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University of Colorado to Study Relationship Between Exercise and Cannabis

University of Colorado is looking more into how cannabis can impact athletic performance, from performance enhancement to recovery.

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University of Colorado, Boulder (UCB) just introduced a new study that looks at whether or not cannabis can enhance physical performance in athletes.

According to University Professor Angela Bryan, other studies have found that there is no evidence that cannabis enhances or improves physical performance. “There is very little research on this topic, and a lot of it dates back to the ’70s, but the available data suggests that cannabis is not performance-enhancing from the perspective of speed, power or strength. In one study, researchers had cyclists use cannabis, or not, and then assessed their performance on the bike. They looked at both speed and power, and both were decreased in the cannabis condition. Others have shown little or no difference in performance,” Bryan said in a university interview.

“One caveat: These studies were done with a lower-potency product provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for research and may not reflect what athletes are actually using these days, so more studies are needed. There is no evidence that using it a few nights before competition would influence performance days later,” she continued. Bryan is also the co-director of CUChange, and previous studies she conducted were also on the topic of cannabis and health.

University of Colorado Working with Grad Students for Answers

Bryan is overseeing a new study at the University that will be led by one of Bryan’s graduate students. Individuals who volunteer to participate in this study will be asked to run on a treadmill after having consumed a THC-based cannabis product. The test will be run both while the subject is under the influence of THC, as well as not under the influence. Unlike other studies, this one will have to be a mobile operation because UCB doesn’t allow cannabis on campus. So researchers will travel with a mobile laboratory to conduct their research. 

“We can drive to a participant’s house, do some baseline assessments, have them go into their house, use the product, they get back into our mobile laboratory, and then we bring them to the lab to run on the treadmill,” Bryan commented. CUChange is currently accepting volunteers for its study on cannabis and exercise, who will receive up to $100 for participating. Criteria to participate includes men (21-40 years old) or women (21-50 years old) who have used cannabis in the past and are physically active and live in the Boulder or Denver areas.

Researchers are also looking to conduct a different study on the relationship between nutrition, insulin and cannabis, which is also open for applicants as well. 

The discussion of this university study comes hot on the heels of Olympic track and field athlete Sha’Carri Richardson, who was recently disqualified from participating in this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Japan due to a positive THC test. Her disqualification has renewed interest in the topic of athletes and cannabis use, with numerous organizations rising up to support her and to denounce organizations like the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) for their archaic bans on cannabis.

Bryan doesn’t believe that cannabis should continue to be a bannable offense in any sport. “Given there is no convincing evidence THC boosts performance, and it is legal in the vast majority of U.S. states and in entire countries, including Canada, I do not think it should be included as a banned substance for elite athletes or for any other kind of athlete for that manner. That said, I would in no way endorse Olympic athletes taking cannabis immediately before competing. My perspective is more that athletes using cannabis in their down time either recreationally or as an aid to recovery should not be held against them in terms of competition.”