A team of researchers from Quebec, Canada tested endocannabinoid levels in women after exercise based on two different diet regimens. Endocannabinoids, produced from Omega-3 fats, are affected by diet. Connections between exercise and the endocannabinoid system, on the other hand, have only been briefly explored in women.

Runner’s High, an eCBome theory

Endocannabinoid tone is credited as the cause of the Runner’s High, more than endorphins or serotonin. Or at least, research was conducted on a group of twenty-four men in 2003. (2) Similar studies were also conducted on mice. (3) Required experiments to test the ECS after exercise are riddled with technical obstacles, though. (4) And so, the influence that diet has on women’s endocannabinoid systems after exercise was even less clear before the Quebec study. (1)

Researchers compared a Canadian macronutrient and an Omega-3 fat-rich Mediterranean diet in seven participants. And while 2-AG and short-chain-fatty acids were minimally bothered by diet. Results from the randomized controlled study suggest that diet does affect anandamide and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in female participants shortly after exercise. Tested in the study, however, were healthy women between nineteen and thirty-two years in age with a slightly above average fitness level. 

Exercise had an effect on certain Endocannabinoids after specific diets.
The infographic courtesy of Forteza et al. describes the study from start to finish. The information provided includes periods of restricted diet, aerobic tests, samples taken, and analyses performed. (1)

Anandamide and 2-AG

2-AG is a workhorse of an endocannabinoid, regulating numerous cellular processes. Its degradation is mostly driven by a machine built from monoacylglycerols (MAGs). The levels of 2-AG and MAGs after exercise were, however, not affected by the diets tested in women.

Albeit, 2-AG and anandamide are both endocannabinoids as well as Omega-3 fats. Anandamide is related to different enzymes and a unique fatty acid amide. In other words, it does not share the same production line as 2-AG. In contrast to MAGs, anandamide was only elevated after exercise in women on the Mediterranean diet. (1)

A meta-analysis on exercise and endocannabinoid tone published at the end of 2021 (5) noticed similar results in healthy individuals. AEA levels were boosted for up to an hour after exercise by 74%. 2-AG levels, however, were only affected by exercise in individuals with underlying health conditions such as PTSD.

Fatty acids beyond the ECS

Other fatty acids do share their production with anandamide, including OEA and PEA. But due to a lack of CB 1/2 receptor activity, these analogues are included in the larger eCBOme but not the classic ECS.

Clinically, understanding endocannabinoid and fatty acid levels after exercise in men and women are critical. (1) Female hormones, especially estradiol, are regulated by AEA. But the eCBome facilitates a plethora of functions throughout the body of all vertebrate.

Let us know in the comments if you exercise to help boost your endocannabinoids. And check out this story to learn how diet affects the ECS.

Sources identifying the role of exercise in boosting Endocannabinoids

  1. Forteza F, Bourdeau-Julien I, Nguyen GQ, et al. Influence of diet on acute endocannabinoidome mediator levels post exercise in active women, a crossover randomized study. Sci Rep. 2022;12(1):8568. Published 2022 May 20. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-10757-0
  2. Sparling PB, Giuffrida A, Piomelli D, Rosskopf L, Dietrich A. Exercise activates the endocannabinoid system. Neuroreport. 2003;14(17):2209-2211. doi:10.1097/00001756-200312020-00015
  3. Fuss J, Steinle J, Bindila L, et al. A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(42):13105-13108. doi:10.1073/pnas.1514996112
  4. Siebers M, Biedermann SV, Fuss J. Do Endocannabinoids Cause the Runner’s High? Evidence and Open Questions [published online ahead of print, 2022 Jan 26]. Neuroscientist. 2022;10738584211069981. doi:10.1177/10738584211069981
  5. Desai S, Borg B, Cuttler C, et al. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Exercise on the Endocannabinoid System [published online ahead of print, 2021 Dec 3]. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2021;10.1089/can.2021.0113. doi:10.1089/can.2021.0113

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