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Does Exercise Lower Weed Tolerance?

    • There isn’t currently any clinical evidence that exercise can decrease your tolerance to marijuana, but there are popular theories among patients that suggest a connection.


    • Cannabis can be a beneficial tool for athletes; it can support pain recovery, boost mood during workouts, or help athletes meet their nutritional goals.


    • You can manage your tolerance to cannabis by taking tolerance breaks, using CBD products, and dosing intentionally.


If you’re an athlete battling delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a workout, you might be interested in trying medical marijuana for chronic pain. But how will your exercise regimen impact your treatment plan?

Does cardiovascular exercise decrease your tolerance to medical cannabis?

Cannabis researchers haven’t yet identified a connection between tolerance and exercise. But there are theories circulating in the patient community that regular cardio can help you manage your tolerance to THC.

We’re exploring the potential of this theory in the guide below. We’ll also touch on tolerance, some benefits of combining cannabis and exercise, and a few tips for tolerance management.

What Is Tolerance?

First things first: what is tolerance?

When your body builds up resistance to a substance, you’ll need more of that substance to notice the effects. In other words, you might need to use a higher dose of marijuana to experience its effects the longer you use it regularly.

There are a few important things to note about tolerance:

  • Tolerance looks different for everyone – Some patients become very tolerant to cannabis over time while others can consistently use the same dose long-term without building up a tolerance. Every patient is different, everyone responds to marijuana differently, and tolerance is still relatively misunderstood.
  • Patients can manage tolerance – Luckily, tolerance is (to an extent) within your control. You can manage your tolerance by taking breaks from cannabis, incorporating CBD into your routine, and using cannabis very intentionally. We’ll touch on these management tips in the last section of this guide.
  • Tolerance isn’t an exact science – Since researchers, providers, and patients don’t yet understand the whole picture of cannabis tolerance, it’s hard to predict how your tolerance will develop or how strongly you’ll need to commit to tolerance management. In other words, learning about your tolerance is a trial-and-error process.

Exercise and Weed Tolerance: Is There a Connection?

While there have been a few studies exploring how cannabis can support a healthy exercise routine (with promising results), there haven’t been as many explorations related to exercise and tolerance. However, there is a prevailing theory in the patient community related to THC specifically:

  • Excess THC doesn’t leave your body right away; instead, it’s stored in the body’s fats, slowly released into the bloodstream, and metabolized into waste over time.
  • During exercise, your body can “burn” (i.e., tap into) fat for energy. So, in theory, stored THC could be released into your bloodstream during exercise as your body burns the fats where this THC is stored.
  • If your tolerance depends on the amount of stored THC in your body’s fats and you can send this stored THC back to your bloodstream during exercise, then exercise could (in theory) reduce your tolerance.

While this theory certainly sounds logical, there are a few problems to acknowledge:

  • Fat-burning during exercise is complex – Not all body fats are created equal—neither are different types of exercise. A wide variety of factors can influence the fat-burning process during exercise, and there may not be a direct correlation between total fat burn and stored THC loss during exercise.
  • Tolerance is complex – While excess THC is stored in the body’s fats, this isn’t the only factor that contributes to your THC tolerance. Metabolism, genetics, frequency of use, and physiological factors can all play a role in your tolerance. So, it’s hard to say with certainty that exercise has a direct effect on tolerance.

So, can exercise decrease your tolerance to marijuana? We’re not entirely sure, but it’s certainly possible.

Other Benefits of Cannabis for Athletes

Female athlete running outdoors on highwayEven if exercise doesn’t have a true connection with tolerance, exercise and medical cannabis are still an exceptional lifestyle match.

Whether you’re an athlete living with a health condition or you simply want to use cannabis for exercise recovery, you’ll likely discover multiple benefits of adding medical marijuana to your routine.

Pain Relief and Recovery

Long-distance runners, competitive swimmers, gravity-defying weightlifters, and all other athletes have something in common: they’re liable to get sore after working out. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is one of the most typical side effects of exercise.

But cannabis is an exceptional tool for recovering from DOMS, and you can use medical-grade products to accomplish a few different goals:

  • Patients can use CBD-infused topical lotions to relieve acute soreness in specific areas of the body.
  • Athletes can add a few drops of a cannabis tincture or oil to a glass of water before bed to support restful, restorative sleep.
  • Users can take cannabis capsules or eat edible products to promote pain relief and relaxation during the recovery period.

Workout Enjoyment

Many medical marijuana patients report that some cannabis formulas offer a mood boost, increase motivation, and offer an extra zip of energy—anecdotal reports confirmed by a recent study of athletes who used cannabis.

Using cannabis before a workout can be just as beneficial as using it during the recovery period. This is especially true if you struggle to maintain your workout routine.

If you’re looking for cannabis products that can offer the energy boost you’re looking for ahead of your next run, swim, bike, or set, consider products like:

  • CBD-forward formulas – Certain strains of CBD can improve focus and increase energy—both of which can help you blast through your next workout.
  • Sativa strains – If you choose to use a THC product before a workout, sativas might offer the uptick in creativity and extroversion you need to chase that runner’s high.
  • Sativa-forward hybrids – Hybrids offer the best of the indica and sativa strains in one convenient product. But sativa-leaning hybrids could help you harness both increased energy and a sense of mental calm before a workout.

Nutritional Support

“The munchies” are a well-documented phenomenon among medical cannabis users—appetite stimulation is part and parcel of the cannabis experience for many patients.

While not all strains cause the munchies (and not all patients experience them regularly), athletes can actually use this stimulation to their benefit during exercise recovery, whether they’re trying to:

  • Gain weight – If you’re lifting hard and trying to build muscle, it can be difficult to consume the sheer volume of protein needed to pack on mass. The munchies can motivate you to drink that last protein smoothie of the day or munch on that bag of protein-packed trail mix.
  • Lose weight – If you’re using cardio to supplement an overall weight loss plan, healthy nutrition is likely at the top of mind for you. By keeping healthy, munchie-friendly snacks in the house (like frozen blueberries, nuts, crispy vegetables, or roasted beans), you can meet your macro goals without succumbing to the call of junk food.
  • Maintain weight – If you’re in a maintenance phase, it can be hard to transition away from a bulking or cutting phase—whether you’re struggling to cut back or eat enough. Timing your dosing precisely and keeping healthy foods in the house are two tactics to lean into on your medical cannabis journey.

Tips for Managing Tolerance

If exercise doesn’t prove useful in your tolerance management plan (and it might—there’s just no guarantee), what else can you do to stay within your tolerance sweet spot?

  • Take a T-break – Tolerance breaks (“T-breaks,” informally) are a favorite among medical cannabis patients. By taking a prolonged break from cannabis occasionally, you can help your body maintain stasis and keep your dosing consistent long-term. Check out our full guide to T-breaks here.
  • Incorporate CBD – If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of THC, don’t forget that CBD can be just as powerful a healing tool. By incorporating CBD into your treatment regimen, you can stave off some tolerance buildup and maintain consistency over time.
  • Dose intentionally – While it might be tempting to dip into your cannabis stash for purely recreational purposes, remember why you started using cannabis in the first place: to find relief from your specific health issue. By using medical marijuana as intentionally and purposefully as possible, you can manage doses carefully and maintain a reasonable tolerance.

Explore Your Medical Cannabis Options with TeleLeaf

Whether or not exercise helps you maintain your tolerance, medical cannabis and exercise are a match made in heaven for patients striving to live a healthy lifestyle. Even if you’re using cannabis for a non-athletic issue (like managing sleep disturbance), you’ll likely find that medical marijuana can help you meet your exercise goals, too.

If you’re ready to harness the myriad benefits of medical cannabis, turn to TeleLeaf: your connection to cannabis-informed providers who can offer a medical recommendation for marijuana. Our patient-focused, evidence-based approach to treatment is what makes us the best online medical marijuana card service provider on the market now.

Discover the life-changing potential of cannabis by making an appointment with a TeleLeaf provider today.


University of Vermont. T-Break: Take a Cannabis Tolerance Break.

Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. Can Physical Exercise or Food Deprivation Cause Release of Fat-Stored Cannabinoids?.

Frontiers in Physiology. Scientific Challenges on Theory of Fat Burning by Exercise.

University of Colorado Boulder. Study: Cannabis Can Make Workouts More Fun, But It’s No Performance-Enhancer.

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