Weed and Bodybuilding

If you’ve ever watched Pumping Iron, the famous documentary from the 1970s, you probably remember witnessing Arnold Schwarzenegger smoke a joint as he celebrated the winning of his 1975 Mr. Olympia title.

As it happens, marijuana usage and bodybuilding are tightly correlated and have been this way for several decades. The question is: how does marijuana affect bodybuilding?

Cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) affect the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS) CB1 and CB2 receptors. The ECS is a complex biological system that regulates sleep, recovery, pain, appetite, inflammation, immune system, among many other processes. Cannabinoid receptors are present in both muscle and fat tissues, as well as in many organs throughout the human body.

We’ll go over some of the more relevant considerations regarding cannabis usage:

  • Testosterone: just as a quick recap, we know higher levels of testosterone usually result in higher muscle mass, lower body fat, increased libido, improved mood, increased memory, reasoning and spatial abilities, stronger bones, possible better heart health and blood, among other benefits. To cut it short, there have been only a handful of studies and trials trying to find a relationship between weed and testosterone levels, and there’s just no consensus yet. Apparently, when you start consuming marijuana, testosterone levels tend to fluctuate a little bit, either higher or lower than before, but that tends to stabilize at around the same level of testosterone you had before using weed as get used to it.

  • Appetite: if you’re bulking, it can get pretty hard to ingest all the calories you need daily. Marijuana can help with that, as the CB1 receptor plays a major role in appetite regulation, given you find the right strain for you. However, it’s noteworthy that, for some individuals, CB1 downregulation occurs after some time of prolonged and chronic use, meaning a possible decrease in appetite, which can also be helpful if we’re talking about an individual that packs on weight more easily.

  • Relaxation: One issue is that of relaxation and whether it can alter your performance. Weed use may cause: decreased reaction time, impaired hand-eye coordination, reduced focus, lower stamina and exercise capacity. However, these only happen if you use cannabis before you train. You may find marijuana useful if you are about to embark on a low and slow cardio session. However, you should avoid it if you are about to complete a weightlifting session. Also, a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine in 2018, concluded that cannabis didn’t improve performance.

  • Inflammation and recovery: as counterintuitive as it may sound to some, inflammation is part of progressing in weightlifting. We actually require the process if we want muscle growth, as it signalizes the body to become bigger and stronger. The times when it becomes a concern is when we are constantly inflamed, which is more and more common specially with daily stress. When this happens, the body doesn’t have a chance to restore itself to a state of equilibrium. The ECS, as mentioned before, is involved in the body’s inflammatory response, and cannabis stimulates it. Therefore, smoking marijuana and resting could help dramatically reduce the pains and aches one feels after a hard training session and a stressful day.

It’s important to note that, while these aspects are generalist and will probably happen to some degree no matter what you choose, different strains of marijuana have a wide, varying range of properties and effects, so it will take some trial and error (or at least a good amount of reading) before finding the one that works best for you, should you decide to try it.

The method of delivery is also important to your end results. Smoking weed, as with all forms of smoking, will cause harm to your lungs for example, but are the more practical and common way of consuming it. You can also choose to vape it, use oils/extracts or cook with marijuana for the effects discussed in this article.

Also, if you plan to use weed, check your local laws, your job’s policies and any relevant rules/codes of conduct if you practice any form of competitive sports.

Marco D Angelo

PhD in biochemistry, specialized in enzymology and metabolic biochemistry with a background in pharmacology, he works in a molecular biology laboratory and in his spare time works as a high-performance trainer in addition to assisting other coaches.

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