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THC, CBD, & Exercise Recovery: A New Study Sheds Light

THC, CBD, & Exercise Recovery: A New Study Sheds Light

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Cannabis and exercise go hand in hand more than one would think. According to a study by the University of Colorado Boulder, about 80% of cannabis enthusiasts include it in their routine. But is there any scientific merit to using Delta-9 THC and CBD for workout recovery, or is this practice just a fad? 

On August 5, 2023, the Journal of Cannabis Research published its findings to shed light on this. Read on to discover if and how cannabis can enhance your fitness regimen. 

The Importance of Exercise Recovery

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Getting up, out, and active is just one part of your fitness journey. But what does recovery have to do with it? 

According to Michigan State University, during recovery, your body can adapt to exercise-related stress, replenish energy storage, and repair tissue. In short, giving your body time to recuperate is important for going harder the next time you work out. 

Everyone's needs when it comes to rest and recovery are different. However, one effective tool you can start implementing is creating a training log, which will help you track how your body feels before and after a workout to assist you in determining your recovery needs better. 

THC & CBD: Factors to Consider

CBD_THC_Recovery_Exercise

Cannabis plants (hemp and marijuana) are composed of antioxidant-rich flavonoids, aromatic terpenes, and unique compounds called cannabinoids. There are about 113 known cannabinoids, with Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) being the most popular and abundant. On a surface level, the main distinction between them is that THC is psychoactive and CBD is not. However, their differences go far beyond this one characteristic. 

Within the human body is a network of chemical messengers and receptors called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS regulates various bodily functions like sleep or pain perception to help maintain stable internal conditions, also known as homeostasis. It employs neurotransmitters known as "endocannabinoids" to do this. 


CBD and THC, "phytocannabinoids," can interact with this network because their chemical structures resemble endocannabinoids.

CBD has a minimal binding affinity to CB1 and CB2 receptors but indirectly influences the ECS. THC, on the other hand, will bind to CB1 receptors. This means the way they affect someone who has consumed them or applied them topically will result in distinct effects. 

Some enthusiasts claim an added benefit occurs when these two cannabinoids are consumed together. This anecdotal property is called "the entourage effect." However, research has found that a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD can help mitigate any unwanted effects of THC in higher quantities. 

Findings on THC and CBD's Relationship with Exercise Recovery

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People are utilizing Delta-9 THC and CBD for their workout recovery, but what types of positive results, if any, are they experiencing?

To answer this question, researchers at the Journal of Cannabis Research launched an anonymous survey of 111 participants. Each participant was an individual who regularly partook in cannabis (with products ranging from CBD and Delta-9 THC) and regularly exercised. 

85% of the participants reported that they regularly engaged in aerobic exercise (such as swimming, cycling, walking, rowing, running, and jump rope), and 85% of participants reported regularly engaging in resistance exercise (such as free weights, medicine balls, weight machines, and body weight exercises). A total of 72% of participants reported partaking in both. 

This is just to demonstrate the variety of types of exercise participants engaged in. Regardless of the choice of physical activity, the survey found that
  • 93% of participants felt that CBD had aided in exercise recovery
  • 87% of participants felt that THC had helped in exercise recovery
So generally, people who participated in the study felt that cannabis products benefited their recovery. But why might they experience such results? The background information gathered for this study may shed some light.

Potential Benefits of CBD and THC for Recovery

benefits CBD THC exercise workout recovery

Why were researchers interested in CBD and Delta-9 THC's role in post-workout recovery? Within the background section, there are some interesting takeaways from previous studies on this topic: 
  • One 2019 study found that CBD and THC may offer anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and sleep-promoting properties, which could benefit post-workout recovery from aerobic and resistance exercises. 
  • study done in 2020 demonstrated that THC and CBD can assist in reducing subjective perceptions of pain intensity. 
  • In 2021, researchers found that CBD helped reduce muscle damage following resistance exercises. 
  • Findings from 2022 suggest that CBD and THC can potentially reduce the signal protein responsible for inflammation responses. 

Summary

It's not too uncommon for cannabis enthusiasts to implement the plant into their workout routine. For decades, there has been a lot of red tape surrounding cannabis research in general and the plant's potential benefits due to prohibitionist legislation and public perception. 

However, as the stigma starts to shed, more and more fascinating insights about people's experiences with exercise, cannabis, and why it may prove beneficial are coming to light. 

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