As an avid body builder, anesthesiologist and medical marijuana physician in the state of Florida and with a profound interest in nutrition and cannabis, I have evaluated post workout recovery and the benefits cannabis has for this unique physiologic situation as our bodies try to recover from the damage a strenuous work out imposes.
When one engages in a strenuous work out (and I mean strenuous), the body undergoes three physiologic changes that need to be corrected. These are oxidative stress, increased cortisol levels and inflammation. We all have heard plenty of discussions why these are bad, but a quick summary is in order to understand why cannabis is ideal to take for these changes. Oxidative stress is a situation whereby the workout creates oxidants in the body that can be rather damaging to our DNA, cleaving the telomere that prevents the DNA strands from unwinding. When telomeres are cleaved and unwinding occurs, the cells can transform into cancer cells, obviously this is not good. Working out also elevates cortisol levels. Cortisol is very damaging and if elevated for prolonged periods of time, it will encourages a fat storing process in the body, not ideal. Third, inflammation occurs from exercise and this is tied to numerous medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer Alzheimer’s disease, high cholesterol levels, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain.
So why do I consider cannabis post workout? Well, simply put, cannabis reverses all three of these issues. Cannabis is a powerful antioxidant therefore binding to these ions that are produced while we workout and prevent them from attacking our normal DNA and changing those cells into cancer creating cells. The U.S. government, which has the patent for cannabis, says cannabis is an antioxidant and is a neuroprotective agent as well. This means it binds those oxidants and prevents damage that could occur on a cellular level. It also means if concussed, it protects the brain, (take that and smoke it Mr. Goodell!). I suggest to the NFL, “Got hit, take a hit”, but this is a discussion for another day perhaps. Cannabis also inhibits the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. What does all that mean? Well, that is the feedback loop in our bodies that controls cortisol levels. Working out elevates cortisol levels, and cannabis lowers cortisol levels by working directly at the pituitary and hypothalamic centers in our brain. Therefore cannabis negates the side effects of elevated cortisol levels, another profound health benefit. Inflammation in our bodies is controlled by our mast cells. These cells release inflammatory agents such as cytokines, which cause inflammation. The mast cells have CBD receptors and when cannabis binds to these receptors, it prevents the release of those cytokines, pretty amazing.
So how do we use the above information for our benefit? Just like nutrient timing is critical to obtaining post work out results, cannabis timing is crucial as well. The three changes, oxidative stress, elevated cortisol levels and inflammation, all do need to be present as a stimulus for enhanced muscle growth, but for only a short window post workout, two hours is that timeframe. So I propose that two hours post workout, one needs to enhance the endocannabinoid system by taking cannabis and restoring the body to a less stressful state. It is that simple and straight forward in my professional opinion.