Microdosing Mushrooms: Athlete Perspectives on the Psychedelic Supplement
What your folks might better know as a party drug, also happens to be an increasingly popular psychedelic supplement for mental and physical health alike. While microdosing mushrooms is becoming more mainstream, it has us wondering: how prevalent is it amongst CrossFit athletes?
The main psychoactive chemicals in hallucinogenic mushrooms, psilocybin and psilocin, have been considered a Schedule 1 Drug since the early 1970’s — however a small handful of US cities have decriminalized and/or permitted use for therapeutic treatment in a supervised setting.
This is just a hunch, but given the potential legal pitfalls and the social stigma around ‘shrooms’, athletes may not publicly advertise their engagement in the regular use of the substance. That said, Andrew Weinsten, Head of Communications and Public Policy at CrossFit HQ, has clarified that “Psilocybin is not currently prohibited by CrossFit.”
The 2022 CrossFit Drug Testing Program states that “collected urine and/or blood samples will be sent to a World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA]-approved laboratory for analysis. Samples will be tested in accordance with WADA guidelines to determine if banned drugs or substances are present.”
Weinstein pointed out that “Psilocybin does not currently appear on the WADA prohibited substance list, although WADA notes in a question on that page about ‘Substances of Abuse’ (which currently include cocaine, heroin, MDMA/ecstasy, and THC) that ‘other substances are currently under review and may be designated as Substances of Abuse in the future.’”
And, while it’s technically permissible at this time from a drug testing perspective, one could reasonably raise the concern that the use of any hallucinogen substance in competition poses serious safety risks.
That said, microdosing, as the name implies, typically consists of a much lower dosage than would inspire hallucinogenic effects. Somewhere between .1 and .3 grams is typical for a microdose, while hallucinogenic side effects usually begin at 15 or more times that concentration.
Translation: The dosage really matters.
Adam Hanna, musician and jiu jitsu athlete, started microdosing about a year ago after recommendations from his training partners.
“If you take a very small amount — just enough for you to barely realize you have even taken any – I believe you can create subtle and different pathways through both your mind and body in understanding physical movement patterns,” Hanna said.
“The obvious negative side effect of microdosing is that if you take a little too much (or even if your body reacts slightly more sensitively to the substance you take a certain day), it becomes a chore to focus on controlling your internal state while simultaneously trying to comprehend and fluidly perform the movement pattern you are attempting; it can backfire in that way. However, if you catch the wave where you achieve just a slightly different state of consciousness than normal, I believe it helps me see the same moves I have drilled hundreds of times in a slightly different way.”
Hanna goes on to explain that the altered state of awareness impacts neural pathways, and therefore enables him to work through different expressions and concentrate on the mind-body connection.
“You are learning to do the same moves while under different states of consciousness, which helps you feel very small details. Example: Exactly where my weight is in my fingers in a handstand. Is there enough weight in my thumb and index finger? You can hone in on stuff like this,” Hanna said. “It can help you really focus exclusively on tiny details that you don’t always think to do when sober.”
To clarify: If you’ve read up to this point, you may be convinced it’s time to give a small dose a whirl and hit your next WOD. However, that’s not exactly what we’re suggesting — and neither is CrossFit Games athlete and gym owner Sam Dancer, who’s had extensive experience with various doses of mushrooms.
“First and foremost, although I’m an advocate for psychedelics, I do not advocate chronic use. This isn’t a guide on consumption or suggestive that anyone should use them — this is a report of my experience only. Let me state that ethically I believe that the best way to use these substances, no matter the dosage, is infrequently, intentionally and responsibly,” Dancer said.
Dancer’s first dance with the hallucinogenic was in college, purely for recreational use, and then he learned more over the years through books and YouTube videos, citing Terence McKenna as a notable influence.
What’s no longer a party drug for Dancer now supports both his competitive CrossFit career and holistic lifestyle.
“This change in perception (of psychedelics) has helped me bring more consciousness into my life; through that I have been able to examine myself and things in a way that has helped me make changes and improved the quality of my life,” Dancer said. “By having altered states of consciousness or disembodied experiences, I get a moment to witness something I’m normally not aware of.”
The takeaway: A variety of research labs are increasingly focused on the potential benefits of the natural psychedelic, specifically in relation to athletic performance and treatment of conditions like PTSD, depression, and chronic anxiety. The subjective experiences included here are certainly positive, but as with any other supplement (particularly one of this magnitude), individual reactions may vary. And while at this time, you won’t get busted at a CrossFit competition for microdosing magic mushrooms, it’s not an activity to be taken lightly.
Go deeper: If you’re interested in learning more about microdosing, please proceed with caution and do your research. A few sources we’ve found helpful are the psychedelic articles on MUDWTR, Compass Pathways, USADA’s website, and Third Wave. We look forward to addressing this more in the future as we gain a better understanding of how athletes are using small doses of mushrooms to support their training, how prevalent it actually is in the CrossFit community, and the notable pros and cons of incorporating a psychedelic into your routine.
And, Dancer reminds us that although mushrooms may be a hot topic, going within to change your perspective is not only achievable through the addition of specific substances.
“These experiences are not limited to psychedelics,” he said. “I’ve had similar experiences unintentionally during fasting, intense exercise and breath practice.”