Cannabis and Running


Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, many athletes from the elite level to weekend warriors are embracing its benefits. But what are the benefits exactly? Many people say the application of Cannabidiol (CBD) salves and ointments reduces pain and inflammation while others say cannabis enhances performance and recovery.

Unfortunately, at this point, there haven’t been enough studies to scientifically confirm the mountain of anecdotal evidence out there. However, here are a few things we do know:

A review in Frontiers in Neurology in 2018 showed that CBD oil improved mobility and pain by reducing inflammation in patients with multiple sclerosis.

CBD stops the body from absorbing a compound called anandamide which is associated with pain regulation. Increased levels of anandamide may have a pain-relieving effect.

Going for a long run after using cannabis is gaining popularity as a way to avoid fatigue, boredom and anxiety but it’s positive benefits are based on anecdotal evidence from individual runners who feel it helps their performance.

A study in 2015 showed that the runner’s high is not created by the endorphins as was previously thought. That feeling of euphoria is actually produced by the endocannabinoid system which is responsible for pain sensation, regulating appetite and fatigue.

CBD oil is one of more than 100 compounds called cannabinoids found in cannabis

CBD oil does not cause a ‘high’ like THC, another compound in cannabis.

According to the government of Canada website, “THC potency in dried cannabis has increased from an average of 3% in the 1980s to around 15% today. Some strains can have an average as high as 30% THC. Cannabis that contains very low amounts of THC in its flowers and leaves (less than 0.3%) is classified as hemp.

Many runners and athletes use CBD-infused salves and ointments after workouts to reduce inflammation. However, the effectiveness of these products has not been shown scientifically.

An article in the Oct 2015 issue of Sports Med stated, “There are common anecdotal reports that cannabis decreases motivation, including motivation to exercise. On the other hand, there are also anecdotal reports that cannabis is used prior to athletic activity. In fact, the World Anti-Doping Agency includes cannabis as a prohibited substance in sport, partly because it is believed that it may enhance sports performance. At the current time, there is limited scientific evidence to support either one of these opposing lay perspectives.”

In short, if you’re hoping cannabis will help your performance and recovery, currently there Is not enough hard evidence to prove it. For now, you’ll have to rely on good old fashioned hard work to achieve the results you want.