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How can medical cannabis help athletes with pain?

Exploring the controversial topic of cannabis in sport

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Juicy Fields explores the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis and how it could help athletes struggling with pain.

Running 10 plus laps or dashing 100 meters at record speed can leave the body in aches and pain. Do this daily or several times a week, and you may need the help of an analgesic to deal with the pain and inflammation.

Using this example, it is easy to understand why many renowned athletes have fallen victim to opiates, NSAIDs, and acetaminophen drugs. What starts as a means to boost speedy recovery ends up being a hard-to-kick habit. 

Unfortunately, the opioids crisis stretches beyond professional sports, with 70 per cent of the reported 0.5 million drug-related deaths reported in the World Drug Report 2021 attributed to opiates.

There is a growing need to find effective, non-addictive alternatives to help athletes deal with pain and inflammation.

Something that can be seamlessly incorporated into their wellness regime without posing a risk to their health and, most importantly, their lives. Could cannabis be the solution?

This piece explores the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis and how they can be utilised in the sports world. 

Cannabis, athletes, and pain – can it work?

Cannabis has long been a controversial topic. Its usage is still illegal in many countries, while it has been legalised for both medical and recreational use in others.

The debate around its benefits and harms, risks and advantages continues. That notwithstanding, there is one area cannabis proves to be of great help: pain management.

Anecdotal and scientific evidence has over the years indicated that cannabis has potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, it has an impressive safety profile. This makes the plant the ideal substitute for Opioids, acetaminophen, and NSAIDs. 

A 2016 study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that cannabis users experienced a 64 percent reduction in opioid use.

Another one, published in January 2018, found that medical marijuana laws were associated with lower opioid-related hospitalisations and deaths rates.

Cannabis can also help inflammation, one of the leading causes of pain for many athletes. In a 2017 study, participants overwhelmingly agreed that cannabis offers the same level of pain management properties as opioids but without the numerous adverse effects.

What other ways does cannabis help athletes? 

Cannabis can help one sleep. A night of good sleep is necessary for recovery from intense athletic training. In addition to helping one fall asleep faster, cannabis may make your REM cycles deeper and more restorative, according to a 2019 report in The Permanente Journal.

Cannabis’s anti-inflammatory properties also improve muscle recovery after exercise, which is crucial for maintaining performance over time without injury. Cannabis can improve moods.

Athletes are constantly under pressure to perform at their optimum best. The increased pressure to become the best often leads to stress, depression, and performance anxiety. Consuming cannabis has been identified as an effective way of alleviating these feelings and boosting a positive mentality.

Cannabis and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a condition that is commonly associated with athletes whose sport includes constant head trauma. It is a progressive brain condition often affecting boxing, football, wrestling, hockey, and rugby players.

This condition is characterised by numerous adverse side effects, such as suicidal thoughts, depression, memory issues, chronic pain, and overly aggressive behaviour. 

There are currently numerous animal-based studies that suggest that cannabis can be an effective tool in combating the damage to the brain and alleviating some of the symptoms – pain, depression, and negative thoughts.

A study exploring the neuroprotective and antioxidant capabilities of THC and CBD indicated that the cannabinoids were capable of countering glutamate excitotoxicity, which causes the deterioration or death of neurons following a traumatic brain injury.

Another study conducted by Dent Neurologic Institute in Buffalo explored the effectiveness of cannabis in combating chronic pain associated with concussions. The results indicated that 80% of the participants experienced improved symptoms. 

Is cannabis allowed in sports?

Despite the numerous studies indicating the significant role cannabis plays in restoring health and wellness for athletes, the plant remains top on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited drugs list. The reasons behind the ban include the unsubstantiated claim that cannabis enhances performance.

The second reason contradicts the first one, claiming that cannabis consumption causes slowed reactions, thus posing a danger to oneself and others during competitions. The last reason for the ban is that athletes are society’s role models, and consuming cannabis tarnishes that image.

As more experts call for changes in regulations, major sports leagues have considerably eased their cannabis laws.

For example, the NBA players are no longer subjected to random drug tests, the NHL and the MLB treat a positive cannabis test as they would a positive alcohol test, and the NFL reduced the cannabis testing window to two weeks from four months and replaced suspensions with fines.

On 1 February, 2022, the NFL announced they would be funding the University of California San Diego and the University of Regina with $1 million to investigate the effectiveness of cannabis on pain management and neuroprotection resulting from concussions in football players, respectively.

Take away 

Athletes subject their bodies to extreme strain that leaves them with aches and pain. Those in high-impact sports end up with more than just painful muscles – concussions that may lead to CTE. For centuries, cannabis has been used to treat body aches, pain, and inflammation.

Past and current studies support the analgesic, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis. Although there have been strict rules and regulations in the competitive sports segment in the past, a change, albeit gradual, can be seen happening. Cannabis provides a safer, easy to administer, cheaper, and effective alternative to opioids and other pain medications.

The global opioid crisis has taken millions of lives, including those of promising athletes. Finding a better alternative is imperative.

Leading crowdgrowing platforms like JuicyFields’, are making medical cannabis accessible for more and more people. You too can join the platform and start making profits with every harvest.

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Eight natural ways to increase athletic performance

Exploring some of the safe and natural ways to get ahead of the game.

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Eight natural ways to increase athletic performance
CBD oil can help with muscle recovery

From diet and hydration to CBD oil, exploring some of the safe and natural ways to boost your athletic performance.

It’s not easy being an athlete. Not only do you need to follow a healthy diet, train daily, and prioritise a high-quality sleep, but there are also times when, despite putting in lots of effort, you’re still left unsatisfied. You may wonder, is there anything you can do to change this situation?

You can look for natural ways that will help improve your athletic performance. The easiest way to go about it is to revise your diet and focus on a few key foods.

You can also buy CBD oil for muscle recovery, which will help you recover after intense training.

Other than that, you can munch on flax seeds, which are powerful when it comes to reducing inflammation, or drink beetroot juice for endurance. It’s also imperative that you prioritise proper hydration and take balanced supplements.

To learn more about the natural and safe ways to boost your athletic performance, keep reading.

CBD oil

CBD oil is a natural cannabis extract that has been gaining popularity over the last few years. Some athletes use this product as a part of their recovery routine.

After intense workouts, your muscles might get inflamed, and CBD oil, with its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, can help you recover. 

The soreness is caused by the accumulation of lactic acids, which are produced when your body breaks down glucose. As a result, your muscles feel weak and stiff. CBD oil comes in handy here because it helps with inflammation and serves as an analgesic, meaning that it can help you reduce pain.

Flax seeds

Flax seeds are another natural way to fight inflammatory conditions.

They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to be excellent for reducing inflammation in the body. Flax seeds are naturally rich in fibre, too, which will help you regulate your bowel movements and maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system. Besides that, flax seeds are a great source of vitamin B1, magnesium, and manganese. 

You can incorporate flax seeds into your diet by adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your breakfast, such as cereal or oatmeals.

If you drink smoothies throughout the day, it’s always a good way to consume flax seeds. Some people also add them to yogurts or drizzle their salads with flaxseed oil.

Beetroot juice

Some people might be unaware that beetroot juice can help improve endurance. It’s rich in nitrates, which can enhance exercise performance by increasing nitric oxide production. This compound dilates your blood vessels and increases blood flow to your heart and body.

What’s even better is that beetroot juice is low in calories and sugar, so it won’t affect your weight or kind of performance. On top of that, beetroot juice is an excellent source of iron and vitamin C, which is considered good for anaemia.

Hydration

It’s not just about drinking water but also making sure you drink enough.

It’s recommended that you drink eight glasses of water a day. Although this rule has been recently proven inaccurate, as the amount of water needed for your body depends on many more factors, it will still help you rehydrate your body after intense training and also keep you energised throughout the day.

To boost your hydration levels, even more, you can try adding some fresh lemon juice or cucumber slices to your water, as well as some mint leaves for a refreshing flavour.

Additionally, sprinkling in some sea salt helps the body absorb water for optimal hydration, as well as helps the body stay hydrated for longer periods of time.

Pumpkin seeds 

Pumpkin seeds are packed with healthy fats and protein, which is why they’re a great addition to any athlete’s diet. They’re also rich in zinc, a mineral that helps the immune system fight bacteria and viruses.

They’re an excellent way to get more phosphorus which, along with calcium, is vital to build healthy bones and keep other parts of your body healthy. 

If this wasn’t enough, pumpkin seeds provide a natural source of tryptophan. It’s an amino acid that promotes sleep but isn’t naturally found in the human body.

Blueberries

Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation. They’re also rich in vitamin C and manganese, both of which have been linked to increased endurance and improved recovery time after training. You can add blueberries to your cereal or yogurt, or you can simply munch on a handful of fresh berries whenever you feel like it.

Turmeric 

Turmeric has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent in Asian medicine for thousands of years.

It’s also known for its powerful antioxidant action, which is why athletes often turn to it whenever they need to soothe muscle soreness after exercising.

The recommended dosage is around 500 to 1,000 milligrams a day. For optimal absorption, try taking it with healthy fats like oils, avocado, nuts, and seeds.

Conclusion

One of the best things you can do for your body as an athlete looking for ways to boost your performance is trying natural solutions. You can incorporate flax seeds or turmeric powder into your meals, such as smoothies or oatmeal.

Moreover, munching on blueberries or pumpkin seeds is also a great idea. To make sure that you stay hydrated, drink plenty of water with the addition of fresh fruit, lemon juice, or sea salt. You can also drink beetroot juice to improve endurance.

CBD oil will help you with recovering in between the workout sessions, so feel free to check it out. The most important thing is to listen to your body and always be careful with your diet.

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CBD could boost sports performance on several fronts – study

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Combining CBD with exercise could reduce inflammation, improve breathing during sports performance and make working out more pleasurable, a new study suggests.

Researchers investigated the effects of oral CBD on physiological and psychological responses to aerobic exercise, to test its practical use within a sporting context.

Nine endurance athletes ran for an hour at a fixed level of intensity (70 per cent), before running to exhaustion.

Participants received CBD (300 mg; oral) or placebo 1.5 hours before exercise in a randomised, double-blind study.

Various measurements were taken at several points, including heart rate, blood glucose levels, respiratory indices and “pleasure-displeasure” levels.

The study concluded: “These preliminary results suggest that acute, oral CBD treatment has the potential to alter key physiological and psychological responses during aerobic exercise.

“[CBD’s] effects on [maximal oxygen uptake], feelings of pleasure during exercise and exercise-induced inflammation appear worthy of further investigation.

“The absence of a clear detrimental effect…also suggests that CBD is unlikely to impair aerobic exercise performance in endurance-trained males and may therefore have utility within the sporting context.

“Further research, involving a larger participant sample and different dosing regimens is required to confirm and better understand these initial observations.”

The study was conducted at the Charles Perkins Centre, at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Clinic in Sydney, Australia,

See the findings in full here.

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Cannabis and exercise – the cyclist tackling the “lazy stoner” stereotype

Mike Traynor cycled 19,000 miles around the world to prove the “lazy stoner” stereotype is outdated.

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Mike Traynor, aka Roger Boyd, set up a blog to showcase the benefits of cannabis and exercise

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

A British biker, who cycled around the world to bust the ‘lazy stoner’ stereotype, has highlighted the benefits of combining cannabis and exercise.

In 2018 Mike Traynor, who until now has been known under his pseudonym, Roger Boyd, hit the headlines after cycling around the world while vaping cannabis.

The former IT worker launched his blog, Healthy Stoner in 2013, to highlight the benefits of using cannabis alongside exercise. 

It came about when Mike, now 41, quit smoking and invested in a dry herb vaporiser, saying he was “blown away” by the impact it had on his health. 

Over two years Mike cycled an estimated 19,000 miles, visiting countries such as Spain, Croatia, Greece, New Zealand, Australia, Nepal and India. 

Cannabis and exercise - tackling the "lazy stoner" stereotype

He documented his adventures, along with the fellow advocates he met along the way, on his blog, leading to international media coverage. 

“Cycling around the world has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, before I even knew what cannabis was,” says Mike.

“I’ve always loved riding my bike and getting high, but there wasn’t much on the internet about exercise and cannabis at that time, so I set up the blog to showcase the benefits.”

He continues: “It started as me and some mates making videos, but I’ve always wanted to travel the world, so why not make it a cannabis themed trip?”

Mike would cycle 20 miles before he had his first vape, before going on to cover up to 100 miles a day until he reached his next destination. 

His aim was to bust the common “lazy stoner” stereotype often pinned on cannabis consumers. 

Far from it, Mike says cannabis is actually what motivates him to get out on his bike.

“I find it really motivating,” he says.

“When I get stoned I want to be outside, doing something fun and active. I don’t really want to be sitting around.”

He adds: “From a safety point of view, I don’t find it at all impinges on my ability to ride a bike. I’m pretty tuned in and focused on the task I’m doing.”

Cannabis also helps him mentally and physically, both during the ride and when recovering afterwards.

He was even featured in the 2021 book, Runner’s High, which explored the “secret world of stoned athletes” and the role of cannabis in ultra endurance training in the United States. 

While most still, rightly, exercise caution when it comes to THC, in recent years increasing numbers of professional athletes have spoken about the benefits of CBD products in aiding muscle recovery or helping with injury and pain management. 

“It helps in a multitude of ways as we all know cannabis does, both mentally and physically,” says Mike.

“It elevates me above any kind of discomfort or physical pain during the exercise – it takes any kind of pain out of the legs or from sitting on the saddle for six hours a day.

“It helps with recovering too, and sometimes when you’ve done a lot of exercise, you’re really not hungry, it increases your appetite so you can refuel.”

An outdated stereotype?

Mike is not alone, during his travels he met people who consume cannabis before taking part in extreme sports such as skiing, scuba diving and speed riding.

“I met a lot of people who enjoy cannabis in their own way,” he adds.

“The lazy stoner stereotype is lazy in itself, it is outdated and it doesn’t reflect reality.”

Known as “cannabis amotivational syndrome” this theory suggests that regular cannabis use leaves consumers less likely to engage in goal-directed behaviour.

The term was coined around 50 years ago, to describe the “introversion, passivity, and lack of achievement-orientation” observed in regular cannabis consumers. Other studies have also reported that cannabis users were more likely to experience apathy and passivity, which could lead to “loss in productivity” and “aversion of goal-oriented behaviours”. 

But a recent study has found evidence to dispute this hypothesis.

The study examined the relation between cannabis use and effort-related decision making in a sample of college students, of which 68 per cent met the criteria for Cannabis Use Disorder.

The findings suggest that those who use cannabis are actually more likely to expend effort to obtain reward, according to the study authors.

A career in cannabis

Since returning from his trip in 2017, Mike has found himself at the beginning of a potentially flourishing career in the cannabis industry.

After two years back in his former job in IT communications, he trained as a flight attendant before being approached by major US vaping website Planet of the Vapes.

He applied for a position with them just as he was placed on furlough during Covid, and now has what he describes as his “dream job” working in the Planet of the Vapes customer service team.

The change of career has meant Mike is able to talk more openly about his hobby.

“I’m proud of what I do, it always opens up conversations, but the only reason I had to keep it secret was because of work,” he admits.

“The whole thing is about challenging the stigma and it’s difficult to do that when you can’t be honest about your own life because you’re worried about losing your job.”

The UK landscape has changed significantly since Healthy Stoner first launched, with the rise in popularity of CBD and legalisation of medical cannabis in 2018.

“I think attitudes are definitely changing, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he says.

“We’re still lagging behind most other countries and I can’t see it being legalised here until the US has federal legalisation. I think that will be the tipping point.”

In the meantime, he would love to take on an American highway trip and help people realise that it is possible and – indeed likely – to be a “healthy, professional and successful stoner”. 

“There’s a whole spectrum of humanity out there,” adds Mike.

“Cannabis is whatever you want it to be, just like life itself.”

Follow Mike’s blog at www.healthystoner.com  and find him on Twitter @HealthyStonerUK and Instagram @healthystoner

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