As cannabis moves further into the mainstream, it has found a surprising ally in the world of fitness. While exercise and getting stoned may not seem like the most obvious pairing, there is an increasing trend of fitness fanatics, professional athletes, and personal trainers becoming cannabis connoisseurs. There's a whole host of reasons for this, with some citing increased focus, better recovery, or a greater diet as the benefits of incorporating pot into their daily exercise routine.
Cannabis as Pre-Workout
A 2016 study in the American Journal of Addictions found that marijuana was the second most used drug by athletes after alcohol. Now, it's pretty obvious that getting baked won't make you stronger or faster, but many users claim pot can enhance focus during workouts, helping users ignore pain while concentrating on small muscle groups that require repetitive movements.
Founder and CEO of the female-focused lifestyle brand Flower & Freedom Bethany Rae says that microdosing brings about a relaxed state where anxiety and negative thinking receded, and limitations on her workout are reduced. "Even the smallest microdose can help me discern better when my body can push through and take the longer trail route, or the steeper way up the mountain. Microdosing even helped me to beat my own personal best at the Grouse Grind twice this year."
Avid runner Adrian Landini is an ardent supporter of running while high. "I just kind of zen out, I pay attention to my movements and what's around me and whatnot and just bring it in with good form," says the Toronto native. Landini even admitted to taking on a handful of marathons with the help of pot, saving his stash for the 30-kilometer mark in last year's Hamilton marathon.
Cannabis as Post-Workout
While cannabis can help athletes focus during their workouts, perhaps its biggest strength to the fitness world is in pain relief. Anyone who works out on even a semi-regular basis can relate to the dread you feel waking up after an intense session with aching muscles and stiff joints. Cannabis topicals are becoming hugely popular in how effective they can be for targeting the parts of the body that need relief more. Low-dose capsules and edibles are also gaining increased popularity for helping full-body recovery overnight.
Despite many hardcore fitness freaks advocating the use of cannabis as a post-workout treatment, almost next to no research exists on the subject. Jordan Tishler, M.D., a Harvard-trained internist and leading cannabis therapeutics specialist, said, "say you run 10 miles and come home and smoke to ease the pain. What happens? No one is funding that study right now.” However, he added that lighting up post-workout can definitely delay the onset of muscle soreness, which can get you back in the gym or on the trail sooner than usual.
Where Does Professional Sports Stand?
So, is the professional sports world changing its stance on cannabis? Well, there's definitely a movement among former athletes to lobby regulatory bodies. In May, a nonprofit representing more than 100 former professional athletes, including boxer Mike Tyson and cyclist Floyd Landis, petitioned the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to remove marijuana from its list of banned substances.
WADA, which is based in Montreal, currently includes cannabis on its list of banned substances for the Olympics and other international sporting competitions. “Cannabis can cause muscle relaxation and reduce pain during post-workout recovery. It can also decrease anxiety and tension, resulting in better sport performance under pressure,” the agency says on its website. So, those are the benefits of weed as a workout tool straight from the horse's mouth.
How is This Translating to Cannabis Stocks?
While the movement supporting cannabis as a fitness supplement is gaining traction, it clearly represents a very small portion of the market. However, as some of the fitness fans mentioned above, cannabis derivatives such as topicals and edibles appear to be the most popular choice of consumption among fitness fans. These derivatives are still illegal in Canada, but this will change very soon once legalization 2.0 comes into effect on October 17, paving the way for these products to hit shelves in mid-December.
Extraction companies such as MediPharm Labs (TSX:LABS) (OTCQX:MEDIF) and Valen GroWorks (TSXV:VGW) (OTCQX:VGWCF) look set to be the biggest beneficiaries of an expanded derivatives market, given their dominance of the extraction services sector.
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