Runner's high

Did you know your body produces its own ‘cannabis’ during exercise? OK, OK, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit. However, studies have shown the euphoric sensation sought after by many long-distance runners may actually have a lot more to do than just the lovely cocktail of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters (endorphins, serotonin, dopamine) our brains release during these periods.

One word: Cannabinoids

Hello, Alaska. It’s your local Terp Nerd tuning in to this month’s edition of Alaska Cannabist magazine. And as a passionate long-distance runner myself, I would like to provide a little insight on something that has always fascinated me about the drastic physical and mental transitions our body undergo after a good long run. This is most commonly referred to as the “runner’s high.”

For years, the collective knowledge has led to the belief our mood enhancement during our high levels of activity was directly linked solely to our endorphins, a neurotransmitter.

Studies as recently as 2004 have suggested there might be more to the picture. Researchers now have strong evidence that points to our endocannabinoids playing a major role in reducing anxiety, higher our pain tolerance, and improving our cognitive performance.

Most mentionable is our naturally occurring anandamide, which closely resembles THC. It’s a major phyto-cannabinoid present in the cannabis plant that, in part, is responsible for the euphoric and psychoactive sensation recreational users seek out.

To help separate what exactly is causing this “runner’s high,” endorphins or anandamide, in those recent studies, researchers have applied drugs to mice specifically designed to block their endocannabinoid receptors and have the mice run a controlled distance. The results they collected suggested the mice were more sensitive to pain, were still very anxious, and just could not simply relax.

They repeated this test with a drug that blocked the opioid receptors responsible for the endorphins, and the results were very clear. There was no interference with the mice enjoying their 

blissful runner’s high.

But hold on! As for almost anything else in this world, over-doing it could be working backward. 

Research done with human subjects has suggested very high intensity exercise, even very low to none, shows zero significant increases in the subject’s endocannabinoids post-exercise. 

However, moderate intensity exercise shows a much higher level of endocannabinoid. This is exactly why long-distance runners who tend to run at a steady or moderate pace are more likely to experience the “runner’s high.” High intensity sprinters tend to miss out on this little treat.

It’s great that we have our own built-in dispensary and all, though the price could be higher for those just not quite as motivated as others, but can this be taken a step further? What happens when we ingest the real thing before running? Is cannabis really the “ergolytic” some doctors claim it to be or can it be utilized as a tool to actually increase performance? This one I am a bit biased on due to the fact I personally consume THC-dominant cannabis before every long-distance run. Again, personally, it helps open my airways, concentrate more on my breathing while allowing me to maintain my focus on the simple enjoyment of the activity.

This main not be true for everyone looking to get a little extra boost in their performance. Though studies are consistently being held and researchers day and night try to tackle the magical properties of the beautiful cannabis plant, there just has not been sufficient evidence suggesting it can physically improve your performance. 

But what’s that old saying? “Mind over matter.” 

The mind is a very powerful thing and when stimulates properly will never cease to show its potential. This can play a huge role in boosting your adrenal glands and even your performance. You ever been in the middle of a run or a workout and then that one song comes on that just gets your blood pumping!? 

Yep. The mind! Same with the effects the cannabis plant has on one’s mental state. Reduced anxiety, stress relief, focus. This could in fact play a role in why many athletes have started to experiment in the THC and CBD realm to help increase performance over artificial supplements and pain relievers.

In my opinion, the holistic approach will always come out on top. Remember to take care of you body and mind, nourish yourself and remember the best way to do so is through the power of our beautiful planet. Until next month, best of vibes your way!

 Anthony Dellapietro lives in Wasilla.  He owns NuLyfe Labs LLC. 

 

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