How Cannabis Can Help Boost Sports Performance

byMarcus Clarke4 minutes

Would you trade in your energy drinks for cannabis? It sounds crazy, and the mental image of a sports team enjoying some marijuana before a game may seem odd. And yet … there may be something to this.

Despite cultural norms and many depictions of cannabis as the best companion for a couch potato, cannabis is a complex substance that holds countless other benefits. Since the cannabinoids in cannabis interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), there’s great potential for marijuana in other areas of our life—including sports. Here’s what you need to know.

Cannabis & Cannabinoids

All strains of cannabis contain cannabinoids, active chemicals that are similar to endocannabinoids that the body produces. They interact with the body’s ECS, which affects different processes like:

  • Movement
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Appetite
  • Memory
  • Pain perception

When cannabinoids interact with the ECS, they may stimulate:

  • Pain relief
  • Appetite
  • Inflammation reduction

One of the primary benefits of cannabis lies in the analgesic effects of cannabinoids. Essentially, cannabis can be a painkiller that lowers inflammation without the side effects of other traditional pain-relief pharmaceuticals.

So it makes sense that cannabis could play a positive role in reducing pain and inflammation associated with high-intensity sports. It may also assist in recovery from serious injuries such as concussions and traumatic brain injuries.


Another way in which cannabis can enhance sports performance is by reducing stress and anxiety associated with high-pressure sporting competitions. The sedative properties of cannabis are beneficial to athletes hoping to unwind, relieve pressure, improve recovery and ensure quality sleep.

In fact, relaxation, pleasure and improved sleep quality were the main motives for cannabis use by athletes from French sport science universities.

Cannabis in Sport

Research hasn’t completely substantiated the potential performance-enhancing effects of cannabis for sport activities, so this is still a topic of hot debate. Plus, despite the fact that adult-use marijuana is now legal nationwide, cannabis is still a banned substance across Canadian sports.

Cannabis continues to hold a place on the prohibited list under the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. And so a Canadian professional athlete who tests positive for cannabis will still be in trouble.

So why ban cannabis if the performance-enhancing effects of the substance seems to be limited to stress and pain relief? After all, sedative and pain medications aren’t generally prohibited.

Sports governing bodies still maintain that cannabis meets the criteria of being against the spirit of sport. Despite legalization, cannabis is still considered an illicit substance, and may be a potential health risk since the results may worsen athletic performance and lower concentration, judgment and focus in sports with a high potential for serious injury.

Although cannabidiol (CBD) oil is no longer a prohibited substance, athletes should proceed with caution as CBD products may contain levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that could result in sanctions or fines at competitive sporting events.

Sports Where Cannabis Could Help Athletes

If you’re a competitive and/or elite athlete, cannabis may not be the solution for your performance-enhancing efforts just yet. Cannabis use that’s detected on game day could get you banned—possibly even for life—and result in a hefty fine.

However, if you’re after a casual day of sports, cannabis may enhance your performance in sport types such as running, boxing and even yoga.

While practicing sports, cannabis may help you:

  • Have a greater awareness about your body and your mind-body connection
  • Raise consciousness and focus while lowering self-consciousness, stress and anxiety
  • Recover without the use of strong anti-inflammatory prescription medications
  • Get a good night’s rest for optimal performance the next day

5 Cannabis Strains That Could Improve Sports Performance

Not all marijuana affects you in the same way, and so it’s important to choose a cannabis strain that will provide you with the uplifting, focus-enhancing and pain-relieving properties optimal for athletes.

Here are a few marijuana strains you may want to try:

  1. Durban Poison: This sativa cannabis strain is perfect for an uplifting, energetic boost. Headed off to meet some new clients on the green for a long day of golfing, and you just can’t seem to muster up any energy? Durban Poison will get you through it and may even help you get that hole in one.
  2. Harlequin: This strain’s low levels of THC mean little psychoactive effect and maximum pain relief. This, paired with good levels of focus for activities such as strength training, make Harlequin a great marijuana strain to start with if you’re new to using the plant for improved sports performance.
  3. Cotton Candy Kush: A high-THC, hybrid strain like Cotton Candy Kush will leave you with feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Sweet berry and floral flavours will have you unrolling your yoga mat with glee.
  4. Jack Herer: Getting into a sport that demands extreme mental and physical focus? Jack Herer improves concentration while providing clarity and elevated energy levels, so it’s great for an adrenaline-inducing snowboard session or other high-intensity sports.
  5. Bubba Kush: After a rough day of physical activity, Bubba Kush is just what you need to unwind and recover. This indica cannabis strain has great tranquilizing effects. And it will help you get that necessary, deep, recovery sleep while your head fills with dreams of your sporting success.

Photo credit: mentatdgt