Can smoking marijuana make you a better athlete? That’s probably a question you hadn’t pondered, given pot’s reputation for creating mellowness and a craving for munchies. But with growing numbers of states legalizing or decriminalizing the drug, Outside magazine decided to answer that question. So writer Gordy Megroz ran on a treadmill, skied and performed a host of physical tests under the influence, and he talked to scientists to get their take (not toke) on his performance. Here’s what he found:
Skiing: “After popping a 10-milligram THC gummy, I experience a slight yet very functional high. But something else stood out: I felt invincible and proceeded to attack the steepest lines without fear.” Stanford Medical School professor Keith Humphreys’ comment: “We have cannabinoid receptors throughout our brains and when the THC hits those receptors, it triggers a system that reduces anxiety,” he told Megroz. Feeling more aggressive “is a natural reaction to the drug.” (Megroz writes that the World Anti-Doping Association bans marijuana in competitions in part because of its anti-anxiety effects.)
Treadmill test: Without pot, Megroz ran at a pace of 5 mph, regularly increased the incline on the ramp and ran for 19 minutes until his legs gave out. Later, after taking a hit of pot before getting on the treadmill, “I can still feel the pain, but I’m not fixated on it.” He lasted 30 seconds longer. Rerunning the sober-high comparison twice more on other days produced similar times.
Positive comparisons also emerged for bench pressing (not as sore afterward, which Humphreys says may be due to pot’s anti-inflammatory effect) and mountain biking, when he feels “flowy and fast” – at least until he biked “straight off the trail” after failing to adjust his speed on a turn. Which may be the moral of the story: “You might feel invincible out there,” Humphreys says, “but you’re probably putting yourself in more danger.”
In the end, Megroz says, he ended up preferring “the natural high of a hard run.”
From “Can Pot Make You a Better Athlete?” Outside, February issue