Can Cannabis Make You a Better Athlete?

Recently ClearHealthLife published an explosive article revealing University of Hawaii’s greatest quarterback, Colt Brennan, admitted to using cannabis before every junior college, college and professional game.

Cannabis King Colt Brennan. Hawaii's Greatest Quarterback
Cannabis King Colt Brennan. Hawaii’s Greatest Quarterback

Football is king in Hawai’i. Brennan’s revelation caused much cognitive dissonance and consternation in the heavily Asian American population that is anti-cannabis. Fans cheered Colt for years. Unknowingly, they were applauding cannabis use.

Asians and Respondents Over 50 Most Likely to Oppose Recreational Cannabis
Asians and Respondents Over 50 Most Likely to Oppose Recreational Cannabis

As more states offer medical cannabis and are moving to legalize recreational cannabis, society has become more accepting of cannabis use. The truth is coming out.

The NFL is now offering $1,000,000 grants to study medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid and other pain medications.

NFL Requests Proposals to Study Medical Cannabis
NFL Requests Proposals to Study Medical Cannabis

Josiah Hesse, a journalist who lives in Colorado, never voluntarily exercised a day in his life until he turned 30, when he decided to start doing it for health reasons. But right away, he hated working out.

“When I first started running, I couldn’t run a single block,” he said. “It hurt and my lungs burned.”

Then one day he took a cannabis-infused edible before going out for a run and his previously excruciating workout felt euphoric. “I felt like I weighed 50 pounds,” he said. “Running up a hill became an easy, playful experience. With the right soundtrack it was so much fun. It became the highlight of my day.”

Soon, Mr. Hesse met other runners and athletes who described having similar experiences with cannabis. That led him to write “Runner’s High,” scheduled to be published in September, which explores what he calls the “hidden culture” of cannabis use among recreational and elite athletes who routinely engage in stoned workouts.

For his book, Mr. Hesse interviewed bodybuilders and endurance athletes who rely on cannabis to stimulate their appetites so they can keep on weight. He spoke to athletes who have claimed it helps them recover from tough workouts, reduces their pain and improves their sleep. But the most common refrain from athletes who use cannabis was that it helped calm their nerves and alleviate anxiety.

“What I heard so often from athletes who use cannabis is the phrase ‘dialed in,’” he said. “They become myopically focused on the task at hand. Any anxiety that they have about thousands or millions of people watching them, about their careers being at stake, or whether that injury from last year is going to hold up — it all melts away.”

When Sha’Carri Richardson, the star American sprinter, was denied a spot in the Tokyo Olympics this month after testing positive for THC, it reignited the debate around cannabis and performance enhancement among elite athletes. More broadly, however, is there any value for the average person to mix exercise and pot?

She'Carri Richardson banned for using medical cannabis due to death of her mother. Grew Berry disrespects America.
She’Carri Richardson banned for using medical cannabis due to death of her mother. Grew Berry disrespects America.

Cannabis is not a performance enhancer.

Although cannabis is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, there’s no scientific evidence it can make people bigger, stronger or faster athletes. If anything, cannabis — the scientific name for the hemp plant, from which marijuana is derived — has a reputation for decreasing athletic performance.

NOTE: ClearHealthLife does not prefer to use the term “marijuana.” This is slang and created in the 1930s to demonize both Black and Brown immigrants fleeing to the U.S. Some consider “marijuana” to be a racist label.

Research suggests that, for competitive athletes, cannabis can be a double-edged sword. In some of the earliest studies looking at its effects on exercise, scientists found that when they assigned healthy volunteers to smoke cannabis and then perform strength and exercise tests, the cannabis spiked their heart rates, increased their blood pressure levels and hampered their ability to exercise.

Many of the studies that followed were small, not very rigorous or performed on animals. But overall, their findings suggest that cannabis use does not improve strength or exercise endurance.

“If you look at any test of physical performance, there’s either no data, it’s a wash, or cannabis makes it worse,” said Dr. Michael J. Joyner, an exercise physiologist and anesthesiologist who studies elite athletes at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Dr. Joyner said there might be some objective but minor physical of cannabis in certain sports. World Archery, the international federation for the Olympic sport of archery, bans alcohol from competitions because it could help to steady an archer’s hand. Cannabis could potentially offer a similar advantage in sports that require such feats. But there is no real data to support that.

For cannabis users, experts say consider the risks.

There are also some potential health concerns surrounding cannabis, experts say, especially for athletes who smoke it. According to the American Lung Association, cannabis smoke contains many of the same toxins and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.

ClearHealthLife disputes this claim. A cannabis user might take 10-15 puffs once or twice daily. A smoker tends to smoke a pack (20 cigarettes) a day. Although there are decades of researching establishing a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, scientists do not find similar associations with smoking cannabis.

And since cannabis smokers tend to inhale deeply and hold their breath longer than people who smoke cigarettes, they can be exposed to more tar. “Smoking cannabis clearly damages the human lung,” the lung association states. “Regular use leads to chronic bronchitis and can cause an immune-compromised person to be more susceptible to lung infections.”

ClearHealthLife supports the claim regular use can lead to more bronchitis and increased susceptibility to lung infections. Yet there has not been a discovered association between cannabis smoking and COVID19, which harshly impacts the lungs.

Scientists say there are mental health risks as well, especially for people who start using cannabis as teenagers or young adults.

This claim remains disputed. It’s a chicken v egg argument. Do people with mental health issues seek substances such as alcohol, tobacco and cannabis? Or do these substances lead to mental health issues? Association does not confirm causation. Second, all activists support restriction on alcohol, tobacco and cannabis for youngsters. Brains are developing. ClearHealthLife urges young people to allow themselves time to mature safely.

Studies suggest that early exposure to cannabis can lead people to experiment with harder drugs, and a 2017 report by the prestigious National Academy of Medicine concluded that cannabis use increases the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses. Some people may be more susceptible because of genetics or other factors.

The Gateway Drug theory has been debunked years ago. In fact, research is overwhelming today that cannabis helps people EXIT the use of many dangerous drugs, such as opioids.

Studies show that cannabis can also worsen people’s reaction time and hamper their decision-making abilities. That can be dangerous in situations where there is a high risk of serious physical injury, whether it is driving a car, lifting heavy weights or cycling along the shoulder of a busy road.

Best research today comes from the Department of Transportation (2017, 2019). Using controlled-track driving as well as simulators, the DOT found a driver “high” on cannabis was impaired similar to having a beer or glass of wine — about 0.05% BAC, which is below the standard measure of legal intoxication of 0.08% BAC.

In addition, would a star quarterback for the University of Hawai’i and NFL be able to perform, fooling teammates, coaches and fans, for years if cannabis worsened reaction times and hampered decision making? Not likely! Athletes are under intense scrutiny and observation.

So, why have cannabis workouts become popular?

Still, the potential health risks and lack of evidence for performance benefits have not deterred some athletes and exercise aficionados from exercising while high — and swearing that cannabis enhances their workouts.

In a 2019 study published in the journal PLOS One, 26% of 1,161 self-identified athletes, mostly runners, cyclists and triathletes, reported that they were current users of cannabis. Some smoked it, while others consumed it as edibles or rubbed it on their bodies as creams.

Around 70% of the athletes said that it helped them sleep or alleviated pain stemming from tough workouts and other activities. Almost 60% said cannabis calmed them down.

In another 2019 survey, Angela Bryan, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, and her colleagues recruited about 600 regular cannabis users and quizzed them on their use of the drug.

Dr. Bryan suspected that cannabis would make people less physically active. But to her surprise, roughly half of the people in the study said cannabis motivated them to exercise. More than 80% of cannabis users said they regularly used it around the time of their workouts. Seventy percent said cannabis increased their enjoyment of exercise, and roughly 80% said that it helped them recover.

“It was a pretty strong relationship and pretty common to use cannabis either before or after exercise,” Dr. Bryan said. Studies suggest cannabis may help some people fall asleep faster, and there is modest but limited evidence from clinical trials that cannabis reduces pain and inflammation. “It’s probably not surprising that people are using it in that context,” she added.

For the most part, research on cannabis and its effects on exercise has been somewhat limited by its status as a Schedule 1 drug.

“The federal legal status means that we can’t have it on campus or prescribe it or even tell people what to use,” Dr. Bryan said. “We are not allowed to give them anything.”

That has constrained Dr. Bryan’s ability to examine more closely how cannabis influences exercise, metabolic health and inflammation, since she cannot bring people to her lab, give them an edible and run experiments on them.

She and her colleagues, however, have devised a way to get around this. Using a mobile lab, they drive to the homes of people who regularly use cannabis, taking blood samples from the subjects and running tests on them before and after they use the drug. “They tell us what they use and then we quantify the THC and CBD in their blood for an objective level,” she said.

Next, the subjects show up at the lab on different days to run on a treadmill, sometimes after they have used cannabis and other times after they’ve abstained. A few things Dr. Bryan and her colleagues are looking into is whether cannabis affects how much pain and pleasure people experience while exercising and whether it influences their perception of time.

“When we talk to endurance athletes who do a four-hour run or bike ride,” she said, “they tell us that cannabis makes the time go faster and it feels less boring.”

The post Can [Marijuana] Cannabis Make You a Better Athlete? appeared first on New York Times.

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“I Believe We Can”

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