Before a long run, Flavie Dokken likes to ingest a capsule or gummy with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule from the cannabis plant most famous for its psychoactive effects. “It works really well for me. I get an energy boost,” says the U.S. Army veteran and former bodybuilder who’s now a competitive ultramarathoner based in Boulder. During a five-hour run, she might take half a gummy before the workout and then consume the other half a few hours in to give herself a second wind. What she gets from THC isn’t just overall energy but also a feeling of “being tuned in and present during the workout,” she says.
As marijuana legalization has spread across the country, it’s not just couch-dwelling stoners who are reaching for THC. Dokken is one of many athletes who are finding ways to incorporate the drug into their training programs, and she’s one of several athletes sponsored by cannabis edibles company Wana Brands. And although cannabidiol (CBD) has received a lot of attention for its potential to reduce pain and inflammation without the psychoactive effects of THC, some athletes find that THC can also be a useful component of their workout and recovery programs.
“We had no idea so many people would say, ‘Yeah, I use cannabis and exercise together.’”
Scientists were surprised
To be clear, there’s very little scientific evidence on the use of cannabis and exercise. “Most of the research on exercise is anecdotal and not in the form of clinical trials,” says Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, a former academic who now serves as Vice President for human and animal research at Canopy Growth Corporation, a cannabis company based in Ontario.
What’s known about athletes and cannabis comes mostly from surveys and self-reports. For instance, a 2019 study of behaviors and attitudes about cannabis provides a few clues about the use of cannabis among exercisers even if that wasn’t the researchers’ original intention. “We wanted to ask actual cannabis users…