Combining cannabis and physical fitness can not only enhance your mental and emotional state during a workout — it can also help in your body's recovery process.
Cannabis has been slowly studied since the 1970s and has shown strong evidence of pain management as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and neuroprotectant properties.
what does THAT mean for your workout?
A higher tolerance for pain can help you push through those early moments of struggling
Lowered anxiety can help you get into a better mental state to continue working out
Reduced inflammation can help with post-workout recovery
So how does cannabis affect your workout?
To share the benefits of including cannabis in your workout, first we need to introduce your endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
Just like your immune, circulatory, and digestive systems, everyone has an ECS. This system’s job is to keep all of your other systems in balance as you encounter stress. The ECS plays a role in everything from mood to appetite, sleep, memory, fertility, and more — really all of your physiological systems.
Your endocannabinoid system is made up of receptors embedded all over your body
Your ECS is supported by a compound called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are naturally found both within your body and in the cannabis plant.
Endo-cannabinoids are those that our bodies produce, including anandamide and 2-AG. "Endo" means inside!
Phyto-cannabinoids are those found in plants, such as the infamous THC and CBD. "Phyto" means plant!
This means that if your body is lacking endocannabinoids, you can supplement that deficiency with phytocannabinoids — just like with other vitamins and nutrients.
Exercise naturally boosts endocannabinoiD levels
A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that moderate exercise increases levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide. Anandamide is like your body's own version of THC — and has even been nicknamed "the bliss molecule."
Some researchers theorize that "Runner's High" may be linked to an increase of the endocannabinoid anandamide. That's right — exercise can give you a natural high.
The cannabis plant contains over 100 different cannabinoids that all support our ECS, but they have different physiological effects.
For example, the cannabinoid THC is well-known for its ability to give users a “high” feeling while CBD does not — read on to learn why!
While research suggests that all of the compounds in cannabis work best when used together, — AKA, the "Ensemble Effect" — it’s helpful for us to understand the role each part plays so we can choose the best weed for our workout.
You should know.
What Happens When You Get High From THC?
When your body doesn’t have enough endocannabinoids to support your ECS, THC can aid in fulfilling that deficiency — helping you feel like your most balanced and powerful self. That's a big deal when it comes to overcoming mental hurdles around getting yourself up and moving!
Remember, THC is very similar to your endocannabinoid anandamide, which plays a big role in mood. Just like these natural endocannabinoids, THC binds to and stimulates your ECS receptors to help your body reach a state of balance. However, THC can't be broken down by the body as quickly as anandamide, so it can produce more intense and noticeable effects (AKA a "high") — especially in large doses.
POSITIVE EFFECTS OF THC ON YOUR WORKOUT
Euphoria is defined as an extreme feeling of physical and emotional well-being.
Euphoria can inspire you to exercise and allow you to maintain a positive attitude while physically challenging yourself.
THC can reduce your body's response to pain by activating receptors in your nerve cells.
Relieving pain can allow you to focus on moving and building other parts of your body.
Cannabis can help bring you into the present moment and focus on your body. When challenging yourself, it's your mind that will want to give up before your body. An increased awareness around your body can help you differentiate between the burn of building muscle and actual pain so that you can safely push yourself.
While euphoria, pain relief, and an enhanced mind-body connection are all common effects for people using THC for exercise, cannabis affects everyone differently — and the experience can range from one side of the spectrum all the way to the other.
The high that someone feels when using THC can vary depending on things like tolerance, age, what’s in their stomach, mental state, and most importantly, which cannabis strain they’ve enjoyed. We'll go over how to choose the best weed for your workout below.
PTSD + THC
THC has been studied as a treatment for PTSD for war veterans because of its side effect of impairing short-term memory and recall, which is a positive thing for anyone with crippling memories.
The same can be applied for anyone suffering from PTSD due to a past physical injury whose memories of the injury may hold them back from working out that part of the body*. A little forgetfulness mixed with hyper-focus on the present might help someone forget how their knee felt last year while truly recognizing how it feels in the moment so that they can safely optimize their workout.
*This references people whose past injuries have fully healed and have been cleared by their Doctor for physical fitness.
call me CBD
What Happens When You Ingest CBD?
You may be surprised.
You don't have to get high to experience the benefits of cannabis. By using CBD, you can still reap the benefits of cannabis while reducing or entirely eliminating the high associated with smoking weed.
Rather than stimulating our ECS receptors like THC does, when CBD is used alone it actually slows the breakdown of your own endocannabinoids like anandamide so that your body can better use them. This is why CBD can't get you "high" on its own — though people who haven't felt balanced in a long time may feel so good that they interpret the effects of CBD as a high.
FAAH (enzyme that breaks down anandamide)
POSITIVE EFFECTS OF CBD ON YOUR WORKOUT
How exactly CBD helps to relieve anxiety is still not fully understood, but some studies suggest it could allow your body to better engage with serotonin, a hormone that plays a role in mood.
Excessive inflammation can inhibit muscle recovery. CBD reduces inflammation by blocking inflammatory messengers and increasing levels of anandamide to block the body's pain response
(just like THC does).
Exercise boosts the production of your body's natural endocannabinoid anandamide, which affects mood. CBD slows the breakdown of anandamide. This means that by using CBD before or after your workout, you can make the mood-lifting effects of your workout last longer!
"Is Smoking HEALTHY?"
Smoking anything has the potential to be damaging to your lungs because of the tar created when you ignite plant (or any) material. Fortunately, the cannabis industry has grown to expand its forms of THC and CBD ingestion to include everything from beverages to topicals, tinctures, capsules, edibles, and more in case smoking doesn't feel like a good option for you.
How can i consume cannabis?
Inhaling cannabis is the fastest way to feel its effects. After a single inhale, expect effects within just 1-3 minutes. However, inhaling cannabis produces a shorter duration of effects at just 2-4 hours.
If you want to inhale cannabis but don't want to smoke, consider vaporizing as an alternative. Learn more about smoking vs vaporizing here.
Sublingual cannabis products are placed under the tongue for quick absorption into the bloodstream, typically producing effects in 5-15 minutes that last between 2-4 hours.
Edibles take effect most slowly of all the ingestion methods and can be impacted by what else is in your stomach. You can expect effects to kick in anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours and last between 4-7 hours or longer, depending on your dose.
Because the effects of edibles are impacted by so many factors, they can be hard for new cannabis users to dose. If you're new to edibles, remember to start low and go slow. We recommend a starting dose of 2.5-5mg of THC or lower.
Topicals are best for spot-treating muscle aches or other trouble areas. While many topicals can provide immediate relief, the countdown for them to take full effect varies depending on the type of topical and your issue — for example, oil-based topicals may need more time to absorb into the skin and interact with your ECS and surrounding muscles or tissue. Click here to learn more about how topicals work with Hempsley
Try combining methods for best results! Inhaling, edibles, and tinctures are all great options for full-body relief, and topicals are best for relief in one specific area — like that achey knee or tight neck.
1. Choose a way to consume your cannabis
Every method has its pros and cons. Click here to review the details of four popular methods of cannabis consumption. When deciding what product is best for your specific wants and needs, compare onset times and the length and type of effects.
LENGTH OF FX
FULL BODY / TARGETED
If you're a pro at planning ahead, you can experiment with using edibles to fuel your workout. If not, a sublingual or inhalant are better on-the-go options.
LENGTH OF EFFECTS
If you want to get high for your morning workout without flying all day long, inhalants may be a good choice for you. The effects typically peak between 15-60 minutes, so you should be feeling grounded again within a couple of hours.
FULL BODY VS
If you need relief in one specific area of your body while exercising, topicals are the perfect choice. If you're looking for help shifting your mindset around a workout, try a full body method.
2. CONSIDER a CBD:THC ratio
THC can create a high. CBD won't give you a high. Chances are your perfect product will have some of both — and only you can figure out the best ratio for yourself.
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are what determine how "high" you feel.
(AKA TYPE 2)
A popular choice for anyone new to cannabis, these strains create a balanced experience with a mild high effect and relief from symptoms.
A great choice if your ECS needs a boost of THC but you want to stay grounded while you work out.
Keep in mind
CBD is legal everywhere.* THC is not.
Unfortunately, where you live might influence the type of cannabis you have access to. The Farm Bill of 2018 legalized CBD made from hemp at the federal level, but the legality of THC varies by state. *Click here to learn more with Hempsley
Map of Marijuana Legalization by State
3. follow your nose to your favorite terpenes
If you've decided to inhale your cannabis, the final step in choosing the best weed for your workout is finding the perfect mix of terpenes.
Not sure where to start? Just remember that your nose knows! When choosing a strain, sniff a few. If it smells good to you, you'll likely have a positive experience. If it smells bad, you probably won't like its effects.
Terpenes are the compound that give plants their smell and flavor. They are responsible for many of the therapeutic benefits of herbs, and when it comes to the cannabis plant, terpenes play a big role in the specific effects of each different strain.
citrus, tangy, sweet
digestion, anxiety, heartburn, depression, immune system, mood
alertness, pain relief, memory retention, asthma, anxiety
pine, woody, sharp
sharp, diesel, fresh
anxiety, focus, energy, relaxation, sleep
sleep, relaxation, anxiety, depression
floral, sweet, citrus
pain relief, relaxation, muscle tension, depression
earthy, musky, fruity
spicy, peppery, woody
anxiety, pain, depression, inflammation, relaxation, muscle tension
* We love using these terpenes during our workouts! Click here to learn about our favorite strains
Terpinolene is thought to be stimulating when paired with THC, but sedating when isolated
The great debate:
Dispensaries often describe the types of effects a certain strain or product will have with the terms sativa and indica.
Historically, sativa strains did have more energizing terpenes while indica strains had more relaxing terpenes. Now, however, crossbreeding between strains is causing these terpenes to be mixed so much that these classifications are no longer as helpful as before.
Although sativa strains are a good place to start when choosing a strain for your workout, we encourage you to start paying attention to how different terpenes and cannabinoids affect you. This will make it easier to decide which strains are best for tackling your personal physical fitness. Does it give you a burst of energy? Does it help your mind focus, or relax?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the strains when it comes time to buy. While everyone's body reacts to cannabinoids and terpenes differently, many companies have begun collecting data from user reviews to help you know how a strain might affect you. Check out the links below to begin exploring strains!
download your freebie
Tracking your experiences with different products will help you find patterns to recreate — or avoid — experiences in the future. Use our printable journal pages to track your experiences and find what products work best for you.
STONED + TONED FAVORITES
Spoiler alert: Not a lot!
When it comes to cannabis, less really may be more. Remember, cannabis interacts with your ECS — and your ECS is in charge of keeping everything balanced. This means that using more cannabis than you need can be unhelpful and, in extreme cases, even harmful.
How much weed do i need?
Try taking a hit then waiting 5-10 minutes to tune into how you feel before taking another
.25g flower = 1/4 joint = 1-2 vape puffs
For most people, just .25g of flower is plenty.
Tips and Tricks to get the most out of your Stoned + Toned Sesh
Beware of dizziness
drink extra water
start low + go slow
Cannabis can cause slight drops in blood pressure, which can lead to dizziness. Be extra careful during workouts when you're moving from sitting to standing or making other fast changes to your posture, like burpees. Remember to pay attention to your body and take breaks as needed.
THC can cause dry mouth by inhibiting the production of saliva. This is different from being dehydrated, but it can nonetheless be uncomfortable — especially when you're working out. Keep extra water nearby to help quench your thirst.
Remember that you can always take more, but you can't go back! When trying any new product, start with a microdose and slowly increase until you feel the desired effects. For edibles and tinctures, a microdose is 2.5-5mg THC.
1. Douglas, Scott. The Athlete's Guide to CBD. New York, Rodale, 2019.
2. McPartland, J. M., Guy, G. W., & Marzo, V. D. (2014). Care and Feeding of the Endocannabinoid System: A Systematic Review of Potential Clinical Interventions that Upregulate the Endocannabinoid System. PLoS ONE,9(3).
3. Dietrich A, McDaniel WF. Endocannabinoids and exercise. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2004;38:536-541.
4. The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Sari Goldstein Ferber, Dvora Namdar, Danielle Hen-Shoval, Gilad Eger, Hinanit Koltai, Gal Shoval, Liat Shbiro, Aron Weller. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2020 Feb; 18(2): 87–96. Published online 2020 Feb.
5. Frankeberger, Joshua. “Michael Barten Clinical Pharmacist Reviews Cannabis as a Medicine.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Apr. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1zifDibceo.
6. Babson, K. A., Sottile, J., & Morabito, D. (2017, April). Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: A Review of the Literature. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28349316