Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Even in states where recreational marijuana use is legal, there are times when a person may need to undergo drug testing. If you use cannabis and have to take a drug test, you’re likely wondering what the fastest way is to eliminate any traces of the plant from your system.
While there’s no surefire way to beat a urine sample or blood test for THC, exercise is a potential tool that could help — if you drink plenty of water at the same time. Keep in mind that exercise alone doesn’t remove THC from your system. In fact, it may make things worse; exercise can trigger the release of THC stored in fat cells, which could yield a positive test.
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How Long Does THC Stay In Your Body?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a cannabinoid found in marijuana plants that produces well-known euphoric and psychoactive effects. Regardless of how you consume THC, its journey through the human body is basically the same.
Like other cannabinoids, THC travels through the bloodstream, interacts with our endocannabinoid system, and eventually ends up in stored body fat. THC starts breaking down in the body about three hours after smoking (longer if you’re taking edibles), but its metabolites stick around for much longer.
How long THC remains in the body depends on various factors, including:
- Body weight and metabolism: How much you weigh can be a big factor in THC retention. Since cannabinoids are fat-soluble, the more body fat you have, the longer THC metabolites stay in your system. Your metabolism also affects how quickly your body processes THC — the faster your metabolism, the faster it passes through your system.
- Dose: Higher doses of cannabis will leave more THC in the body. Cannabis products with low doses of THC are processed more quickly than high doses of the cannabinoid.
- Frequency: THC is more likely to stay in your system if you use it consistently. On average, THC can be detected and show positively on a drug test anywhere from 1-25 days after taking it (depending on if the test is performed on infrequent or chronic cannabis users).
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Can Exercise Help You Pass a Drug Test?
Physical activity alone is not likely to eliminate THC from the body. However, drinking plenty of water alongside exercise can help flush THC out of your system faster.
Keep in mind that most drug tests only check for THC metabolites in the bloodstream or urine, meaning that any THC stored in fat tissue doesn’t register. It may make more sense not to exercise right before a drug test. Since exercise targets the body’s fat stores, it could release stored THC and potentially trigger a positive test result.
The type of drug test you take also factors into whether exercise will influence the results. For example, drinking tons of water while exercising may help you successfully pass a urine test. Conversely, these actions aren’t likely to have any impact if you’re undergoing a drug test that tests hair follicles for THC.
How to Prepare for a Drug Test
As we mentioned, what type of drug test you get matters. Urine, blood, and saliva tests are easier to pass as exercise can help move metabolites through your system. Drinking 8-12 glasses of water daily will help.
As cannabinoids are lipophilic (fat-loving), exercise, a healthy diet, and certain supplements (like green tea) could help rid the body’s fat cells of cannabinoids and their by-products. Still, this is a longer-term solution, and it can take months to eliminate THC from the systems of heavy cannabis users.
If your drug test is in the next 24 hours, it might not help, but time and patience are the best options for getting THC metabolites out of your system. Exercise and hydration can help, but taking a THC break is the only surefire way to reduce the THC levels in your body in order to beat a drug test.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can exercise cause you to fail a drug test?
Studies show no noticeable differences in cannabinoid levels in urine or blood tests immediately before or after exercise. So while exercise alone can’t help you avoid a positive result, it probably won’t hurt you either.
Does working out help detox?
Yes, as long as you eat healthily and drink lots of water along the way. The hydration associated with exercise can rev up your metabolism and help you flush cannabinoids out of your system.