How Marijuana is Being Used in The Fitness Industry (1)

How Marijuana is Being Used in The Fitness Industry

The application of marijuana has found its way into the fitness industry by way of preworkout/ postworkout specific strains, and recovery/ healing products. 

I have noticed an increasing amount of my clients asking about the possible effects that their marijana usage can have on their fitness journey.

The most important thing to consider is this: the effects of marijuana usage on athletic and fitness goals has not been very well studied

That means that a lot of the information you find, and even what I provide here will be based on hypothesis, observations and collected subjective information.

That being said, there is still some worthwhile information to consider when it comes to understanding how marijuana might affect your fitness journey. 

Whether you apply it topically, smoke it or eat it, it’ll be good for you to know some basics things you may need to consider before using any marijuana products.  

My goal is that this blog will help you discern if, and where marijuana might be most useful to your fitness journey.

 To help you feel more confident about this decision, I’m going to be offering the following information:

  1. Why is marijuana being used in fitness?
  2. Is it okay to go to the gym high?
  3. Will smoking weed affect your gains?
  4. Does marijuana make you gain fat?
  5. Does marijuana help with recovery?

I will also link relevant information throughout the article, which I will recap in a list for you at the end.

Why is Marijuana Being Used in Fitness?

Topical application to address pain and inflammation

Topical application refers to creams, balms, bath salts and products that may be directly applied to the skin or absorbed through the skin.

The primary purpose of topically applying marijuana products is to reduce inflammation and pain of the joints and muscles.

The effectiveness of marijuana in reducing inflammation is somewhat controversial: basically, topical application of marijuana products are proven to reduce inflammation, so long as it contains specific cannabinoids.

These articles by PubMed and Science Daily offer more insight into the specific compounds that contribute to the resolving of inflammation.

Every topical product has its own recommended dosage, and some of them have side effects or warnings for people with certain conditions.

WeedMaps has a great article all about Topical Cannabis Products including some necessary considerations (always consult with your doctor before self-treating).

As far as which products to buy, I recommend talking to the professional at your neighborhood pharmacy to see if they can recommend any locally sourced products.

If that’s not possible, you can take highly rated recommendations from sources such as this Healthline article about the 10 Best CBD Topicals

The goal with these products is to achieve the anti-inflammatory benefits of marijuana without actually becoming intoxicated. 

  • Athletes tend to use topical cannabis products to help minimize inflammation during training or on season.
  • Medically, someone might use topical cannabis products for arthritis, chronic pain healing from injury and much more.

Ingestion of marijuana to manage muscle soreness

“Edibles” are food/ snack/ candy products that marijuana has been cooked into.

Edibles are notorious for making the user feel suddenly intoxicated about 20-60 minutes after consumption.

Just as with the topical products, edibles can be effective in helping with:

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Minimizing pain and soreness

So long as the necessary compounds are present in the marijuana product used.

Edibles are definitely something that should be locally sourced (as much as possible) and purchased through your trusted pharmacy.

Avoid buying “home baked” edibles because the dosage is usually less controlled so you don’t really know if it will actually help with soreness, or if it will get you stuck to your couch for 4 hours-lol!

Is It Okay To Go To The Gym High?

This is a surprisingly common question that I get from people-maybe because I’m a Californian lol!

The answer to this is quite simple: it’s generally okay for you to do your workout high as long as it’s medically safe for you, and you can follow the gym basics…

General Gym Basics

The Gym Basics are my considerations for when you’re deciding whether it’s a good idea to go to the gym or notwhether you’re sick, stoned, cranky or whatever.

These are the 3 things you need to take into consideration:

  1. The other people at the gym. The gym is a community space and you always need to respect that. If you’re too high to respect other people, clean up after yourself and keep it together, you shouldn’t be going to the gym.
  2. Your ability to control your performance. Your ability to safely perform your workouts without hurting yourself or missing muscle activation is the next most important thing. Don’t go to the gym high if it prevents you from feeling and controlling your movement properly.
  3. Your own comfortability. Even if you feel like you can control your movements but you don’t feel comfortable being around people, don’t go. Some people get paranoid or anxious while they are high and that’s not always fun in a gym.

If you feel that you can respect other people, safely achieve proper muscle activation and enjoy yourself, then by all means: get high before hitting the gym if you like.

There has been no substantial evidence regarding whether or not marijuana affects muscle activation but it has been proven in several studies to improve endurance-a lot of this studying being focused around distance runners.

Picking the right strain

“Strains” are basically the classifications of marijuana types based on the compounds prevalent in the product and the effect they have on the body.

When looking at strains of marijuana, you will find three main categories: Sativa, Indica and Hybrids.

  • Sativas are known to provide “head highs” and can cause users to feel euphoric, relaxed, happy and creative.
  • Indicas, on the other hand, are generally considered to provide a body high which can cause physical laziness but are great for pain relief.
  • Finally, Hybrids are an attempt at blending the qualities of both the Sativa and Indica marijuanas, though a lot of hybrids will be considered to be either sativa or indica dominant.

Now, because there is not substantial research on the effects of using marijuana while working out, any suggestion here is purely speculation or informally based on personal experience.

That being said, it makes sense to me that you probably would not want to do a strong indica before a workout because it could decrease muscle activation and motivation.

I have informally observed that most people enjoy a sativa or a hybrid when they are using marijuana before a workout (hybrid being primarily preferred for endurance training like distance running.

Again, that is simply an observation that I’ve had the opportunity to make in my career.

Check out these related articles which go into more detail about specific strains of marijuana for workouts:

Edibles vs Flower

The decision on whether to use flower or eat edibles before a workout is primarily a personal preference based on what you enjoy and how your body handles it.

I have not gone much into it here, but another increasingly popular option is wax and pens which are smoked as flower is.

In my experience, there are two main things you need to consider when making this decision:

  1. Edibles take time to digest and kick in. This means that they should be consumed 30-60 minutes before your workout. Because they are often carb-dense, they can actually make a great pre workout snack but some people do get indigestion from edibles so this may not be ideal for them.
  2. Smoking can make it difficult to perform aerobically. Mind you, this is not true for all but it is a commonality that I’ve observed-especially in the people who enjoy smoking wax. Smoking yields a more immediate effect but it might make it difficult to run miles afterwards.

So as with everything, I recommend feeling out what seems right for your body. 

Will Smoking Weed Affect Your Gains?

So there is almost no reputable research on this so everything I say in this section will be based on my own unreviewed research and observation…

Marijuana and muscle activation

The main observation to make note of is this:

Marijuana contains both compounds that encourage muscular control and activation, and compounds that inhibit neuromuscular awareness or activity.

This means that marijuana can likely be either beneficial or detrimental to your ability to build muscle mass, based on what type you’re using.

That note fuels my suggestion to avoid indicas as pre workout strains because if you can’t feel or control the body enough to activate the muscles properly, you’re not going to build.

On the other hand, I have observed a few people who have the ability to utilize an indica product before a workout and it actually increases their ability to lift heavier (without compromising form).

***The important thing for muscle-building is that you are able to control the movements and activate the proper muscles during the workout!

Marijuana and muscle protein synthesis

The research on this is very minimal at this time but the research that has been done shows two things:

  1. Marijuana usage has not been shown to have any significant effect on muscle protein synthesis (as opposed to alcohol, which is known to halt it-read more about alcohol and fitness here.)
  2. For new users, marijuana usage can cause minimal reduction in testosterone production but it seems to not be the case with regular marijuana users.

In fact, many bodybuilders are starting to argue that marijuana usage helps with their ability to eat enough to fuel muscle protein synthesis.

All in all, it seems that marijuana usage will not substantially affect your muscle gain, so long as you are able to give full attention to your workout.

Does Marijuana Make You Gain Fat?

Again, there are not many studies on this but I have observed a couple of things about marijuana usage and fat gain…

Metabolic effects of using marijuana

As of now, there is no evidence to suggest that using marijuana will directly slow down or speed up your metabolism.

So using cannabis will not directly cause you to burn less fat or gain new fat.

What using marijuana may affect, however, is your activity levels.

If using marijuana causes you to move less, you will experience lower daily calorie burn, possibly some muscle atrophy and ultimately a reduced metabolic speed.

That is due to the lack of movement though, not the marijuana directly.

The munchies

“The munchies” refer to the appetite increase that tends to happen when using cannabis.

Due to decreased inhibitions, this appetite is often for junk foods.

The munchies can also come with a reduced ability to feel fullness.

This can lead to the overeating of non-nutritive foods and caloric surplus which will end up causing fat gain.

Again, the fat gain is directly related to the act of overeating-not the actual marijuana itself causing fat gain.

To avoid munchie-related weight gain, I have a few suggestions:

  • Talk with someone at your local pharmacy about possible strains that do not cause the munchies
  • Eat sufficiently and healthily before you utilize marijuana
  • Keep healthy or pre-portioned snacks around
  • Assess if you are having an exacerbation of an eating disorder

Does Marijuana Help With Recovery?

The majority of the research that has been done on the application of marijuana in fitness has been related to recovery, pain management and healing of injuries…

Marijuana as a muscle relaxer

There are compounds in marijuana (in every form of consumption) that have been proven to have muscle-relaxing effects.

This is going to be great if you are experiencing cramps and/or spasms during your muscle building process.

The degree to which your muscles will feel relaxed is going to depend on the strain that you are utilizing and the quantity.

  • I recommend getting some advice from your local pharmacist, or trusted websites/ resources that offer specific suggestions.

(Check out Leafly’s 5 Best Cannabis Strains for Leg Cramps)

Using marijuana for inflammation

Inflammation is another ailment that marjuana has been proven to positively address: through oral, respiratory and topical ingestion.

  • For people struggling with total body inflammation and muscle soreness, it is often preferential for them to ingest marijuana orally or respiratorily (edibles and smoking) so that they can address the entire body.
  • For people looking for spot treatment (let’s say your knee is hurting you) a topical product might be more ideal because you can directly address one area.

Inflammation is also something easily addressed in the diet-check out my Eating Rainbows blog to see which color of foods are good for inflammation!

What’s the takeaway?

Marijuana is finding it’s purpose in the fitness industry primarily by assisting with the healing and recovery process.

It is not, however, a necessary supplement and it may not be ideal for everyone.

Always consult with your doctor before making changes to your health and fitness routine, and act with respect to your body!

Here’s a recap of the resources that were linked throughout…

Marijuana is a supplement to be used like any other: at your own discretion.

Pay attention to your body and do what is right for you!

This article was written by Elexis Smolak CPT, CNC, WFS founder of Adapted Fitness and Integrative Health and Fitness Specialist for Women. Learn more or schedule a virtual coffee at