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Cannabis and Running: What Is "Runner's High"

byhellomdFebruary 17, 20163 minutes

Have you ever considered smoking marijuana before going on a nice long run? If you're like most people, the idea is practically laughable. Many of the stereotypes associated with cannabis label it as a substance that encourages consumers to spend days lounging on the couch watching Netflix versus going to the gym for a strenuous workout.

According to some studies, however, that stereotype may be on its death bed. Research suggests cannabis may actually support athletic endeavors, helping people lose weight and stay trim. In fact, "runner's high" may mean something entirely different from previously thought. Here's what you need to know:

Cannabis Can Provide an Athletic Boost Weeks After Consumption

The journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence published a study that showed THC stored in the bodies of athletes is re-introduced into the bloodstream after a workout for as long as 28 days after the cannabis is consumed. This is because THC is fat-soluble, which means it's stored in the body's fat reserves. When the body burns fat via exercise, minuscule levels of THC are re-released into the bloodstream, where they remain for up to two hours following the workout's conclusion.

Cannabis and Runner's High

You've probably heard the term "runner's high," a phrase used to describe the endorphin boost runners get during intense workouts. Recent research has proven, though, it's not just endorphins that make athletes feel so good after some hard exercise. Exercise actually stimulates the body's endocannabinoid system (a complex mesh of cells and receptors that process compounds like THC and CBD within the body) in much the same way that consuming marijuana does. This can help boost the body's ability to fight pain, control appetite, enhance mood and build memories.

In addition to stimulating the endocannabinoid system, the body produces its own endocannabinoids during intense workouts. This can lead to a boost in mood and the "high" feeling after exercise has ended.

Cannabis Can Help Athletes Burn Fat

While it's common knowledge exercise can help the body burn and resist fat, research has proved cannabis may also be an important tool in the fight against expanding waistlines.

According to a 2013 study in The American Journal of Medicine, people who consume cannabis on a regular basis have lower insulin levels (about 16 percent lower) than people who don't consume cannabis. Regular consumers also have much lower rates of insulin resistance and smaller waist circumferences than those who don't ingest cannabis.

These findings are likely due to the fact that cannabinoids contained within cannabis help regulate the body's metabolic function and insulin levels. Insulin is a complex hormone that controls the way the body's cells use sugar to produce energy. People who consume excess sugar will likely gain weight and may eventually suffer from conditions like diabetes. Since marijuana helps control insulin function, however, it can stave off weight gain and help people stay slim and healthy.

Future Potential

While we've known for years that cannabis can help soothe everything from pain to anxiety, the studies showing cannabis can actually help people lose weight and exercise more efficiently may pave the way for new medicinal uses down the road. Before we know it, cannabis may well become the next performance-enhancing supplement for dedicated athletes in all disciplines.

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