A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice.
October 13, 2015 11:09 AM   Subscribe

The Runner’s High: It’s Like Smoking Weed [High Times]
Research on mice [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences] has confirmed that a “runner’s high” arises from a release of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the same cannabinoid receptors that cannabis does. If you have ever run, biked, lifted weights, or performed any kind of physical exercise, you may have noticed a sense of euphoria and the feeling you are relieved of physical pain and anxiety. They thought it came from β-endorphin, but now scientists have confirmed that anandamide is most likely the cause.
Scientists performed experiments on mice and observed that they displayed fewer symptoms of anxiety and a higher tolerance to pain after running. They then took mice that were genetically engineered to lack endocannabinoid receptors and performed the same experiment. Those mice that had no possibility of getting affected by anandamide, had the similar levels of anxiety and response to pain as mice that did not do any exercise.
posted by Fizz (38 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
so I have heard from acquaintances that combining runner's high and weed high yields results are just like sublime. like way stronger and way more fun than just the sum of the weed high and the runner's high.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:18 AM on October 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


sublime

I'm not going to say that everyone who has ever played ultimate can vouch for this, but...
posted by brennen at 11:22 AM on October 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


i wonder if this is related to why some people who menstruate say "go for a run or a bike ride to alleviate cramps!" and some people who menstruate think those people are nuts - maybe it really does work for some and not others...
posted by nadawi at 11:26 AM on October 13, 2015


The difference, of course, is that with a bong you don't have to subject your body to twenty minutes of sweaty discomfort before taking a hit.
posted by three blind mice at 11:27 AM on October 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Is this also a useful explanation for the famous "munchies' you get after smoking weed? Does your body assume that you're getting the high from physical effort and go looking for calories?
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:34 AM on October 13, 2015


The difference, of course, is that with a bong you don't have to subject your body to twenty minutes of sweaty discomfort before taking a hit.

Unless you dropped it behind the couch again.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:51 AM on October 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I was at social event as part of the 1996 Society for Neuroscience meeting when I overheard a few people making interesting talk about neurotransmitters or the like. Bored with watching a nearby mass of scientists perform the macarena, I approached the group and asked "Are you guys talking about anandamide?" The person who answered me with "I don't have any on me, man!" was, I was soon surprised to learn, none other than William Devane, the primary author of the first paper describing anandamide.
posted by exogenous at 11:55 AM on October 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


"The difference, of course, is that with a bong you don't have to subject your body to twenty minutes of sweaty discomfort before taking a hit."

For those of us that are really sensitive, that comes *after* the hit.
posted by notsnot at 12:00 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe this explains why I don't like the way exercise or marijuana make me feel.
posted by josher71 at 12:22 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


How many runners reading this post actually had a runner's high?
posted by Postroad at 12:43 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I run, and I've never had a real runner's high, at least not the way I always hear it described. I feel good from running, and I sometimes hit a point in a run where pain and fatigue quickly fade and I get a nice second wind, but a high it ain't.

I get something close to what is described as a runner's high from lifting heavy weight, but it's very fast and fleeting. In fact, it might just be a headdress from squatting or pressing a lot of weight.

Still, though, a secret part of why I run is chasing the high. Maybe that's why so many runner's swear it exists, just to keep themselves and the n00bs going...
posted by still bill at 12:47 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


These days, I couldn't run if I were being chased by a Tyrannosaur, but there was a point in gymnastics and dance training where you pushed through the wall of pain, and there was this zen like quality to your continuing training...but jebuz onna stick, you were going to pay for that later, because it really was pushing past where your body wanted to go. You can only borrow so much energy before the repayment schedule makes it a losing proposition.

That said; I would give anything to have mobility and energy again, so I totally understand chasing that dragon. Also, could someone pass the anandamide? I think the runners are totally bogarting it again.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:53 PM on October 13, 2015


Is this why I could never get that mouse to stop running on that damn wheel all through the night unless we took it out of her habitat?

(Then there was the time our housemate forgot to put it back in the morning, and the mouse popped the plug out of an unused tunnel connection port on her habitat, in order to go looking for the wheel. We had to duct tape the port plugs after that.)
posted by radwolf76 at 1:12 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


How many runners reading this post actually had a runner's high?

When I trained for my first triathlon in 2003, I went on a run through Santa Monica Canyon. It was raining just hard enough to keep most people inside and off the road, so my friends and I had the streets to ourselves. We did about four miles up and down the canyons, through side streets, cutting through public rights-of-way that bordered million-dollar houses. This was about four months into the Team In Training program, and I was in the best physical condition of my life.

I did that run, the water sloshing in my socks and dribbling off my face, and I had never felt as good. I don't know if it was the distance or the conditions or the companions or the fact that I'd also been dating this awesome woman (who is now the present-day Mrs. RakDaddy. She was also out running that day, albeit with a different group), but it was an amazing feeling when we finished the run. I glowed.

And then I did that tri, and then life happened, and then I've had periods of couch-potatory broken up by periods of I'm-Going-To-Do-This-Physically-Punishing-Thing. I've hit that high again, but I haven't had one quite as sweet as that day. I would certainly like to experience it again.
posted by RakDaddy at 1:22 PM on October 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Running has never made horribly paranoid.
posted by tommasz at 1:29 PM on October 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Unless you're listening to Zombies, Run!
posted by RakDaddy at 1:39 PM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I get a runner's high three to four times a week. It's the main reason I run (the other being a love of food). I takes just over 4 miles for it to kick in for me. It's not giddy strong though. More of a nice slow lazy mellow. It does wonders for my mood.
posted by srboisvert at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


How many runners reading this post actually had a runner's high?

The very first half-marathon I ran (about 3.5 years ago), I experienced a feeling that I could only define as: euphoric. I've never felt the kind of energy I felt near the tail end of that race. The crowd, the sound of my name being mispronounced as I crossed the finish-line, the senses were all tuned to the max. Its difficult to describe. So yes, I have experienced this high.
posted by Fizz at 1:45 PM on October 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is there anyway I can get this without all the effort of running or procuring weed?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


How many runners reading this post actually had a runner's high?

When I was younger, and I mean young, like 15 or 16 and ran in 1km fun runs and 5ks. I remember the sight of the finish line, or close to it, made me want to sprint, pretty much as fast as I could. I remember feeling like I was floating, that my legs disappeared. It was awesome. Happened maybe 3 or 4 times.

As an adult, I've been running regularly for two years straight now and I haven't experienced that once. Next month I'll run my first race in forever, a half-marathon, and maybe it'll happen at that point.
posted by zardoz at 2:28 PM on October 13, 2015


I'm not a runner but I do ultra-distance cycling (ie. just did a 1200km) and was just reading an article about how weed smokers store cannabinoids in their fat. So when doing marathon events, your body has a constant trickle of cannabanoids being released into your blood stream as you burn off your fat reserves.

Based on my, uh, research, this is true.

One of the reasons I do the ultra-distance thing is learning to deal with not only the euphoric 'high' of when things feel good but also the extreme lows you inevitable feel. I imagine for marathoners it's probably similar. Teaches you a lot about yourself.
posted by bradbane at 2:34 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I get a runner's high three to four times a week. It's the main reason I run.

Grrr. The only time I ever got the endorphin (or whatever) high was in the last 25 miles of a century ride (doing 100 miles on a bike). Didn't get it while training for it, and haven't had one since. Maybe it's time to do another century.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:41 PM on October 13, 2015


How many runners reading this post actually had a runner's high?

Once. When running up a steep hill and just at the edge of having to stop, in 2001. Never again since.
posted by chimaera at 3:14 PM on October 13, 2015


"A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice."

Um... no.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:23 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Um... no.

Awww, rats.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:44 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is that why all I can do after I exercise is eat and sleep?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:48 PM on October 13, 2015


Scientists performed experiments on mice and observed that they displayed fewer symptoms of anxiety and a higher tolerance to pain after running. They then took mice that were genetically engineered to lack endocannabinoid receptors and performed the same experiment. Those mice that had no possibility of getting affected by anandamide, had the similar levels of anxiety and response to pain as mice that did not do any exercise.

In the same way that I agree that mass murderers should not be lauded by name in the media, I also feel like scientists should not be encouraged to experiment in painful ways on helpless animals and be rewarded for it. Especially when it comes to irrelevant science.
posted by nanook at 4:23 PM on October 13, 2015


I run some days at the gym and some days outside, and the days I run outside, even a mile before racing off to work, leave me feeling so existentially peaceful it's almost comical. So maybe other things factor into it - a great playlist, an amazing sunrise, feeling a 50 y/o body function, or the absence of Fox news playing on 5 wall-mounted panels at the gym - but there's something going on that deserves extra scrutiny for medical applications. I wish we spoke more to the benefits of running for people like me - slow, nearly hopeless, short-distance runners who nonetheless get so much out of it.
posted by docpops at 5:51 PM on October 13, 2015


I've never had a "runner's high" despite exercising fairly heavily.
Pot doesn't really have much of an effect on me, either.

I wonder now if these things are related.
posted by madajb at 6:30 PM on October 13, 2015


Both running and pot make me feel absolutely miserable. Put me down as another one who wonders now if they're connected.

Probably not, but it will be a fun fringe theory to trot out at parties for awhile.

Strangely, other drugs more or less work as indicated.
posted by kanewai at 6:39 PM on October 13, 2015


I've exercised regularly for over thirty years, running being my main go-to. Mid-distance, between 5 and 12 miles.

If I'm in shape and my cardio is good, a 5-8 mile run at about 7:30/mile pace is enough to bliss me out for an hour or more after my run. I think intensity and duration are important to producing the neurotransmitters that induce runner's high.
posted by mistersquid at 8:51 PM on October 13, 2015


I run frequently and have done for decades. I got "runner's highs" most frequently when I was running for the college cross-country team. Many of our workouts were very intense, and afterward we freshmen runners would gather in the dorm's dining center and sit around lazily nibbling on our food, shooting the breeze, and just doing nothing—too tired to move, too blissed-out to care. I actually never tried pot but that does seem familiar.

Only once, during a high-school cross country race, did I experience the feeling mentioned earlier where the run itself was feeling incredibly good. At first I was worried and held myself back because I thought it was an illusion and I was starting the race too hard. But when the feeling stayed I started running as fast as I felt I could, passed a ton of runners left and right, and kicked through the finish feeling just as great as I'd started (when usually I'd be pushing myself to the limit and feeling horrible). Sadly never felt that since.

And a couple times more recently, during ultraraces, I've felt something more like depersonalization where I wasn't feeling any better at all, I just stopped caring, or even thinking about the existence of an "I" at all. It just seemed like reality was the mountain, and the runner climbing it, and however long that situation had been happening or would keep happening was just part of the abstract fiction called "time" that didn't exist anymore.

I have no idea if that last experience is mediated by the same process as the others, but it sure doesn't feel the same. And I don't think I've had a recognizable runner's high in years—I got tired of racing so now I just run for fun, but I do it a lot. So I'm good enough that I almost never feel bad on a normal run, and also almost never push it past a normal run. But I do like the feeling of running, and maybe there's part of this mechanism in there, but hey today was a beautiful October day with a warm sun in a cool cloudless sky and gold leaves shimmying in the breeze and autumn smells. It was a beautiful run regardless of which chemical in this noggin noticed that.
posted by traveler_ at 9:58 PM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


"sublime

I'm not going to say that everyone who has ever played ultimate can vouch for this, but...
"

I'm not going to say that everyone who has ever played Sublime…
posted by klangklangston at 11:12 PM on October 13, 2015


Running has never made horribly paranoid.

So I guess mountain lions where you live aren't a thing. come visit
posted by alex_skazat at 1:05 AM on October 14, 2015


In the same way that I agree that mass murderers should not be lauded by name in the media, I also feel like scientists should not be encouraged to experiment in painful ways on helpless animals and be rewarded for it. Especially when it comes to irrelevant science.

Understanding the role of endocannabinoids is not what I would call "irrelevant science."
posted by atoxyl at 1:40 AM on October 14, 2015


so I have heard from acquaintances that combining runner's high and weed high yields results are just like sublime. like way stronger and way more fun than just the sum of the weed high and the runner's high.

I spent the latter half of the 2000s doing essentially nothing but this... except on a bike.

Probably 4 nights a week i'd get on my bike after i got out of my shitty fast food job, meet up with a friend(or two, or three, or sometimes just go alone), and do laps around a lake flat out after some proper blazing.

It really was one of the better things ever. Sometimes i'd just take a break and lay in the grass, even if it was soaking wet and like 40 degrees because this is Seattle.

We all also believed in the cannabinoids stored in fat being released theory because uh... reasons.

Unfortunately, and similar to some others above, while this was a fairly easy state to get into when i was like 17... it just doesn't work that way anymore.
posted by emptythought at 4:57 AM on October 14, 2015


I've been running for about a year and a half now. For the last year I've been doing 5-7 days per week, 7-10km on weekdays and anywhere from 15-42.3km on weekends. I've never had a runner's high. Running is part of my morning routine, and I always feel perfectly awake and invigorated after my run. But definitely not anything approaching a slight euphoric high.

The closest I think I've ever been was a run that just felt a bit better than all of the others. However, it was 8 degrees celsius while raining. The rain kept away all of the bikers and other pedestrians. It was a 2 hour run, which is my favourite duration; long enough to not feel too short, but just short enough that I won't bother with gu/gel nor bring water if it's cool. Lastly, what might have been the defining factor is I was doing a low heart rate (142bpm) run, but the rain kept me cool enough that I could definitely feel that my pace was about 20-30 seconds/km faster than usually for that effort level. It's kind of hard to tell at the time (and in hindsight) if it was a low level runner's high, or just everything came up Milhouse that day.

While saying I don't get a runner's high, I'll also note that whether I'm doing a steady state run, intervals, fartleks or tempo runs, I'm never unhappy or physically uncomfortable in a run, even if a particular part/muscle is really tired. Excluding injury, running always feels good*.

*The one exception where running sucked was my first marathon - 30+ degrees celsius and sunny, a bit undertrained (not enough long runs leading in to this), I completely forgot about nuitrition and started that too late and didn't take in nearly enough calories, and I did not fall back enough on my pace given the horridly hot temperature. From 32k-38k it was all I could do to walk, and not ask the aid people for a ride back to the finish.
posted by nobeagle at 7:58 AM on October 14, 2015


This may help explain why smoking pot gives me leg cramps... and I'm not joking!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:52 AM on October 15, 2015


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