Move over endorphins, there’s a new kid in town
If you’ve ever been a runner, or gym-rat, or known someone who has, then you might be aware of the term “runner’s high.” The sensation can be described as euphoric, uplifting, and energetic, providing a prolonged sense of accomplishment and happiness. This sense of euphoria has typically been linked with endorphins that are naturally produced by your body, and are released when participating in acts of physicality, such as running, working out, or any other form of exercise. However, there’s a new kid on the block – and it turns out that they’ve been here all along.
A recent study have been pointing towards the relationship between the “runner’s high” and the endocannabinoid system. Bear with me, as things are going to take a strangely scientific twist…
Homeostasis – the “Goldilocks” zone
The human body likes to keep things even-keeled. A complex system of regulatory controls are in place to make sure that your body doesn’t get too hot, or too cold, but just right. This is what’s known as the “Goldilocks” zone, or homeostasis. Our bodies, or rather, the cells in our bodies, must maintain homeostasis in order to keep us in pique performance. The endocannabinoid system is one of many that help regulate homeostasis.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinioid system is a naturally occurring group of receptors involving the brain and central nervous system. This system plays a crucial role in homeostasis, and is comprised of 3 key components:
Found on the outside of cells, cannabinoid receptors “listen” to the conditions outside of the cell. They transmit information about changing conditions outside of the cell. There are 2 major receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors interact with THC, producing the “high” feeling commonly found from using cannabis.
These are molecules that bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids are produced naturally by cells in the human body, and can be broken down into 2 major types: anandamide and 2-AG. Both are made from fat-like molecules and are synthesized on-demand, meaning that they are not created and stored for future use.
Metabolic enzymes ensure endocannabinoids get used when needed, but not for longer than necessary, and then break down endocannabinoids after they are used. They fall into 2 categories: FAAH and MAGL. MAGL breaks down 2-AG and FAAH breaks down anandamide.
Anandamide, THC and the Runner’s High
Anandamide – which comes from the Sanskrit word, “ananda,” meaning “joy, bliss, or happiness” – is the mimetic twin of THC. It activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which, in turn, produce psychological and physiological rewards, such as euphoria, energy boost and pain relief. The similarities between these two cannabinoids, anandamide and THC, provide a lot of evidence to show that THC has a similar effect on the nervous system as exercise does.
With all this being said – and it’s quite a mouthful – lighting up while running 5k probably isn’t the best idea. However, because THC is stored in fat, and as you run you’re burning that fat, THC is slowly being released in your body which will give you that tiny boost to push a little further. So, keep burning, but keep exercising!
Cannabis and exercise…who woulda thought!?