While certain sports seasons have a definite beginning and end, the world of athletics keeps going year-round. All over the globe, sports teams are gearing up for skirmishes, runners are hitting the pavement, children are playing soccer, and friends are meeting up for a quick hike in their local park. Whether they are professional athletes with big contracts or elderly practitioners of tai-chi, many people are turning to medical cannabis to enhance their body’s natural performance levels. The fact is that the properties of medical cannabis (also known as medical marijuana) can help athletes of all levels of ability to train better and recover faster. Let’s toss aside the ridiculous stereotype of the overweight, lazy cannabis user and take a look at 5 ways that medical cannabis actually improves athletic performance at all levels of ability.
- Reduces Inflammation: One of the most exciting things about cannabis is that it reduces muscle and joint inflammation. Multiple studies have found that CBD, one of the main chemical compounds in cannabis, helps to relieve inflammatory issues not only for minor injuries but for more serious autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s and Lupus as well. Cannabis topical compounds, such as oils and salves, can be applied directly to an inflamed area without smoking it or getting “high”.
- Pain Relief: Cannabis has been known for its pain relieving properties for thousands of years now and pain relief is another area where medical cannabis research is yielding exciting results. Medical cannabis can help patients dealing with pain ranging from acute pain to chronic pain without the harmful side effects and habit-forming properties associated with pharmaceutical painkillers. When orally ingested- as in the form of edibles, full extract oils, or as a tincture– cannabis is not addictive and does not have unpleasant side effects when taken at a responsible dosage. The strain and dosage matters. A strain high in indica, for example, is naturally sedating and helpful in relieving aches and pains.
- Muscle Spasms: Another wonderful area in which cannabis shines is in the treatment of muscle spasms. Medical cannabis has shown great results in treating the symptoms of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis and naturally this extends to the treatment of muscle spasms in athletes as well. Recent studies have shown that cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, can effectively control the tone of the muscle, leading to a reduction in muscle spasticity.
- Sleep Improvement: While everyone understands that a good night’s sleep is important for good overall health, sleep is also vital for athletic performance and endurance. Many patients find themselves turning to medical cannabis- not only because it is safe and non-habit forming, but because it works. As early as the 1970s, scientists have been studying cannabis and reporting on its ability to help people to not only fall asleep more quickly but stay asleep as well. As we all know, this is important because deep sleep plays a vital role in the body’s natural restorative process. As with treating pain, the strain and dosage matters here as well. While a strain high in indica is relaxing and sleep-inducing, a cannabis strain high in sativa if ingested too late in the day or at too irresponsible a dose it can exacerbate symptoms of insomnia. It is advised to speak with a qualified medical cannabis professional to ensure the correct strain, dosage, and method of ingestion for best results.
- Mental Performance: Contrary to the stereotypical belief that cannabis can dull mental acuity, the research shows that may not be the case after all. On the contrary, cannabis researchers have found that the chemical THC actually restores cognitive functioning. This is because the chemicals in cannabis activate the body’s own endocannabinoid system, a web of receptors in the central and peripheral nervous system. When these cannabinoid receptor sites, especially the receptor CB-1, are activated by the compounds in medical cannabis, they work to suppress anxiety, regulate memory storage, and help mental focus. In other words, by reducing anxiety, cannabis helps to stay focused on the task at hand. This may be why many athletes have stated that cannabis helps them to get and stay “in the zone” when they are working out.
Whether on the professional level or on that of an enthusiastic amateur, medical cannabis can be safely included into both the workout routines and the recovery game plan. It is a safe and non-habit forming medicine that, when taken responsibly, can help to enhance an athlete’s performance and overall well-being. There are a variety of products available to meet each individual need such as topicals for localized treatment, long-lasting tinctures, oils, vaporizers, and edibles all in various strengths and strains to aid in finding the perfect fit. The large range of modern medical cannabis products enables athletes and amateurs alike to utilize the different and unique chemical compounds, such as THC and CBD, to their advantage. Whether helping to be mentally “in the zone” or as part of healing and post-workout muscle restoration, medical cannabis helps athletes to play harder and heal faster.