By / September 28, 2023

Athletes and Cannabis – Does it Aid in Recovery After Training?

A newly published study on athletes and cannabis, conducted by researchers at Kent State University, has set out to determine whether the use of cannabidiol (CBD) and/or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) “has the potential to enhance recovery after physical exertion.”

Study’s Purpose

The scientists stated that the athletes and cannabis study aimed to find out if people use CBD and/or THC for recovery after aerobic and/or strength exercises, as well as to understand other methods that might aid in recovery.

An anonymous survey covered 111 participants who “regularly used cannabis (CBD and/or THC) while also exercising.” Questions revolved around the extent of cannabis use, methods of consumption, exercise habits, recovery strategies, and demographic data.

“Eighty-five percent of participants in the athletes and cannabis study engaged in aerobic training. Likewise, the same percentage regularly did strength training. Seventy-two percent practiced both aerobic and strength training. Ninety-three percent felt that CBD helped them in recovery after workouts, while 87% had the same feelings for THC,” the researchers reported.

“Those regularly using cannabis, whether CBD or THC, and consistently exercising believe that cannabis helps them in recovery post-exertion. More data is needed to understand the role of cannabis in post-exercise recovery and the perceived benefits of its use by those regularly exercising and using cannabis,” they summarized.

Athletes and Cannabis

Even world-class athletes have long used cannabis, often preferring it over alcohol as it doesn’t result in a hangover. With changing cannabis regulations in the United States, professional sports leagues have also been adjusting their rules to accomodate athletes and cannabis.

NBA legend Kevin Durant revealed this summer that he personally urged league commissioner Adam Silver to lift the athletes and cannabis ban.

“I personally called him, urging him to remove cannabis from the list of banned substances,” said Durant, star of the Phoenix Suns, during a CNBC-organized conference.

The NBA and its players’ union earlier this year reached a new collective agreement that eliminated athletes and cannabis tests.

The researchers from Kent State University expressed that evolving norms and regulations regarding athletes and cannabis in the U.S. prompted their survey.

“Over the past decade, cannabis use has become more common in the U.S., both for medical and recreational purposes. In 2021, 52.5 million people in the U.S. admitted to using cannabis in the past year, accounting for 18.7% of the country’s population,” they wrote. “Cannabis plants consist of various cannabinoid compounds, mainly cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which bind to endocannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2). Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t produce psychotropic effects. However, it’s shown to activate the parasympathetic system, leading to reduced heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and dilation of blood vessels. THC, on the other hand, increases sympathetic system activity, which results in increased heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and vasoconstriction.”

Athletes and Cannabis – Potential Benefits

The researchers noted that “both CBD and THC have the potential to enhance recovery after aerobic and strength exercises due to their analgesic, anti-inflammatory properties, and ability to improve sleep quality.”

“Both compounds have also helped in the perceptible reduction of pain in chronic pain patients, while a single intake of CBD has shown to mitigate muscle damage post strength training in regularly training men and women. Data from surveys among active sportspeople and athletes indicated that people use cannabis for post-exercise recovery, muscle pain relief, reducing inflammation, and improving sleep quality,” the athletes and cannabis research team added.

(Featured image by CRYSTALWEED cannabis via Unsplash)

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