Pubdate: Tue, 09 Feb 2016
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2016 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Scott Billeck
Page: C1


MARIJUANA and fitness - common sense suggests one doesn't go well with
the other. The stereotype of the lazy stoner who makes late-night
pilgrimages for junk food doesn't mesh with someone who spends spare
time lifting weights or goes on early morning jogs.

But some users who have taken a hit before lifting weights say there
are benefits.

"Weed was a great help for me when I was just starting off weight
training, running and cycling. For one, it really takes the edge of
the soreness," says Martin, who doesn't want his last name published.

"It's such a distinct feeling," he says. "It's a mix of sheer panic
and dopamine and mental clarity. When you get really high and go
cycling you don't really think about what you're doing, you just let
your body do it."

Martin says he felt more in tune with his body, allowing him to focus
more on muscle groups and getting the results he desired.

"I really fine-tuned my squatting and dead-lifting this way," he

Sarah Teetzel, a kinesiology professor at the University of Manitoba,
says it's possible that people such as Martin can find greater focus
when using marijuana.

The problem, says Teetzel, is that research just isn't available to
answer the many questions about marijuana's pros and cons.

"It's hard to do research on any performance-enhancing drug because of
the difficulty in obtaining research ethical approval to conduct
studies of this nature," she says. "A university's research ethics
board is unlikely to permit researchers to give athletes illegal drugs
in order to study their physiological reactions. "If we try to get
this information from athletes using qualitative methods, such as
interviews and surveys, we face additional problems. There's no
benefit for athletes taking banned or illegal substances to tell
researchers anything that could incriminate them or lead to a doping
ban." And just because Martin found benefits from using marijuana
before workouts doesn't mean anyone else will get that benefit,
Teetzel says. "There are over 100 scientific articles that have
attempted to determine if cannabis is performance enhancing or
limiting, and there aren't any consistencies in the findings from
these studies," Teetzel said. "It could be performance-enhanc! ing for
certain populations, it could help with recovery or mental preparation
- - there are a lot of what-ifs. But there is no clear consensus.

"Researchers are studying the effects of medicinal marijuana, and some
of those findings could, theoretically, be applied to athletes as
well... The research literature currently raises more questions than
it answers.

"When you're thinking about using marijuana for focusing or for
courage, especially in the so-called 'dangerous' sports, held at the
Winter Olympics and X Games, an athlete could make a case that it
helps them push their abilities," Teetzel says. "But it would also be
very dependent on the person's preferences. Do they want to do it? How
does their body react? There are so many ways that people react to
marijuana, it makes it hard to draw conclusions."

And with marijuana's legalization - a promise made on the campaign
trail last fall by by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - Canadians will
increasingly want more information.

A 2015 University of Colorado study (Colorado voters decided to
legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis in a 2012 state-wide ballot
initiative) concluded that a "specific relationship - positive or
negative - between cannabis use and physical activity/sport, and the
mechanisms that might mediate this relationship, is unclear."

The study pointed out the potential effects of cannabis use on
exercise performance, motivation and recovery and said "future
research exploring the effects of cannabis use on sports and exercise
behaviour has the potential to make valuable contributions that will
inform public policy, consumer decisions and, ultimately, public health."

The is a huge potential for positive and negative percussions from
mixing weed and workouts, says Mark Ware, a McGill University
professor in Montreal and executive director of the Canadian
Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids.

"Having worked in that field, it's clear that cannabinoids have a very
wide-ranging effect on the human brain," Ware says.

"The receptors for the major cannabinoids molecules - THC
(tetrahydrocannabinol) - is found in many, many of our brains regions
which control not only pain, but movement, concentration, appetite,
mood and so on.

"So whenever I hear stories of athletes or people using cannabis as a
way to improve their function or ability to perform a certain task,
there's plenty of neurological rationale as to why that might work."

Ware, whose research focuses on evaluating the safety and
effectiveness of medicines derived from cannabis, says there are also
potential warnings to consider.

"To demonstrably say that the effect is beneficial, and override the
possible risks - we know about risk of memory impairment and cognitive
changes - really requires study," he says.

Martin, the weightlifter, eventually quit using marijuana over the
risk of dependency, despite noticing the benefits he received.

"Weed let me get in my own head and self-motivate myself, really focus
on what was wrong with my life," he says. "It turned me into someone
who can't sit still and always has to be doing something. Plus, even
on bad days or low-energy days, the feeling of exercising while stoned
was great so it really kept me coming back to the gym."

Perhaps more important, he says, is that his performance hasn't
dropped off since giving up pot.

"In fact, I'm working out more than I have ever before," he says. "I'm
doing body-weight training four days out of five weekdays and running
2 1/2 kilometres every single day."
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