Between the launch of cannabis-centric road races a few years back, the opening of the world's first cannabis gym in San Francisco earlier this year, and unofficial estimations that upwards of 60% of pro-athletes in the NFL and NBA smoke weed, there’s no denying we’re entering a new era of what a stoner looks like.
But while the stoner stereotype might be changing, we’re willing to bet that people are still buying into old myths around marijuana use—especially because weed affects fit dudes differently from the average Jeff Spicoli.
Here, six myths about getting high that you need to stop believing.
1. Myth: You’ll get the munchies and undo your diet
Everyone who’s ever gotten stoned has experienced how pizza and cereal—pretty much anything your sober brain would ignore—suddenly become damn delicious. Why? Marijuana activates neurons typically responsible for shutting down cravings and causes them to instead promote hunger, Yale researchers found—like pressing the gas instead of the brakes.
But different strains of cannabis have different effects on these neurons. “THC may increase appetite, but CBD helps carbohydrate metabolism, fasting insulin, and metabolic function, mitigate and curb cravings—they work synergistically,” says Junella Chin, M.D., an integrative medical physician in New York and California specializing in medical cannabis and osteopathic neuromuscular medicine. “Having a cannabis formulation that is balanced in THC:CBD, or dominantly CBD, is helpful in minimizing the munchies.”
Also: As an athlete accustomed to pushing through pain, you won’t suddenly loose that steely willpower. “When somebody is more motivated, such as an athlete, they’re going to be more inclined to make better eating decisions while high,” adds Josh Axe, a doctor of natural medicine, certified nutrition specialist, and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition. In fact, marijuana users have a lower BMI than their clean counterparts, a study in the American Journal of Medicine found.
2. Myth: You should go hit-for-hit with your friend
“Each individual varies on how their liver breaks down cannabis and how rapidly it is absorbed into the blood and distributed to the rest of the body, including the brain,” says Chin. Cannabis is lipophilic, meaning it is stored in your body's fat cells.
That means leaner, more athletic people metabolize it differently because they have less fat. “My athletic patients often report needing microdoses because of the rate at which they metabolize cannabinoids,” she adds.
3. Myth: Smoking will shackle fit people to the couch
Pounding edibles will most likely reduce you to the stereotype of a guy staring at the ceiling for hours in amusement. But a healthy dose won’t make you lazy AF because, well, you’re still you.
“For many athletes who are Type A with driven personalities, marijuana use won’t have too much of an impact on their overall temperaments,” Axe assures. The cannabinoids in marijuana—those are the chemical compounds in the flower—can help relax the body and decrease your sympathetic nervous response, which is why weed can help you chill out. But your natural athletic drive will still keep you productive.
4. Myth: Marijuana has no benefit to fit people beyond getting you high
“There’s a healthy, active population, such as athletes, who are using cannabis to help post-exercise relaxation and sleep, reduce muscle spasms, relieve pain, increase oxygenation of tissues and ligaments, and act as a neuro-protectant for contact sports to help treat concussions and head injuries,” Chin explains.
Her patients use specialized strains for everything from staying focused and in the zone while exercising to getting rid of the chatter and noise during meditation.
And don’t overlook the benefit of the relaxation that comes with getting high when you’re a fit dude. “A lot of athletes have really high levels of cortisol and hormones such as adrenaline, and an increased response from their sympathetic nervous system, all of which can contribute to keeping them stressed and tightly wound,” Axe says. “CBD oil or cannabis that has a balance of CBD and THC can help decrease the sympathetic response, helping to calm body and mind, and improve relaxation, which could ultimately help improve recovery in athletes.”
5. Myth: Marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug
While there’s very little data on how marijuana affects athletes, we do know that THC does not improve aerobic performance—in fact, it might actually reduce strength and ability to work at a high load, according to a new Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport analysis of studies related to cannabis and exercise performance.
That’s not good news for those who were hoping they’d get a better workout stoned, but it does throw a wrench in the NFL and NBA’s argument that weed should be banned because it’s a performance-enhancing drug.
6. Myth: Unlike cigarettes, smoking weed is safe for your health
For the record: Marijuana is safe for your health—certainly far, far healthier than smoking tobacco, says Jordan Tishler, M.D., a Harvard-trained internist and leading cannabis therapeutics specialist. Even though marijuana smoke contains a number of carcinogens, research shows it doesn't increase your risk for lung cancer the way tobacco does.
But while the drug is safe, smoking it specifically presents the one and only potential risk: Studies suggest smoking weed longterm can increase your likelihood of chronic bronchitis, Tishler says. He's quick to point out this is the only risk research has found to be associated with adults smoking cannabis, and it’s reversible. (Note that research on teenagers smoking is a different story.)
Since smoking is the unhealthiest way to ingest something that's otherwise safe, Tishler recommends trading the method for vaporizing the whole flower instead. “Vaping completely mitigates the risk of smoking, but the oils most people vape with can have residual solvents via the extraction process and the cartridges contain harmful chemicals,” he explains. “Edibles are problematic because you have less control over dose and timeline of activation.”