Cannabis - Appreciated by some competitive athletes, banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. This naturally raises the question of whether cannabis is really that dangerous and whether the plant can actually increase performance. Is cannabis a doping substance? We have the answer to your questions!
What is cannabis?
The most common term for cannabis is Plant parts of the hemp plants Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa or crosses of the two. The use of the plant to induce a state of intoxication through hallucinogenic effects goes back well into Chinese history. Besides alcohol, cannabis is one of the oldest and most widely used intoxicants in the world. In many countries there are demonstrations for the legalization of the crop.
The main active substances in the hemp plant are the cannabinoids
- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),
- Cannabinol (CBN) and
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
While THC is mainly responsible for the intoxicating effect and is smoked by most consumers and classically referred to as weed, CBD is considered to be anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and a nausea agent. CBN acts primarily on immune cells.
In total, cannabis contains over 400 different substances, of which at least 61 are cannabinoids. Depending on the type of hemp, the composition of these substances and thus the effects of cannabis differ.
Effect: What influence does cannabis use have on your body?
Some active ingredients of the hemp plant can bind to the body's own cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. They fit into the binding site of the receptors like a key in a lock, triggering a subsequent reaction in the cell.
In this way, the active ingredients contained in the hemp imitate the natural binding partners of the receptors. Under no circumstances can you conclude from the name of the receptors that the cannabinoids from the hemp plant are the main natural actors. Mother nature didn't equip us with cannabinoid receptors because we are supposed to consume hashish.
Researchers only chose the name because they first discovered the receptors in their search for how cannabis works. The CB1 and CB2 receptors together form the so-called endocannabinoid system and this works without the consumption of cannabis.
The endocannabinoid system is involved in the following functions of the body:
- emotional behavior
- Thinking skills
- Cardiovascular system
The natural binding partners of CB1 and CB2 are, for example, substances that are structurally similar to arachidonic acid and are derived from or broken down into arachidonic acid. Anandamide is one of these so-called natural ligands. The human body can manufacture anandamide itself. But it is also contained in cocoa, among other things. Perhaps another reason chocolate and hemp go so well together in space cookies and brownies.
Cannabis: how does THC work?
THC binds to the cannabinoid receptor CB1. Since the CB1 receptor is preferably located in nerve cells in the brain, this is where THC is primarily active. In addition to its intoxicating effect, THC is also said to impair short-term memory, decision-making and reaction speed.
The way THC works depends on the dose and sometimes contradicts each other. In low doses it has a sedative effect, in higher doses it is arousing. Regular cannabis use reduces the number of CB1 receptors and makes those that are still there less sensitive. The more regularly you consume cannabis, the less effective it is.
How does CBN work?
CBN structurally fits into the binding sites of the CB2 receptor. Immune cells and cells of bone formation and breakdown are the most common carriers of the CB2 receptors. As a result, CBN has less of an effect on the brain and instead affects the immune system and bones.
How does CBD work?
CBD does not work directly via the cannabinoid receptors, but indirectly on the metabolism, the immune system and some neuronal and hormonal signals. Scientists are still researching how the exact functional mechanism works. Researchers agree that CBD can influence the effects of THC.
The predominantly positive properties - such as the anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and nausea-reducing effects - make CBD is very interesting for medical applications and for athletes, for example to get rid of tension or muscle pain faster. The classic state of intoxication, as it occurs when consuming marijuana, does not occur when taking CBD. For this reason, as a natural drug, CBD can be of great importance, especially for patients and athletes. Most commonly, CBD is mixed with hemp oil and sold as CBD oil. The active ingredient content differs from product to product.
When does cannabis help and when does cannabis damage your performance?
The effect of cannabis on performance depends on the body type. M.Some athletes take it as a natural drug to motivate themselves and reduce the pain threshold, while others tend to take it through cannabis Motivation lacks.
In any case, the way in which cannabis is consumed plays a big role. Actually, everyone should know that any form of smoking weed is not a good health idea is. Especially not to improve athletic performance. When smoking hashish or marijuana, the negative effects of smoke on the lungs and airways predominate.
No matter whether pure or mixed with tobacco. Burning cannabis products also creates numerous carcinogenic substances. Vaping cannabis or eating it in the form of biscuits are arguably the healthier options in every way.
But you don't always have to smoke the hemp plant to have an effect. Cannabis is also used in the form of hemp protein to supply the muscles with protein, or in the form of oil as cannabis oil, where it can be consumed orally or is used for skin care or muscle relaxation in creams.
Cannabis dosage: what role does the amount play?
The dose of THC and CBD is one of the decisive factors for the effect on performance. Consuming small amounts of THC has a calming, relaxing and anxiolytic effect. With a higher dosage of THC, on the other hand, the arousal, which can lead to psychotic states, predominates. Both the relaxing and the exciting effects last longer than the intoxicated state.
It is also important to know that, depending on how cannabis is supplied, different numbers of cannabinoids get into the blood. When smoking marijuana, about 20% of the THC it contains passes into the blood. In the case of hashish ingestion, it is only about 6%.
How much THC and CBD ultimately end up in the blood also depends on the cannabis product used. Marijuana, the dried, unfertilized female inflorescences, contains less THC than hashish extracted from the inflorescences. Hash oil is sometimes referred to as near-pure THC. However, there are also very large differences in the THC content of hashish oil.
In addition, there are significant differences between the various hemp varieties and their THC and CBD content. Indian hemp (Cannabis indica) has a higher ratio of CBD to THC than, for example, common hemp (Cannabis sativa). As a result, Indian hemp has a more calming effect than descendants of other species.
How could cannabis improve your athletic performance?
The relaxing, pain relieving, and anxiety-relieving effects of cannabis are believed to be the most likely reasons for increased performance. They work more indirectly through stamina, risk tolerance and the Recovery. It is still unclear whether cannabis has even more direct performance-enhancing properties.
The use of cannabinoids is prohibited as doping by the World Anti-Doping Agency for professional athletes in competition. The World Anti-Doping Agency does not assume a performance-enhancing effect, but sees the increased willingness to take risks through cannabis as a problem for athletes.
What do scientific studies say about cannabis performance enhancement?
There are only a few extensive studies that examine the effects of cannabis on human performance. Most of the data come from animal experiments or from experience reports from athletes who use cannabis. In this respect, the results should be treated with caution.
There is broad agreement about the pain relieving effects of cannabis. This allows athletes to exceed their limits and persevere longer. The also undisputed anti-anxiety property of cannabis is said to help professional athletes perform better under pressure.1
The calming and relaxing effects of cannabis help with regeneration. Especially CBD is said to provide better muscle relaxation after training, help with stress and have antidepressant properties. The general balance and good mood brought about by CBD can have a positive effect on your performance as well as a good sleep.
A larger study came to the conclusion that many athletes use cannabis to improve their performance in sports precisely because of its relaxing properties. The higher the level of competition, the more cannabis the athletes used.2
Other athletes report that cannabis makes them easier to make decisions and more creative. Increased confidence, persistence, and the euphoria caused by cannabis could also improve athletic performance.3
In addition, scientists suspect that cannabis dilates the bronchi and can thus have a blood circulation-promoting effect.3, 4 According to this, an improved oxygen supply to the muscles could increase performance in sport.
Some researchers want to take a closer look at the positive effects of cannabis on cognitive performance. According to them, moderate doses of cannabis could help endurance athletes focus better during training or competitions, and improve their performance in athletic challenges that require greater concentration.5, 6
What are the disadvantages of using cannabis on your performance?
Increased consumption of cannabis can cause hunger and thirst, which is not exactly conducive to exercise. Fat loss in particular is difficult with cannabis and hunger pangs. But cannabis can also impair your cognitive functions and your motor coordination, so that top performance is out of the question.
With regard to the disadvantages of cannabis consumption, however, the study situation hardly looks better than the advantages. For example, a study with pilots showed that they made significantly more mistakes after smoking marijuana.7 Another study found a reduced reaction time, poor hand-eye coordination and impaired perception from cannabis.8 Another study suggested reduced cognitive performance due to cannabis. The scientists noticed a shift in blood flow to other brain regions. They suspect that cognitive performance declines in favor of the intoxicating and mood-enhancing effects.5
The sometimes contradicting results on the advantages and disadvantages of cannabis consumption suggest that the scope of the study is limited. The different effects of CBD and THC and the inconsistent dosage make it even more difficult to come to a clear conclusion.
In addition, there are possible harmful side effects that affect all cannabis use. It is obvious that the consumption of cannabis and tobacco increases the risk of lung cancer. However, the hallucinogenic effects can cause drug-induced psychosis in users. Panic and anxiety disorders can also be exacerbated with cannabis use, even if some cannabis users try to treat their anxiety or panic on themselves.
These symptoms can occur with withdrawal symptoms:
- sleep disorders
- decreased appetite
- depressive mood
- Nervousness or anxiety
- physical symptoms or complaints
How does cannabis affect muscle building?
Surely you've heard before that cannabis makes it difficult to build muscle. However, whether this is true has by no means been proven. There are only a few studies to suggest this.9, 10 In addition, either the dose of THC is unrealistically high or the statement has not yet been investigated in humans. In addition, the researchers disregarded CBD, which has completely different effects on the body than THC.
In a larger medical study with human volunteers, the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol increased after taking THC.11
The increase in cortisol in the blood was higher in those who normally do not consume THC. Regular cannabis consumption, on the other hand, did not cause cortisol to rise as much.
However, this effect is less helpful in improving athletic performance. Finally, cortisol promotes muscle breakdown, not to mention the other negative effects of the stress hormone. However, in this study, the researchers administered the THC intravenously. The study also does not take into account the interaction with other cannabinoids, such as CBD.
The best effect for building muscle is of course achieved by consuming hemp protein, as there is no intoxication there but the body is supplied with protein and important nutrients.
Conclusion: is cannabis recommended to improve performance?
Ultimately, it seems very individual when cannabis can and cannot improve performance. Every athlete may have to find their own dose and their own CBD and THC ratio to get the most out of themselves. Unfortunately, it is not even certain that such a self-experiment, which is probably associated with many setbacks, is really worthwhile.
However, those who have already gained some experience could benefit from cannabis. In no case is it advisable to use unproven cannabis before physical activity that requires your full attention and skill. Whatever you do, always pay attention to yours body sensation and the signals!