Ask the Expert: Will Cannabis Help Me Power Through My Workouts?

You asked, we found the answer.

cannabis workout

Photo via Getty Images/ bortonia

There’s a lot of confusion swirling around cannabis usage including, but not limited to, where you can buy it, how you can use it, and quite frankly, the overarching legality of it all, as it’s still not legal on the federal level. But as it makes its way into about every industry (see: wellness, beauty, restaurants, etc.), and recreational dispensaries are popping up left and right, many of us in the fitness industry are wondering how it can be used to optimize our workouts, speed up recovery, or just help us sleep a little better. Are cannabis products the next big thing, and should you start using them to get a boost in your wellness routine? We asked a patient advocate from the medical marijuana dispensary Revolutionary Clinics—with locations in Somerville and Cambridge—and a doctor and researcher in the cannabis space, for their take on the matter.

Ask the Expert: Will Cannabis Help with My Workouts?

“I think the way cannabis is framed is still very much around getting stoned and sitting on your couch,” says Danielle Gottwick, a patient advocate at Revolutionary Clinics who helps patients that are prescribed marijuana find the right product to help with everything from anxiety to pain. “But it’s very much evolving. And with some of these products on the market now, you don’t even have to feel any psychoactive effects.”

And she’s not lying. With many products like salves, balms, and oils utilizing the cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol or CBD—which won’t get you high—there are many ways to use marijuana without rolling a joint. As Kevin Hill, director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and dedicated researcher in the cannabis space, has told us before, there is a growing body of research suggesting cannabis has anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic properties. But he warns, “while I am very excited about these products, and what they can possibly do for people, the evidence is pre-clinical and the products are not FDA approved.”

It’s important to keep not only that in mind but also that some of these products, like CBD topicals, aren’t even that much different from similar creams like Icy Hot or Bengay. “So why not just reach for the cheaper option?” Hill points out. But if you’re willing to shell out a little more and want to see if cannabis is right for your wellness routine, Gottwick adds that athletes aren’t just using it for recovery or relaxation—they’re also using it before their workouts as well.

When you’re looking at using cannabis products for your fitness, it’s important to know the two different types of strains, indica and sativa. Gottwick explains that indica is the strain of marijuana that will make you feel more relaxed and tired, whereas sativa is more energizing and invigorating.

“Athletes aren’t necessarily smoking a bunch of joints and then going for a run,” Gottwick says. “They might micro dose with small edibles before a workout or use topicals to ease muscle pain.”

Everrett Roscoe, a frequent visitor of Revolutionary Clinics and a first-time runner of the Boston Marathon this year, has been using topical CBD and occasional THC lozenges to help his body recover from rigorous training days. “I was a little skeptical of CBD at first,” he tells me. “But I’ve been using it twice a week on my knee after I started having pain from IT band issues in December and now I have next-to-no discomfort.”

Other products Gottwick says athletes are experimenting with include tinctures, vapes, and edibles. Tinctures, which are essentially oils you can place under your tongue, come in a variety of lines and can either be geared towards making you feel energized or bringing you back down to baseline. Edibles and vapes can be customized in the same way.

But, where do you acquire these things? And how do you know you’re getting what you’re paying for? While Revolutionary Clinics is for medical card holders only, other dispensaries are already open in the area or will be opening soon for the general public. While CBD products can be attained anywhere, if you’re looking for a little more guidance or are curious about trying something new, patient advocates and other staff at dispensaries are a good resource to make sure you’re on the right track. Unfortunately, that might mean waiting a little longer—as these things seem to be taking a long time—but it’s comforting news to know that this booming industry is providing avid gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts more tools in their tool box to optimize workouts and enhance recovery.