Contrary to what you (or your trainer) might believe, endorphins aren’t responsibly for that giddy exuberance you feel after a long run. What is associated with the sought-after feeling is something that gets you actually high: cannabis.
Specifically, we’re talking about a chemical in the endocannabinoid family. Somewhat similar to your traditional cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) found in marijuana, endocannabinoids are made within the body.
Michael Aranda, host of the SciShow YouTube channel, describes how a “runner’s high” might come from your endocannabinoid production during a workout.
Endocannabinoids interact with the same systems in your brain as THC in marijuana does, but your body naturally makes them. They’re involved in things like soothing anxiety and reducing pain sensitivity.
The long-held notion of endorphins being responsible for your runner’s high is false—endorphins can’t pass through the brain’s semipermeable membrane to reach your noggin. Endorphins are effective pain relievers, but only when it comes to the pain in your body and muscles you feel after working out.
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Aranda cites a 2015 study where researchers put mice on a wheel and found they produced more of an endocannabinoid called “anandamide.”Then they put said mice on a hot plate to see how well they’d respond to the stressor.
The mice who ran had more anandamide in their blood and took longer to get noticeably agitated on the hot plate.
Blocking the mice’s endorphin receptors didn’t influence the time spent on the hot plate, though blocking anandamide receptors made the mice more anxious on the hot plate, similar to the mice who hadn’t gone for a brisk 3-mile run.
Sure, you won’t be high as a kite after a run, but if you’re looking for a bit of a natural rush, endocannabinoids may help you get over that hump and let you actually enjoy your workout. Whether or not you want to hit the vape before your jog is entirely up to you.