As the creeping end to marijuana prohibition grows closer, we are learning ever more about how the main ingredients in the drug impact our bodies and health. Recently, research has been undertaken into the impact of moderate amounts of Marijuana on exercise and athletics.
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The International Olympic committee has had THC, the active ingredient in Marijuana which most effects the human mind, and body on its banned substances list, in high amounts—it has previously been very doubtful that Marijuana could actually be a performance enhancing substance. However extensive research at several leading institutions have found that it has both mental and physical effects on the body which do increase performance to some degree.
First mentally the THC triggers a reaction reducing anxiety as THC makes its way to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Endless research exists to back up the idea that anxiety can often serve as a limiter to human achievement in all sorts of fields—the fear of failure or often injury. The THC dulls those triggers, allowing an already high performing performer to overcome his or her mental limitations, however it’s important to point out that a less experienced athlete could be at risk for injury. Outside Magazine ran an article by Gordy Megroz, in which the author discusses his experience skiing after smoking a moderate amount of Marijuana. “Slight yet very functional high,” he “felt invincible and proceeded to attack the steepest lines without fear”
In addition to the mental effects of smoking, on a physical level, smoking has been found to increase airflow to the lungs, acting as a bronchodilator, decreasing resistance in the airways.
Following his ski experience Megroz attempted a more scientific evaluation of the effects of smoking on his athletic performance. Megroz set a Treadmill to five Miles per Hour, (MPH) and increased the angle 2.5% every two minutes.
Prior to smoking, at this rate he was able to keep going at a consistent speed for 19 minutes, but after smoking, had an extra 30 seconds on to his time, which is a marked increase. Lastly he tried a squat session both sober and after smoking, and found he was less sore following the session before which he consumed Marijuana.
Over all, it does seem, that while a risky proposition in certain activities, there is potential gain from moderate marijuana use on athletic performance.