Have you ever thought about consuming marijuana before going on a run? If you're like most people, the idea is practically laughable. Many of the stereotypes people associate with cannabis is that it encourages consumers to spend days lounging on the couch watching Netflix rather than going to the gym for a strenuous workout.
But according to some studies, that stereotype may be on its death bed. Research suggests cannabis may actually support athletic endeavors, helping people lose weight and stay trim. In fact, "runner's high" may mean something entirely different than previously thought. Here's what you need to know:
Cannabis & Runner's High
You've probably heard the term "runner's high," a phrase used to describe the endorphin boost runners get during intense workouts. Recent research has proven, though, it's not just endorphins that make athletes feel so good after some hard exercise. Exercise actually stimulates the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex mesh of cells and receptors that process compounds found within the body called endocannabinoids. It also processes the compounds—or cannabinoids—found within marijuana like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). This can help boost the body's ability to fight pain, control appetite, enhance mood and build memories.
In addition to stimulating the ECS, the body produces its own endocannabinoids during intense workouts. This can lead to a boost in mood and the "high" feeling after exercise ends.
Marijuana Can Provide an Athletic Boost Weeks After Consumption
The journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence published a study that showed THC stored in the bodies of athletes is re-introduced into the bloodstream after a workout for as long as 28 days after the cannabis is consumed. This is because THC is fat-soluble, which means it's stored in the body's fat reserves. When the body burns fat via exercise, minuscule levels of THC are re-released into the bloodstream, where they remain for up to two hours following the workout's conclusion.
Cannabis Can Help Athletes Burn Fat
While it's common knowledge exercise can help the body burn and resist fat, research shows cannabis may also be an important tool in the fight against expanding waistlines.
According to a 2013 study in The American Journal of Medicine, people who consume cannabis on a regular basis have lower insulin levels (about 16% lower) than people who don't. Regular consumers also have much lower rates of insulin resistance and smaller waist circumferences than those who don't ingest marijuana.
These findings are likely due to the fact that cannabinoids contained within cannabis help regulate the body's metabolic function and insulin levels. Insulin is a complex hormone that controls the way the body's cells use sugar to produce energy. People who consume excess sugar will likely gain weight and may eventually suffer from conditions like diabetes. Since marijuana helps control insulin function, however, it can stave off weight gain and help people stay slim and healthy.
Future Potential of Marijuana Medication for Healthier Bodies
While we've known for years that cannabis can help soothe everything from pain to anxiety, the studies showing cannabis can actually help people lose weight and exercise more efficiently may pave the way for new medicinal uses down the road. Before we know it, marijuana may well become the next performance-enhancing supplement for dedicated athletes in all disciplines.
Photo credit: Nourdine Diouane