Does smoking weed affect mileage?

Learn how cannabis, your body and running training interact.

When it comes to athletics, cannabis can be a hot topic. Maybe it’s the stereotypes that weed smokers are criminals or lazy. Perhaps it is a mingling with the effects of substances like tobacco. But for whatever reason, the impact of cannabis on athletic performance has been debated for decades.

Despite the opinions of others, it’s still important for athletes and runners to understand whether cannabis helps or hinders their performance.

After all, many runners aim to run faster, farther, or more often, and they want nothing to stand in their way.

Scientific research on grass and athletic performance

Image shows someone measuring their lung capacity with an incentive spirometer

A 2021 review of cannabis and athletic performance found that those who used cannabis regularly but stopped before and during their athletic performance

“Existing data comparing cannabis users with non-users [shows] There are no reported differences in aerobic fitness, blood pressure, muscle strength and endurance measurements, work capacity and perceived exertion.”

But even with these findings, the review still acknowledges that existing research has been interpreted in vastly different ways over the years.

Confusingly, although little new data has been generated over the past few decades, repeated interpretations of the data have led to widely differing conclusions, with reviews assuming: no benefit, potential benefits, and predominantly an ergolytic effect.”

Ergolytic effects are the effects of a substance that decrease physical capacity and athletic performance, and they are often at the center of the running and grass debate.


Can Cannabis Help With Training?

An expert’s perspective

blurred photo of marathon runners during a race

Leafly spoke to Dr. David Bearman, co-founder, executive vice president and board member of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine (AACM), learns more about the possible negative and ergolytic effects of cannabis on runners.

Bearman is a cannabis literary author and has been a medical practitioner for over 20 years, specializing in pain management and cannabinoid medicine. This year he published a book entitled Cannabis Medicine: A Guide to the Practice of Cannabinoid Medicine.

Bearman understands the many reasons a runner might choose to indulge in weed. It is useful in both pain management and as a muscle relaxant, which can be beneficial when running or in recovery.


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“If we look at someone like Sha’Carri Richardson, who won the 100-meter dash at the Olympic trials but was kicked out of the team for using cannabis, obviously the cannabis didn’t hurt her performance,” he says. “Maybe she would have run even faster without cannabis, but she was definitely the fastest woman in the 100m and it’s clear that she used cannabis.”

He believes that many people tend to focus on irrelevant factors related to cannabis and athletic performance, and that dedicated (and especially professional) athletes who use cannabis would likely notice if they were dizzy or drowsy.

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“If you’re a runner, you won’t use cannabis if it makes you dizzy or drowsy. People who run have often developed a tolerance.”

dr Bearman has also heard concerns about the potential of cannabis to increase heart rate and blood pressure in runners, but he says the increase is temporary and that he’s seen many heart patients using medicinal cannabis safely with none of their heart problems occurring Regarding their own reported cannabis use.

“The people who say that [cannabis] negatively impacting performance are really what I would call neo-prohibitionists,” he says.

The effect of cannabis on runners’ minds

Digital illustration of the human brain.  Electrical activity, lightning and bolts on a blue background.

In addition to affecting an athlete’s performance and lungs, cannabis also has a psychological impact on runners. It can help reduce anxiety, which can help runners find the activity more enjoyable.

dr Bearman says, “There have been runners who have said to me, ‘I feel better; the colors look better. I feel more relaxed; I feel more in it.’ So you have two different problems. One is the fun of running and one is the performance.”

This positive psychological impact keeps many runners inspired and motivated to keep running or improve their performance – a combination of a positive mental impact that translates into a physical one.

The effects of cannabis on runners’ lungs

Human lungs anatomy on science background.  3D rendering

dr Bearman also points out that cannabis acts as a bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory.

“That means it opens up your bronchi, your tubes that go into your lung function and your lungs, and you can breathe in more air, and that’s going to help you get more work done.”

But Bearman’s take on this is in direct contrast to the stance of the American Lung Association, which states that cannabis smoke, like any other smoke, is harmful to the lungs. The ALA also notes that the long inhalation habits of many weed smokers could increase their risk of lung damage.

Determining the correct revenue method

So, should serious runners avoid smoking or just stick to other consumption methods like edibles or tinctures?

“Smoking has three side effects that do not occur with other routes of administration,” explains Dr. Bearman.

He recites his insights from Dr. Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist and professor of medicine at UCLA who has studied the effects of cannabis for over 30 years.

“Smoking cannabis contributes to increased coughing, increased sputum production, and increased bronchial irritation. Well, these will probably interfere with running, but then again, people who’ve been using it for a long time don’t cough. You may have increased sputum production, but on the other hand, this can be counteracted by cannabis being anti-inflammatory.”

When a patient Dr. Bearman would ask if he should avoid smoking cannabis and stick to other methods of consumption to achieve his best athletic performance, said Dr. Bearman, he would hesitate to give a definitive answer.

“Because the evidence is so limited it’s difficult to make a firm rule, but common sense says you might be better off with edibles or tinctures because when you smoke cannabis there’s some increased sputum production because you have them become the same [positive] Effects [without the smoke.] Remember that the runner produces more endocannabinoids when they run, so the body has to think that cannabinoids are beneficial when running.”

At the end of the day, Dr. Bearman that runners who smoke cannabis just go ahead and try it and see if it works for them.

The key is to pay attention to your body and change the format in which you consume if the smoke itself is holding you back from your performance goals.

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