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Cannabis & Athletes : Can It Enhance Your Performance?



Cannabis has been considered a wonder drug for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations across the world have praised its medical benefits, including the ancient Chinese and Egyptians. Today, cannabis can be used to treat a wide range of diseases and conditions, including cancer pain and multiple sclerosis. But was this plant used by athletes as well? And what are some of the health benefits associated with using cannabis as an athlete? Let's take a look at how this magical herb can help you perform better on the field or court!


Cannabis and Athletic Performance


Cannabis has been used throughout history as an athletic performance enhancer by many, including Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis and Jim Thorpe.


In fact, cannabis was once legal in the United States until 1937 when it was outlawed by the Marijuana Tax Act. Cannabis remains illegal under federal law today but is decriminalized in many states and countries across the globe.


There are many reasons why marijuana is banned from sporting events but there’s also scientific evidence that shows how cannabis can help athletes perform better on their respective fields of play.


When it comes to cannabis and athletics, there are two types of athletes: those who use it as a performance enhancer and those who don’t. Cannabis can help some athletes perform better on the field but has little effect on others. The reason for this is because cannabis affects everyone differently, depending on their physiology, psychology and mood state at the time of consumption.


A Brief History of Cannabis and Athletics


The use of cannabis has been documented in many cultures throughout history, but perhaps none more so than the athletic community. Athletes have used cannabis for centuries to enhance their performance, whether it be to help them relax before a competition or to give them an edge over their opponents.


Ancient Greece and Rome have both been credited with inventing many of today’s most popular sports and games. Ancient Greeks were known for being great athletes who used cannabis during training sessions as well as during competitions themselves. We know this thanks to one particular statue called “The Discobolus” (or discus thrower), which shows an athlete with a pipe in his mouth that historians believe contained cannabis sativa—a strain of marijuana found throughout Asia and Europe that produces psychoactive effects when smoked or ingested orally.


During the 19th century there was also a large amount of research done on using hemp seeds (which contain very little THC) in order to improve muscular strength and energy levels among athletes who were preparing for competition; however, these studies weren't conclusive enough at the time so they never really caught on with mainstream audiences until later decades when medical marijuana became available legally across North America again after Prohibition ended back in 1933!


Cannabis for anxiety


The world of professional sports is rife with anxiety. It’s a competitive field, and the pressure to perform at your peak can be intense. As an athlete, you want to be at your best when you hit the field or court—and when it comes down to it, you need all the help that you can get in order to do so.


That’s where cannabis comes in! It has been shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety, which is one of the most common mental health problems among athletes. In fact, according to The Journal of Neuroscience Research: “Cannabis use has been linked with reduced stress levels and enhanced performance in high-pressure situations like those found on athletic fields and courts.


How does cannabis work? According to Mental Health America: “CBD works by binding with receptors in our body called cannabinoid receptors 1 & 2 (CB1R & CB2R). These receptors are found throughout our body—in organs including lungs and liver as well as brain regions such as hippocampus (memory center) and cerebellum (movement control center). When these receptors are activated they help reduce pain sensation by slowing down how fast our bodies process pain signals from injured areas.


Reaching peak performance, with weed?


Cannabis has a long and storied history as an aide to athletes, some of whom have been known to use it as a performance-enhancing drug. In fact, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) didn't ban THC until 2005.


In recent years, cannabis has become more accepted in professional sports due to its potential benefits such as reducing anxiety during competitions and helping injured players recover faster than they would otherwise.


But how exactly does cannabis work within the body? Well, there are two main ways that cannabis interacts with our systems: physically and mentally/emotionally.


Physically, cannabis can help athletes by reducing anxiety and improving coordination and reaction time. The reason for this is that the active compounds in cannabis, called cannabinoids, bind to receptors in our bodies called CB1 receptors. These receptors are found throughout the body and brain, including in regions associated with motor control and emotional regulation.


The most famous cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is why it's so well known. THC activates CB1 receptors, which can have a number of effects. For example, when you take a hit of cannabis, you might experience feelings of euphoria and relaxation because these receptors are located throughout your brainstem and cerebellum.


CBD, on the other hand, isn't psychoactive. It doesn't bind to CB1 receptors as strongly as THC does, which means it won't make you feel "high." Instead, CBD can help reduce inflammation and pain in your muscles or joints. This is why so many people use CBD for chronic pain management—it's non-intoxicating yet still effective at reducing discomfort.


CBD is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. It helps regulate the production of cytokines, which are proteins that cause inflammation. By reducing the amount of cytokines in your body, CBD can help reduce pain and swelling caused by injuries or disease.


How Athletes Use Cannabis


Athletes are using cannabis for all kinds of reasons. But how do you know if it's the right choice for you?

  • Smoking or vaping. You might be familiar with smoking and vaping as ways to consume cannabis, but there are other methods that may be more appropriate depending on your needs and preferences. The different methods can also affect how fast the effects kick in, so it’s important to keep track of how long each method takes before deciding which one works best for you.

  • Edibles or tinctures. There are plenty of reasons why athletes prefer edibles over smoking or vaping, especially because some athletes don’t like the smell/taste of weed and might not want people nearby knowing they’re getting high (or just don’t want their sweat smelling like it). This can also make it easier when traveling since edibles don't require any special equipment—just some food!

The downside is that the effects of edibles can take anywhere from an hour to four hours to kick in, so it’s important to know how long each method takes before choosing one over the other. Sublingual sprays or gums are another option for athletes who need fast-acting relief but don't want their hands getting sticky with oil or wax. This method also allows you to control exactly how much THC you're taking in at any given time since the dose is measured out beforehand.


What the Studies Say


While there is a lot of research that has been done on the effects of cannabis on athletic performance, it's important to remember that cannabis is still illegal in most places. Many athletes don't want to risk losing their careers by getting into trouble with the law.


But if you can get your hands on some high-quality cannabis and are willing to take the risks associated with breaking laws across state lines or international borders (or even breaking laws within your own country), then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try using it before or during training sessions or competitions. You might find yourself feeling more relaxed, less anxious, and ready to perform better than ever before!


Is research on cannabis and athletic performance reliable?


There are many reasons why cannabis research is limited, including the fact that it's still federally illegal in the United States and many other countries around the world. As a result, funding for studies on cannabis is often limited to private sources or university grants.


This can also make it difficult to conduct large-scale clinical trials with a diverse sample size of athletes who use different strains and methods of consumption. It's also important to note that most studies don't use sport-specific training protocols—they simply test participants while they're working out or playing sports without setting up any parameters beforehand (like how much rest someone gets between sets).


Cautions for athletes using cannabis


Cannabis consumption is not without its side effects, and those may have an impact on your athletic performance.

  • Cannabis can cause paranoia and anxiety. If you're feeling anxious before a game or competition, cannabis could make that worse. The psychoactive compounds in marijuana can also affect decision-making skills—so if you're high and need to make split-second decisions during playtime (like when to throw the ball), it might not be a great idea.

  • Cannabis can cause dizziness and nausea. Cannabis affects everyone differently; some people may feel less than confident in their ability to complete physical tasks under the influence of cannabis. It's also important to note that nausea is a common side effect associated with cannabis use—and while you might think this would help build up an appetite prior to exercising, it may actually throw off your digestive system and keep you from getting enough nutrients during exercise sessions!

  • Cannabis can cause impaired reaction time. This one probably goes without saying: being high while exercising isn't going to help anyone perform at their best level of play! If anything else affects how quickly players react (such as pain or stress) then adding another factor could really decrease performance outcomes overall.


Though some athletes have used it to cope with stress, there is no scientific evidence that THC enhances performance.


Though some athletes have used it to cope with stress, there is no scientific evidence that THC enhances performance. In fact, there are many risks associated with using cannabis.

  • Cannabis can be addictive. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that 9 percent of people who use pot will develop an addiction to marijuana within one year. And according to a 2010 article in the New York Times by Dr. Eric Vittinghoff, professor of health research and policy at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, “When people start using [pot], they think they’re going to be able to control their use and decide when they want to stop, but often what happens is that their lives become controlled by this drug instead."

  • Using too much cannabis can lead to weakened immune system function and increase your risk for heart attack or stroke (American Heart Association). In addition, it may impair your motor skills and cause psychosis (National Institute on Drug Abuse).


Conclusion


While cannabis is not the new energy drink for athletes, it does appear to have some benefits for those who suffer from anxiety. While there’s no scientific evidence that THC enhances performance, CBD may be able to help with recovery after intense training sessions.

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