Ok so this is going to be a controversial post so I’m going to be upfront and say this right away; I am not advocating for the use of marijuana as it is still considered an illegal drug in Canada. This blog post is to reflect the current uses of Marijuana in sport and to explore its positives and negatives in regards to athletic performance. I mean I might as well, if all things go according to plan in Canada, we’ll be able to smoke a spliff on Canada day, LEGALLY!
Ok now that I’ve done my due diligence and my lawyer is happy, let’s do this! Marijuana and Sports!
I’m going to officially start by saying that there isn’t much research, at least not great research, within this blog post. The reason? Because the Food and Drug Administration and drug laws have made it so incredibly difficult for people to research Marijuana effectively. But we’ll talk here about what has been researched and what people are currently using Marijuana for, in the world of sports of course.
Marijuana is a plant with the active ingredients of Tetrahydrocannibol (THC) and Cannibol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound that gives you the high that’s associated with the drug. CBD is the medicinal compound that many boast anti-inflammatory, pain relief, anti-anxiety, anti-psychosis, anti-seizures, anti-spasm, blood sugar control, appetite stimulation and it’s been claimed to even have anti-cancer properties – but there is little quality research to support these claims. CBD is the compound that makes you one with your couch and THC is the compound that gets you high. Furthermore, there are different strains of marijuana that have different amounts of THC and CBD; Sativa and Indica. Sativa plant strains are typically taller plants and have more THC in them vs CBD. Indica strains are typically shorter and darker in leaf/ bud colour and have more CBD than THC. There are also hybrid strains that are mixes of Indica and Sativas in a selective breeding process (think brocoliflower as an example of cross breeding). ANOTHER thing to point out too is the CBD and THC content is also heavily reliant on how the plant was harvested and cured. If the plant was harvested and cured earlier; there is a higher THC content but if the plant was allowed to mature longer in the flowering stage then there is typically more CBD. Since CBD is reported to have more of the medicinal compounds, we’re primarily talking about Sativas in this post (there are also a TON of different types of Sativas and Indicas! Not to mention hybrid strains)
How is this relevant to sport at all? Well for a long time Marijuana has been put on the banned substances list for athletes because of the misunderstanding due to the difficulty in researching the plant. Hell, I remember the Winter Olympic controversy behind the first ever snowboarding gold medal when they found weed in his system, because let’s be honest here; for anyone that’s ever smoked a joint KNOWS that it’s not a performance enhancing drug (unless it was an eating competition). Not to mention that there are a ton of pro athletes that do smoke weed. So why are athletes smoking up and potentially risking their multi-million-dollar careers?
Well aside from the fact that it has significantly less health issues when compared to the VERY legal and often celebrated alcohol, there are many different ways athletes are using weed in their training. Some of these reasons include to recover better from their workouts by supressing inflammation, help them stimulate appetite to meet caloric goals, helping them relax and sleep better before competitions/ races and some have even been using it to reduce anxiety before competition/ races. Many also report weed has pain management properties without as many side effects as prescription drugs. Some studies have even shown cannabis can increased oxygenation of tissues, improve vision and concentration, reduce muscle spasms and helping them forget about past traumatic experiences – however these are not specifically in the athletic population. One runner, writer and weed advocate, Tyler Hurst from Portland (of course it’s Portland) claims that it helps him during long runs similar to the runners high and has helped him recover better and it allows his muscles to relax better for his foam rolling and stretching. So, let’s take a look at them and what needs to be considered (again, I am not promoting Marijuana use!)
Firstly, smoking Marijuana has been shown to impair athletic performance. That only makes sense, you’re still inhaling toxic carcinogenic chemical compounds from combustion into your lungs. That can and will decrease your VO2 max and your lungs abilities to move CO2 out of the lungs and move Oxygen into your blood for the needed metabolic reactions. BUT is there research on what happens when you vaporize weed? Vaporizing weed is different because instead of a chemical combustion that gives off a lot of toxic waste products you’re roasting the weed at a much lower temperature to get the CBD/ THC properties without the chemical combustion. The issue is there isn’t any reliable research on traditional smoking vs vaping in athletes can comparison to vaping tobacco products isn’t fair because Bronchiolitis Obliterans (BO) AKA Popcorn lung is caused by the chemical diacteyl which isn’t found in vaporizing the marijuana plant (I have no idea about any of the vape pens that use Weed or Hash oil though). So bottom line, we don’t know the difference between Vaporizing pure weed or Vape Pen oils but we do know that smoking a joint or a bong will decrease your lung capacity and aerobic fitness – also, I have no idea if the bong water actually filters out anything as it’s commonly believed to do so, again there’s not a lot of research on this yet.
So that leaves us with eating the CBD for it’s reported effects. There are SO MANY ways to do this now! CBD and THC are both fat soluble compounds so there’s the old school budder where there is a complicated process to cook the marijuana plant in butter to make budder and then you can either bake it into baked goods like cookies or brownies or spread it on other foods like toast. There’s also marijuana oils, tinctures, pills, chocolates, candies, gummies and lollies (I’m just going to stop with the examples here because the list keeps going). So, the assumption here is that if you eat your weed then your aerobic capacity is preserved, which makes sense but no surprise here – there’s not enough research. BUT the one thing to point out is that eating your marijuana products will have the effects go longer than smoking, approximately 6-10 hours vs 2 hours for smoking/ vaporizing.
Some other effects seen in marijuana studies that can affect physical performance include an elevated heart rate and decreased short-term memory, alertness, lowered reaction time, faster muscle fatigue and it may even lead to cardiovascular disease. There’s also an association with decreased IQ and some people report an increase anxiety and paranoia. So this doesn’t seem like something that would help with sports that are a bit more coordinated and require a bit more thought and coordination like Baseball, Basketball (GO RAPTORS!) and Hockey (GO LEAFS! – see what I did there?).
So what’s the verdict? Could pot assist with some of the recovery aspects of sports? Maybe, but it could definitely impair performance more than it can enhance it; so definitely avoid toking up before sports. Like I said a few times in this post already, I am not advocating for it’s use as it’s still considered illegal in Canada and it’s 100% considered a banned substance by the World Anti Doping Agency, so it could cost you your career as a professional athlete. The truth of the matter is that we don’t have enough research to definitively say what method of taking it would be best for whatever intended benefits. Hopefully with the legalization of Marijuana for recreational use we can see a relaxation of it’s research capabilities not only the sport world but the textile, renewable energy, medicinal world and much more. But for now, the debate continues.
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management
One of the main questions I get more than any other is how to reduce or eliminate bloating. One of the most common symptoms that brings people I see together is this almost silly symptom of bloating. It sounds like just a pest that plagues you, usually brushed off as not a real problem. Many women rate their bloating and distention as if they were pregnant! The actual complexities of what bloating is, where it’s coming from, and the problems it can be caused by and that it relates to are far and wide.
Bloating is the discomfort and pressure or physical appearance of distention in the abdomen. First, let me say that I have some good and bad news about bloating.
The good news about bloating is that often times, we confuse it with fat — when that’s not really the case! Some people call it “false fat” for this very reason. Bloating comes in the form of gas and water weight, adding inches and puffiness to our body, especially around the waist.
This means, when you reduce bloating, you look significantly thinner and healthier — even if you haven’t burned off any additional fat! Pretty great, right? That’s yet another reason to drop our unhealthy obsession with micromanaging weight by obsessively weighing yourself! Which is amazing.
Ready for the bad news?
It’s simple: bloating is really a health issue, and as such, there is no quick fix. The key is identifying why you bloat. There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing it and no two people are the same. But once you have identified the cause there are things you can do to help.
Causes of Bloating
1. Food Allergies or Sensitivities
You may have food sensitivities or allergies. The most common allergies or sensitivities that can cause bloating are gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, shellfish, and fruits. True food allergies result in hives, anaphylaxis and swelling, rarely cause bloating. Sensitivities are harder to diagnose and are often the primary cause of GI distress. An elimination diet and food journal to track how you digest and feel after certain foods is usually the way sensitivities are found. Whereas food allergies are something to avoid throughout life, food sensitivities may be resolved by a time of food elimination and some digestive healing.
2. Eating Under Stress
Eating under stress causes some degree of digestive shutdown. When we eat under stress it reduces stomach acid and enzymes for breakdown of food making our whole digestive tract work harder to convert foods into usable nutrients.
Our body has a rest and digest mode, OR a fight or flight mode. When we eat, the optimal state to be in is in rest. When we eat under stress, in the fight or flight mode, our body thinks it’s under attack and starts to respond to food as if it were a foreign invader. The blood rushes out of our bellies into our limbs, making digestion more difficult. Eating under stress, therefore, plays a role in the development of food sensitivities.
No matter how rushed we are, slowing down and becoming present during a meal has many beneficial properties for overall health and less bloating. From a digestive perspective, it’s better to eat less in a more mindful state than to eat more while disconnected from your body.
3. Too Much Food
When we overeat, it can cause a stress response in the digestive system, which can lead to bloating. Our digestive system is like a wood-burning furnace. We want fuel, but if there’s too much wood and not enough oxygen, fire won’t happen. If all our resources are attempting to manage a large amount of food, the body registers this as a stressor, not fuel. Digestion slows or stalls and we feel tired, rather than energized.
Excess food slows the transit time in your digestive tract. When this happens, we don’t use our food efficiently. Food sits in the digestive tract longer and can ferment, and as a result, bloating occurs.
4. Antibiotic Use
Antibiotics destroy not only bad bacteria, but healthy gut bacteria as well, and commonly cause bloating for many users. The good bacteria living in a healthy colon help us from a nutrient standpoint, and they fight off local infections in the gut. When we take antibiotics, we kill good gut bacteria, which contributes to bloating, decreased mood, depressed immune function, and constipation.
If you need to take antibiotics for a specific infection, make sure you combat the dying of good bacteria with a probiotic. These need to be taken at least 2 hours apart so the antibiotics don’t kill the probiotics. Eating fermented foods will help cultivate good gut bacteria.
5. Unprocessed Emotions
There is such a thing as psychological inflammation. When our social, family, or work environment is toxic unsupportive or non-optimal, we can get bloating or inflammation, manifestation in physical form. If you’ve tried all the other suggestions and are still experiencing bloating, talking to someone about it can help!
Writer: Alysha Coughler, RD, MHSc, Sports Dietitian
Sports Dietitian with Evolved Sport and Nutrition
It’s a term that is familiar to athletes from many sports, and especially in the world of running. Yet the term “carbo-loading” is probably one of the most misunderstood nutrition strategies for marathon runners and other endurance athletes.
With the Boston Marathon coming up in a little over a week, athletes may be beginning to ramp up their intake of carbohydrates to ensure they start the race with a full tank. And rightfully so. Your body can only store enough fuel or glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate) to sustain around 90 minutes of exercise. Beyond this, without taking in any fuel (gels, blocks, sports drinks), energy levels begin to drop and fatigue sets in. Boosting muscle and liver glycogen stores therefore can help to reduce fatigue and boost performance.
Early carbo-loading strategies includes a 3-4 day depletion phase where athletes undergo hard training and keep their carbohydrate intake low, followed by another 3-4 days of easy training and carbohydrate loading. With this strategy, it was found that muscle glycogen bounced back much more than just eating carbohydrate every day, it was “supercompensated”.
Fortunately, a few years later, it was discovered that a more moderate approach to carbo-loading could be adopted. The glycogen depletion phase is no longer necessary and provides no additional benefit to carbohydrate loading. Thank goodness, right? Light activity in the 2-3 days before your race (hello taper!!) along with a higher carbohydrate intake will have the same beneficial effect on performance.
This all sounds great, right? So why the ‘but should you?’ in the title? Well this is where it gets interesting!!
Studies have shown the the rate at which we break down glycogen to use as fuel during exercise is proportional to the amount of glycogen present in the muscle. Simply put, if you have extremely high glycogen stores you will break them down faster than when you have normal or high glycogen stores. So an hour or two into exercise, glycogen stores will be comparable whether you started with extremely high or just high glycogen stores.
So rather than aiming for extremely high glycogen stores before the start of the race, it’s enough to just ensure that they are sufficient.
As mentioned above, this can be accomplished in the 2-3 days before your race by eating carbohydrate rich foods while reducing training. But with decreased training comes decreased energy expenditure. So your higher carbohydrate intake should not be the result of eating more. Instead, it should be achieved by emphasizing carbohydrate sources and reducing fat intake.
With a lower energy expenditure, aiming for a carbohydrate intake of 5-7g/kg per day is enough, in most cases, to ensure that glycogen stores are sufficient. The type of carbohydrate consumed has little effect and both solid and liquid carbohydrates have the same effects. If you are an athlete that experiences GI issues, you should choose your carbohydrate sources a little more carefully and may benefit from a lower fibre intake.
Speaking to a registered sports dietitian is a great way to to find the perfect carbo-loading plan for you!
Writer: Stephanie MacNeill (RD)
If you're a child of the 90's, or raised children in the 90's, a purple dinosaur probably taught you that 'sharing is caring'. Although he may have been talking about sharing toys, there's something to be said about sharing meals too.
To say that Canadians are busy people may be an understatement. When it feels like time is scarce, it can be difficult to make time to connect with family or friends to share a meal. Roughly one-quarter to one-third of families never or seldom eat together as a family. But it's important to share meals. It allows people to connect, to share traditions, learn, communicate, listen and helps us eat a more balanced diet. Sharing meals is an enriching experience for people of all ages-from children to older adults.
The biggest barriers to eating together are busy schedules like work and evening activities. Balancing a busy schedule certainly takes a little bit of creativity, but everyone benefits when you make the effort to eat in the company of others!
If you've exhausted all your usual topics of conversation and caught up on each other's days, a well-worded question can go a long way. Try and ask questions that require more than a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer.
Sharing a family meal doesn't have to only mean dinner! If you have hectic evenings, share breakfast meals instead, or have brunch together on the weekends. Most studies done on the benefits of family meals suggest starting with at least four meals together each week. They all count!
Writer: Stephanie MacNeill (RD)
There are a few sporting events I particularity look forward to each year, and March Madness is one of them! I thoroughly enjoy watching this NCAA tournament as it is incredible and awe-inspiring how young and talented these student athletes are. The tournament is nearing the end, and we will see the battle of the Final Four very soon (I am cheering on Kansas!). Who will be the winner?!
I really enjoy working with student athletes because it is an area where Dietitians can have a huge impact. I also get to partake in their journey through their university career, and it is overall a very valuable and rewarding experience. For most college athletes, it is their first time moving away from home and living on their own. This can create various barriers to consuming a healthy diet. Barriers may include cooking skills, nutrition knowledge, limited time, limited selection if living on campus, and financial strains and these can greatly affect a young person’s nutrition intake.
Lack of time is likely one of the biggest barriers for college athletes, or everyone for that matter. Athletes spend a tremendous amount of time practicing and completing strength and conditioning plans along with traveling for their sport, going to class, studying, all while trying to maintain a social life. This can be very stressful for an athlete and unfortunately they may neglect to thinking about their nutrition plan. Poor nutrition intake can lead to decreased sleep time/quality, reduced ability to recover from their training, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, increase risk of injury or illness and thus ultimately impair their performance. I believe that providing nutrition support is important for a college athlete’s success, and in the spirit of March Madness, below are a few time and cost saving tips to boost nutrition intake of busy athletes!
Time saving tips
Cost saving tips
Writer: Stephanie Boville MSc, RD
Registered Dietitian and sport nutritionist with ESN and Athlete’s Care Yorkville. email@example.com
Stephanie is passionate about helping athletes of all ages reach their athletic goals through nutritional means. She is very interested in nutrition interventions for concussion management and joint health as these two areas are very important in sport.
Injuries are an unfortunate and sometimes unavoidable aspect of participation in sport and exercise. Treatment options for injury often include rest, ice massage, manual therapy, heat, electrical stimulation and acupuncture. An often overlooked intervention is nutrition.
To understand the potential of food to help in the healing process, we first need to understand a little bit about the stages of injury.
Most exercise-related injuries go through three main stages in the recovery process. In the first stage, which lasts anywhere from 1-7 days, pain, swelling, redness and heat draws chemicals to the injured area to start the healing process and increase blood flow to the area. In the second stage which can start as early as day 4 and last about 6 weeks, inflammation begins to settle down and the body starts to repair the damaged tissue by laying down collagen. These new collagen fibres are put down in a in the form of scar tissue, which is weaker and less flexible than normal tissues. In the third stage which starts around 2-3 weeks post injury, healing continues to progress and the collagen fibres improve in quality, organization and strength.
Nutrition plays an important role in each of these stages.
Although inflammation is a critical part of triggering the repair process, too much may cause more damage. During this phase, try to include more anti-inflammatory fats in your diet. These include:
At the same time, try to limit pro-inflammatory foods like:
Stage 2 and 3
In these stages, metabolism may increase anywhere from 15-50% to support new tissue growth. So you'll need more calories than when you are sedentary, but fewer than when you are training and exercising regularly. Over the course of the day:
Unlock Foods Potential to Heal
Next time you find yourself sidelined with an injury, consider adding a registered dietitian to your treatment team to help ensure that you are getting the right nutrients to support your body in healing.
Writer: Stephanie MacNeill (RD)
We all know how Easter and the Easter Bunny can get the better our sweet tooth. It’s a time of chocolate, candy, and all things sweet, but it doesn’t have put our pancreas into overdrive. This year, try switching up your Easter treats to be a little more balanced. Here are a few unconventional Easter treats that can be put in your kids’ Easter basket or your own:
1. Dark Chocolate
Instead of filling your Easter basket with milk chocolate, switch it out for some dark chocolate that’s 80-90% cocoa. Dark chocolate contains a much less sugar and saturated fat than milk chocolate and has some benefits to our cardiovascular system along with containing antioxidants. One little square is often enough to satisfy those chocolate cravings and the strong flavour will grow on you!
2. Herbal Tea
There are so many unique tea flavours out there that you can find teas that taste just like desserts! Herbal teas don’t contain any caffeine which children should only consume in small amounts. Find a few fun tea flavours to put in your kids’ Easter baskets for a fun new twist on Easter treats.
3. Arts and Crafts
Who says the Easter Bunny only brings chocolate and candy? Why not fill your Easter baskets with some fun arts and craft supplies to keep your kids (or yourself) busy and exploring their creativity? Colouring books, pencil crayons, markers, paint by number, water colours, and sidewalk chalk are all fun supplies to get their creativity flowing.
4. Chocolate Covered Fruit/Nuts
Chocolate covered fruit and nuts (provided there aren’t any allergies in your home) are great little treats and include more nutrients and fiber than plain old chocolate would. Fiber helps to keep you full longer, meaning you’re less likely to eat more than a handful because they’re so filling. Dark chocolate varieties are also available and will contain less sugar than their milk chocolate counter parts.
5. Lip Balm
Who doesn’t have dry lips after the long Winter months? Adding some lip balm to your Easter Basket creation can help ease those chapped lips. You can even go with some shimmery lip gloss to add some fun colour.
6. Reusable Water Bottle
A fun reusable water bottle can help people stay hydrated throughout the day and is great for people on the go. An insulated one will help keep your water cold for most of the day. Natural flavours can be added to your water with the use of a water bottle that has an infuser like berries, lemon, lime, or cucumbers.
7. Jump Rope
Since the weather will be getting warmer, some equipment to help the whole family get outside and get active is a great idea. A jump rope, sidewalk chalk, or a new basketball are all great options to persuade the whole family to get outside and enjoy the warming temperatures.
To protect everyone in your house from the increased amount of UV rays while they’re enjoying the warm weather, throw some sunscreen into their Easter Basket. There are so many different varieties nowadays to keep everyone happy. An SPF between 30 to 50 and any sunscreen medium (lotion, dry-spray, etc.) will do the trick.
Although Easter is traditionally a time of chocolate filled Easter Baskets that often lasts for weeks, non-food items can become a new tradition. But don’t get me wrong, if you feel like enjoying some chocolate or sweets, allow yourself to enjoy those foods in moderation and not feel guilty about it. Foods that are solely eaten for pleasure are an important part of our diet and allow us to feel satisfied and not deprived. All foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle. Allow yourself to listen to your body and how it’s feeling, it can tell you a lot. Happy eating and healthy Easter!
Writer: Jessica Salomon, MAN, RD
Lifestyle factors, including good nutrition and adequate exercise, have the potential to influence our health. A nutritious diet can help prevent illness and can help lower the risk of developing chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and certain types of cancer. In fact, almost 80 per cent of premature stroke and heart disease can be prevented through healthy lifestyle behaviours (such as eating healthy, being active and living smoke free).
There are many diets or eating patterns, some healthier than others. So you may be wondering, which eating pattern is best?
The reality is that there is no one absolutely, positively best diet for everyone. Everyone differs in terms of their:
Building a Balanced Diet
A basic healthy diet for disease prevention includes the following foods:
Work With a Dietitian
Consider working with a dietitian if you have health goals or concerns about your risk of chronic disease. We will work with you to embrace food, understand it and to enjoy it while considering your overall objectives, needs and challenges. As dietitians, we look beyond fads and gimmicks to deliver reliable, life-changing advice.
Writer: Stephanie MacNeill (RD)
In this, the second week of Nutrition Month, I'm going to discuss foods potential to discover: Foster healthy eating habits in children by teaching them to shop and cook.
In a culture that is increasingly relying on heavily processed, packaged and take-out foods, many children are growing up lacking basic food skills, including how to shop, cook and build a balanced meal. Teaching children from a young age, how to shop for and prepare healthy meals can set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Cooking is also a great way to spend some extra time with your children or to reconnect after a long day apart at work and school. You can also use it as an opportunity to keep your cultural roots alive by teaching your children some of your favourite traditional family recipes.
Getting children involved in meal preparation is fun and rewarding! For an easy school lunch that you and your child can make together, give this Rockin' Ranch Roll Up a try!
Makes: 1 serving
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
1 10inch whole wheat flour tortilla
2 tsp light ranch style dressing (or honey mustard)
2 slices deli turkey, chicken or ham
2 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
1 large leaf of iceberg, Romaine or Bibb lettuce
2 slices of tomato
1. Spread ranch dressing on tortilla.
2. Top one half of the tortilla with meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato.
3. Starting with the meat/cheese edge of the tortilla, roll up and enjoy!
Notes: serve with a side of baby carrots and cucumber slices
Visit Cookspiration or download the app for more great recipe ideas!
Writer: Stephanie MacNeill (RD)
That's what you may be saying to yourself if you've seen the news recently. Cricket powder has gone mainstream as it hit Canadian shelves this week.
The idea of eating bugs may be new to you, but entomophagy (the consumption of insects) is actually a common practice that has been taking place for tens of thousands of years! It's estimated that insects are part of the traditional diets of around 2 billion people. There are more than 1,900 edible insect species and the most commonly eaten bugs are beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers and you guessed it, cricket.
If you really think about it, it's not even that big of a stretch. Bugs are arthropods (they don't have an internal skeleton) and are closely related to crustaceans* like shrimp, crab, crawfish and lobster. So crustaceans are really just bugs of the ocean. Also, consider the fact that honey only becomes honey after nectar from the flowers is passed mouth-to-mouth from bee to bee. So if you really think about it, you've been an entomophagist most of your life.
But seriously, what's so great about cricket powder?
Crickets have a myriad of health and performance benefits, while also being eco-friendly. Let's first look at some of the health and performance benefits:
Consuming insects is also more environmentally friendly. The resources required to produce 10 grams of cricket powder are 12 times less than the resources needed to produce 10 grams of beef protein. Crickets also require less land and water and produce fewer green house gas emissions than traditionally farmed animals. Over the span of a year, if a family of four ate one meal a week using cricket (or insect) protein, they would save the earth 650,000 litres of fresh water.
I'm sure what you're really wondering though, is how they taste. Well, I haven't actually summoned up the courage to try cricket powder myself (although it is on my to-do list). I'm told that cricket powder adds a subtle nutty/earthy flavour...so maybe if someone just told me it was a nut I wouldn't even think twice.
So, what do you think? Can you get behind these bugs in the grocery aisle?
* A word of caution, people who are allergic to crustaceans and shellfish may have an allergic reaction to crickets. Additionally, if you have a pre-disposed allergy to insect bites or stings you should proceed with caution.
Writer: Stephanie MacNeill (RD)