Weed and Exercise

Liz Filmer
01 Sep 2023

With decriminalisation on the rise, more professional sports people are talking about weed use. One from 2017 discovered that over 92% of gym-goers have gotten high. A 2020 survey found one in four athletes regularly use cannabis. But what's the actual impact of weed on your athleticism?

In a paper about cannabis use in female athletes published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers found no difference in body composition, heart function or strength between weed users and those who did not. They compared female athletes who were long-term users of cannabis and those who weren't. The only change appeared to be that those who used cannabis were less powerful but had better endurance. 

However, as it currently stands, only minimal research addresses whether cannabis has any long-term effects on performance. 

While there's no research done into whether cannabis could ever replace an after-work-protein shake, the most common reason that people smoke weed after exercise smoke is to chill out and recover: 77% of active people who use cannabis have reported it as having a positive effect on their performance via an improvement in focus, energy, relaxation and recovery. 

CBD has been well-received in the fitness industry in recent years. Brands have targeted their products towards the disciplined and exhausted workout enthusiasts, all designed to help aid sleep, pain, stress, inflammation and immunity. However, if CBD is that good, is there any need to consume THC? Well, cannabis contains over 120 cannabinoids. As scientific research continues, we are only beginning to see the advantages of the plant as a whole and how it can support health. Therefore, in line with the "entourage" effect theory," consuming the whole plant may result in more complete and beneficial effects than those induced by one cannabinoid alone.

Science is working on collecting evidence for the benefits of medicinal cannabis on those with health conditions. Anxiety, depression and sleep are all measured, and the results show considerable improvements following only three months of cannabis use. When people get more sleep, they function better throughout the day.

Imagine the impact this could have on athletes or gym goers, where an extra 1% could be make-or-break for their careers. Some research shows that weed can influence REM sleep, improving sleep for medicinal cannabis users, and the relaxing impact of weed seems to be agreed upon by most. This year, the NBA has announced that they are dropping testing players for cannabis.

In 2022, the World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that cannabis would stay on the banned substances list. However, this was explained away, not because cannabis improves athleticism but because being intoxicated during competitions could endanger other competitors.

More research is needed, but overall, research shows us that consuming cannabis before training does not improve performance but may reduce it, and most agree that you should not be exercising whilst actively stoned. Weed should be kept out of the gym. 

Ideally, it would help if you focused on achieving your best performance. Weed can also impact negatively on your coordination and balance. However, no doubt getting high and working out can co-exist. This is mainly because relaxing and sleeping well is a massively underrated element of good health and sports performance.

More from Soft Secrets on this topic:

CBD for sports performance

Cannabis remains on banned substance list

Weed makes running more enjoyable says study


Liz Filmer