smoking.

For the study, researchers focused on 42 Boulder-area volunteers who already run while using cannabis. First, researchers took fitness measurements and survey data for baseline information. The volunteers were then sent to the dispensary to purchase either a designated flower strain that contained mostly cannabidiol (CBD) or a Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-dominant strain.

During the second observational visit, volunteers ran (sober) on a treadmill at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, answering questions periodically to assess how motivated they felt, how much they were enjoying themselves, how hard the workout felt, how quickly time seemed to pass, and their pain levels.

Then, they repeated this treadmill test another time after using cannabis. Runners were required to wear a safety belt while on the machines.

Ryan de Hamer/Unsplash
Ryan de Hamer/Unsplash
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Based on the findings, a bit of pot before a workout can boost motivation and make exercise more enjoyable. Across the board, participants reported greater enjoyment and more intense euphoria when exercising after using cannabis. Some would call it a true "runner's high."

However, if performance is the goal, it might be best to light up afterward. Smoking weed before working out may make exercise feel more effortful. This is because THC increases the heart rate.

Sporlab/Unsplash
Sporlab/Unsplash
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Exercising under the influence of cannabis can also cause slower reaction times, or in this case, slower miles. Athletes considering using cannabis should be aware that it can come with risks as well, such as dizziness or low motivation.

It's clear that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug, but many individuals still choose to use it before exercising. The main reasons for doing so that researchers discovered were that it increases enjoyment, decreases pain, increases focus, and makes time go by faster.

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Gallery Credit: Kelsey Nistel

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