Consuming cannabis for athletic performance may seem contradictory, especially if your experience has been that marijuana slows you down or makes you sleepy. But one person who absolutely believes that marijuana can help athletes is Seibo Shen. Seibo is a jiu-jitsu fighter who founded Cannathlete, a company that develops products and training programs for athletes. Cannathlete uses cannabis as part of regimented and custom-made training programs to bring competitors’ performances to the next level. He also founded VapeXhale, maker of high-quality, hand-blown glass cannabis vaporizers that feature precise temperature controls for a truly efficient vaping experience.
Seibo is passionate about marijuana and its use in sports and athletic endeavors for those who tolerate the plant well. He was kind enough to answer questions from the HelloMD community about how cannabis could fit into sports performance and recovery programs. And he shared how he personally consumes cannabis for focus, endurance and healing.
I grew up playing many different sports, but currently I do Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which is a form of submission grappling. I compete professionally. There is a masters and executives division for people over the age of 40, but I currently compete in the 18–30 bracket.
Before a competition, I will typically take about 250 milligrams of some form of THC edible about 90 minutes prior to the competition. The competitions usually last anywhere from four to eight hours, so I like to take an edible because it lasts throughout the competition. And once the competition is over, I'll take a CBD tincture to help with the injuries
With THC, the focus side of things, obviously you can overdo it, so we at CannAthlete have come up with some new language. So we have medication; we have intoxication; and for athletic performance, we want activation.
Cannabis activation means being the best version of yourself. And to be the best version of yourself, you have to be present. So whether you're a CEO like myself or a professional athlete, many times while we're working out or competing, we're thinking about all the various things that we have to do, whether it's picking up the kids, a shopping list.
Answer: I always like to use words that rhyme, so it's easy for people to remember. So, I say start slow and low. So slow and low is utilizing low dosages and having longer periods of time in between doses.
So, one great way to start off is with a low dosage at nighttime. If your body agrees with it, and you like the way you feel with that dosage, then you should try it during the daytime with the sport of choice that you're trying to enhance your performance in. And by utilizing a methodology like that, you could slowly up the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoids that you're ingesting until you are at that perfect level where you think that you will be present and in the zone.
Answer: One of the things that I learned that may surprise a lot of people by utilizing cannabis with my training regimen is just being able to listen to my body a bit more closely. I think a lot of the sports that we play, a lot of the coaches that teach us how to play these sports, they always tell you to push through the pain. And many times, by pushing through the pain, you will get a lot of great results.
But as you get older, understanding when you are just feeling pain versus when you’re injured is a very, very good skill to learn. And by utilizing cannabis, I noticed that the mind-body connection is much stronger, and I could start realizing when I'm actually injured versus when I need to push through the pain. And I think being able to delineate the two was a huge barrier for me to break through. Because many times when you are playing combat sports, you don't want to look like the weakest person on the team. But if you are really injured, you need to pull yourself out.
Answer: That's a really great question. And if we go back to cannabis helping athletes improve their focus, I know that for, let's just say myself. When I first started doing yoga—I'm a highly competitive person, I would look at everybody else and go, “Oh, she's lower than me or she's doing this stretch better than me,” and I would often find myself comparing myself to other students or just thinking about all the other tasks that I have to do after the yoga class.
So, for someone like yourself, by consuming cannabis before going to yoga, it could help you improve your focus, really have that stronger mind-body connection so that you could really feel the stretch. And I also found that because breathing is such a big part of yoga, I am very conscious and aware of my breath when I'm breathing too quickly or too slowly, and by being conscious of my breath I am able to utilize that to further relax myself. And that's how I think you could really incorporate cannabis into your yoga routine.
Answer: Yeah, absolutely. So, there's many studies that have shown that cannabinoids are a strong anti-inflammatory. On top of that, there's a lot of emotional well-being that you get from consuming cannabis that helps with sports recovery. But for our athletes, the anti-inflammatory properties are so strong—much better than Advil, acetaminophen. And we found that the side effects are so much less for cannabinoids that it's something that they could use consistently and throughout the day as well.
People have said THC with the rest of the cannabinoids have an entourage effect. But I recently heard that the cannabinoids have more of an ensemble effect where there's not one main lead but it's all the cannabinoids working in concert with each other. So just like whole foods are better than taking a multivitamin, we always recommend that when you're consuming cannabis, get a full spectrum of the cannabinoids.
Photo credit: Bradley Wentzel