Working Out High: Should You Add Weed to Your Exercise Routine?
If cannabis is so much praised for its health benefits and makes everything better, does that mean working out high will help us grow bigger muscles and run faster? Or will it make us lose our focus and drop the weights, i.e., fall off the treadmill?
To see if using cannabis can really work out for you (pun intended), we’ll first take a look at what forms there are and how sportspeople and the common folk have been using it.
Next, we’ll inspect the benefits of working out like this, as well as all the possible risks involved. Marijuana is said to give you powerful gym sessions, yet not every strain will do that for you! What’s more, working out while high could cause some issues with high blood pressure if you’re prone to such a condition.
With the plant getting more and more public endorsement from famous athletes, we conducted a thorough inspection to see just how safe or beneficial it would be for you in this case — namely, doing an exercise routine while being high as a kite.
Getting High Checking Points
Before we delve further into the matter, let’s clear the air.
What we are dealing with here implies getting THC intoxicated. Marijuana and exercise go hand in hand regarding the advantages of its most popular cannabinoid — CBD. Cannabidiol is excellent both for the performance and the recovery process, but this time, it’s THC that takes precedence.
To get high, you have to allow your body a suitable amount of THC. By federal law, anything above 0.3% THC is considered marijuana, yet personal thresholds normally need a slightly higher percentage than 0.3%.
So, if exercising or going to the gym high is your goal, the following factors matter.
Frequency of Getting Stoned
Is this your first time trying pot, or do you have some experience under your belt? When was the last time you consumed marijuana? Is smoking weed your job? Were you exposed to second-hand smoke? How often do you use weed — daily, weekly, or once a month?
All of these factors matter. You may be under the impression that THC detox did the trick, but being in the company of a pot smoker can make you high too and store that THC neatly in your fat tissue. As a result, your exercise euphoria could be caused by “leftover” THC, which gets released from fat cells during exercise.
Speaking of fat tissue and body mass, you are probably very much aware (or even self-conscious) of it if you’re a regular gym rat.
At the moment, there are no conclusive dosage recommendations but the overall impact of weed depends on:
- overall health
- ECS (endocannabinoid system)
Until cannabis is legalized or more research is approved, there are no strict guidelines, so monitor yourself closely to get the idea of how much is enough.
If you’re keen on working out high on weed, will you smoke, eat, vape, or use THC oil sublingually?
- Vaping — a vaporizer should get you more THC than smoking cannabis. It’s extremely fast and efficient, but regarding the EVALI (lung vaping disease) and the CDC warning, it’s recommendable to stay away from it. Apparently, low-quality THC fillers with Vitamin E are to blame, but we are waiting for more news.
- Sublingual method — fairly easy to dose. THC enters the bloodstream and starts to “work” within a couple of minutes. Be careful not to swallow the marijuana oil.
- Eating or drinking — for working out high, this is the least recommended method. It’s much better after a workout. Since the onset time is somewhere between 20 minutes and two hours, it’s really hard to say when you’re going to feel the hit. What’s more, the THC dosage per edible is not easily determined if you, for example, make cookies in your own kitchen.
- Smoking — during the process, some 60 to 63% of THC is lost, mostly due to the burning process (in comparison, a vaporizer loses 46%). Smoking weed and working out is extremely popular. There are even yoga classes that include taking a puff before sun salutes. Effects: within a few minutes.
- Topicals — utterly inefficient for the purpose. Creams and lotions provide local relief, and a person will hardly get euphoric from rubbing in a marijuana cream.
Finally, don’t get these instructions confused with how long marijuana stays in your system. That’s a whole different story.
Knowing how much THC makes you high and how long you can remain like that is what you need to know before entering the workout mode.
Now, let’s see if weed improves or worsens the performance.
The Truth About Running While High
Ah, the famous runner’s high! You’ve heard of it, probably even felt it, but why does it happen? And will you get even better effects with the intoxicating benefits of weed?
Why We Run
Scientists say that we get to the happy place during our runs thanks to our ancestors.
Namely, a long time ago, we used to run to catch our dinner or to get away from danger. In both cases, the faster we ran, the better we felt.
Normally, in order for the feeling of bliss to overwhelm us and make us forget the effort, we have to run at an ideal pace — not too strenuous, but not too easy either.
Pros Like Smoking Weed and Running
Running high on pot is similar to the regular “runner’s high,” as reported by professional athletes.
A number of serious, outstanding runners such as Avery Collins, Jenn Shelton, and Clifford Drusinsky agree that taking marijuana helps them achieve that high faster, even intensify it. Some say marijuana provides them with a truly profound experience, elevating their performance to a whole new level, which is quite impressive knowing this comes from professional runners.
Weed runners praise the plant for new sensations, vibrations, and even indulging in music more.
Weed and Running Scientific Facts
Can science prove the positive impacts, or is weed for running just word-of-mouth marketing? Yes, it can!
There are two ways of achieving exercise high:
- Endorphins are produced during a good run. They’re the compounds responsible for making us feel happy and satisfied with ourselves. German scientists were finally able to confirm the endorphin-producing location and they found that the prefrontal and limbic regions of our brains exude endorphins during a run that is challenging enough.
- A 2003 study confirmed a good run with sufficient stress (75–85% of your potential) produces more endocannabinoids. Similarly, smoking weed before running gives us extra cannabinoids. An endocannabinoid called anandamide, aka the “bliss” molecule, was found in the blood of runners and cyclists after a session. It is said to be similar to THC in the way it affects us and binds to the ECS receptors. In a nutshell, exercise activates our endocannabinoid system in a fairly similar way to marijuana.
For these reasons, it is argued that running and being high seems pretty much the same to the brain, which confirms the athlete’s stories about running and cannabis.
Before and After
Weed running needn’t be all about getting high before the run. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects, marijuana is more than helpful in the recovery process.
According to a survey done on cannabis users in legalized states who work out regularly and use cannabis before and after workouts, they exercised 43 minutes longer than the non-users.
Thus, weed can be good both for achieving motivation, running for longer, and speeding up the recovery process.
Is Lifting While High Dangerous?
Any serious weightlifter remembers that moment when Arnold Swartzeneger lit that joint in Pumping Iron. So, should you do it too? Well, not before your gym session!
Regarding anecdotal evidence, some claim that marijuana helps them focus on their sets. However, others point out that cannabis (smoking) and exercise is acceptable if you’re doing simple sets, as opposed to deadlifts, for example. Perhaps the best summary comes in an example of a bodybuilder who admitted having completely forgotten to work out after smoking a joint!
To this end, smoking weed before working out with heavy weights is not what we would advise you to do.
Steer clear of lifting weights while you’ve got high levels of THC in your bloodstream and while feeling stoned. Weight lifting exercises can be extremely complex, requiring you to use loads of different muscles and demanding complete activity. Even a simple squat is demanding enough. Therefore, if you wish to remain healthy, or even alive, avoid working out high in the case of lifting. The higher the weight, the more susceptible you become to injury.
Sadly, there hasn’t been a scientific study targeting weight lifters or one that monitors the performance output of serious weight lifting sessions.
Conversely, getting high after the session is something entirely different. It’s becoming increasingly popular as it boosts your appetite — helping you eat all those extra calories — relieves pain, fatigue, and fights inflammation.
Pros and Cons of Working Out High
How does weed fare when it comes to performance, motivation, muscle building, and recovery?
According to a couple of old studies from the 80s, smoking marijuana with a distinctive level of THC results in more or less reduced performance. The peak work capacity was lower in groups that used cannabis. In some, grip strength remained the same, whereas in others a finger ergograph test demonstrated weakness.
Likewise, a more recent report by Jordan Tishler, MD, a Harvard graduate, argues smoking weed before a workout does not reap benefits with difficult and unpredictable exercises. A 2017 study focusing solely on THC did not find it performance-enhancing.
In contrast, a more recent French study has shown that THC is a great motivator as it triggers pregnenolone production, giving us more endurance and energy.
Marijuana and Motivation
In one experiment, mice that had their CB1 cannabinoid receptors blocked were 80% less inclined to go for a run when provoked, compared to the regular members of the species.
Mark Ware, a professor at Canada’s McGill University, explains that cannabis helps marathon runners “stay in the zone” while at the same time making the run more enjoyable.
Therefore, cannabis and exercise motivation go hand in hand. If you’re feeling sluggish and not in the mood for exercise, boosting your ECS with some endocannabinoids should do the trick.
How to Get Buff with Marijuana
Cannabis and gains summary goes like this:
- By diminishing painful sensations, cannabis should help us go the extra mile and train harder, thus building more muscles. Ex-NFL offensive lineman Eben Britton suggests marijuana helps him perform better sets.
- Testosterone is an important hormone for muscle growth, but opinions differ on how cannabis and testosterone are connected, i.e., when/if it affects the hormone levels.
- Smoking weed after working out aids the healing process. Marijuana reduces the effects of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), i.e., it prevents muscle damage, and helps you get back to the gym sooner and gain more muscle.
Being high may not always help you do your best during runs or sets, but CBD and THC are beneficial in several ways. They ease pain, they have anti-oxidative properties, they relieve tension, and enhance sleep.
A lot of athletes also love CBD protein bars that are THC-free and therefore easier to buy on the market.
To get that workout high, you can work out the old-fashioned way or you could use some weed for the purpose. Jokes aside, there are pros and cons of working out under the influence of cannabis.
On the one side, taking CBD and THC in some form should make long runs more enjoyable and provide more energy and enthusiasm. Moderation is key, so don’t think you can have a powerful strain like Gorilla Glue without consequences.
On the other, though, working out high can be extremely dangerous for some other types of fitness. Complex exercises involving lots of muscle groups that require your utmost attention should not be performed under the influence. Remember, your brain is pretty active even during a simple, low-weight Romanian deadlift.
To sum up, take great care! If unsure, you can always opt for getting high afterward and still get to enjoy those sweet gains.
Why do I feel high after working out?
Because you managed to strike the right balance between your efforts and your level of fitness.
In order for endorphins and anandamide to be produced, you have to balance the levels of stress with your stamina. Endorphins are released as a response to such stress or pain and they make us feel happy. Anandamide is also produced while we work out. The “bliss molecule” acts similarly to THC as it binds to ECS receptors, decreasing the feelings of worry and increasing pleasant feelings.
What are the benefits of working out high?
Weed runners praise cannabis for several reasons. First, it improves the overall experience as it helps them keep the required rhythm and remain interested even in long, exhausting marathon runs. Secondly, those who enjoy listening to music find that marijuana enhances the whole listening experience and makes them more in sync.
Is smoking after a workout bad?
Be it cannabis or tobacco, smoking immediately post-workout is a definite no-no. The first thing you ought to do after a strenuous exercise is to provide your body with enough oxygen and simply calm down, which won’t be achieved if you light a joint or a cigarette. Moreover, smoking marijuana will probably increase your heart rate when, in fact, you want the exact opposite of that.
Smoking cannabis can also be used as a recovery treatment, but only after you’re completely done with the whole exercising process. In short, there’s no rush.
Does working out high burn more calories?
Theoretically speaking, if cannabis is proven to be beneficial to your insulin levels and how your body processes sugar, then it should better your overall metabolism.
As a matter of fact, scientists are more focused on the alternate uses of marijuana which help us lose fat. Also, using marijuana for sleep helps reduce stress and cortisol levels. High levels of the latter are responsible for fat stores and excess fat moving through our body, which may eventually lead to obesity.
Do you get more high after working out or not?
Apparently, you do!
A recent Australian study mentions an experiment in which THC levels were measured before and after spending 35 minutes on a stationary bike. The participants’ THC levels were higher by 15% after the exercise!
The extra THC probably came from the fat cells. Basically, when you intake THC, one part of it remains in your body — safely stored in fat cells. This is how it is possible for THC to appear on a drug test even if you haven’t smoked in months!
Can you sweat out THC or is it just a myth?
When you’re trying to pass a test after using marijuana, exercise can help. We have explained what happens in the previous section — THC, which is neatly stored in fat cells, gets released into the blood during your exercise.
Technically, most of the THC is excreted through urine (35%) and feces (65%), sweating out THC releases only a small portion. Nevertheless, exercise does speed up the whole process of getting THC out of your fat cells.
Of course, exercising right before a drug test is far from recommendable, unless you wish for higher THC levels to appear!
Does exercise make you higher?
It surely does! However, that doesn’t always have to do something with with marijuana or THC.
Provided that you balance your energy levels and the effort right, an exercise that is challenging yet not too demanding will help you reach that blissful state of satisfaction after or during a good workout.
Exercise releases dopamine, endorphins, anandamide — the feel-good substances “guilty” of making you feel elated.