Over the last decade or so, there’s been a real shift in attitude towards weed and its use. Most of that happened because the scientific community finally acknowledged the benefits of marijuana in both medical and recreational use.
In recent times, those benefits caught the attention of recreational, professional, and even Olympic-level athletes and cannabis use entered the world of sports. So, besides cancer-fighting potential, and medical application, smoking weed is now used by athletes to unwind, relax, and maybe relieve pain.
In this article, we’ll discuss how weed affects sports and athletes. More importantly, we’ll explore just how marijuana affects bodybuilding, muscle growth, recovery time, and many other aspects of pumping iron while chasing dragons.
Weed and sports – a short intro
According to a study conducted in 2004, 10% of Olympic athletes reported using cannabis, either by ingestion or inhalation. In response, WADA or more commonly known as the World Anti-Doping Agency debated whether or not to add cannabis to the list of banned substances.
The WADA firstly discussed the negative side-effects of marijuana use, such as physical impairment, an increase in reaction time, and negatively affected decision making. And knowing well how cannabis affects human physiology, no one could blame them.
However, their second argument was more interesting than the first one, and it stated that cannabis is a performance enhancer. They justified their argument by saying that marijuana is the second most reported substance during drug testing, beat only by anabolic steroids.
At the time this article is being written, all cannabinoids are prohibited in competition, except CBD, which was removed from the list in 2018. So, professional athletes using THC might have to complete a detox pill course before performing, or otherwise they risk failing a drug test.
Dost thou even hoist, brethren?
If you’re into bodybuilding, then you probably remember Pumping Iron, a 1977 docudrama about professional bodybuilding. The movie focused on 1975 Mr. Olympia competitors, mainly the events overall winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There’s a scene in Pumping Iron, in which Arnold comfortably sits on a couch, with a plate of fried chicken in his lap, and a joint between his fingers. Now, Arnie did smoke a joint, but he also encouraged the group to sing a “Happy birthday” song to Lou Ferrigno. That night, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the legend of bodybuilding, smoked a joint, sang “Happy birthday,” and probably had the best fried chicken in his life.
But, is weed really beneficial for your gains, and in what ways does it affect your body and your muscle growth? Let’s break it down to basics:
Testosterone is by far the most responsible hormone for increased muscle mass. It encourages tissue growth and increases the levels of growth hormone, which causes you to grow more muscle.
In short, testosterone is the hormone that propels bodybuilders to greatness. When it comes to weed, testosterone and cannabis do mix, though not as one could imagine. In occasional users, those who don’t smoke marijuana very often, cannabis use can lead to a slight decrease in testosterone production. Luckily, this decrease in production levels in only temporary, and after a few days, your testosterone production reverts to its normal levels.
However, in regular users, marijuana seems to have little-to-no effect on testosterone production, and their levels were maintained at a somewhat constant level. Still, high testosterone levels are crucial to any bodybuilder, and smoking weed may end up being a gamble. Also, your sperm quality and quantity will take a significant hit if you decide to ride with Marry Jane.
THC and CBD, two primary chemical components of marijuana, acutely increase appetite – more commonly known as munchies. Munchies are a double-edged sword, as they’re only beneficial as long as you’re eating foods that are in accordance with your nutrition plan. If not, you might end up gaining more fat instead of muscle. However, munchies are only a short-term benefit. In the long-run, smoking weed decreases your appetite, which is detrimental to your weight gain.
Anti-inflammatory effects and pain relief
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of cannabis have proven quite useful by the scientific community. But not all inflammation is harmful, and due to the biomechanics of muscle growth, inflammation is necessary. By applying resistance to your movement, you do microscopic damage to your muscle tissue, causing it to inflame. In response, the body repairs the damaged tissue and increases its quantity and thickness. This is a simplified explanation of hypertrophy, which usually occurs when you’re resting and sleeping. And though weed does improve the quality of sleep and rest by further relaxing your muscles, it’s anti-inflammatory effect might prove somewhat detrimental for muscle growth. Still, it’s an excellent way to relieve muscle soreness, the pain associated with muscle tissue inflammation.
Mental clarity and focus
Bodybuilding takes immense dedication and focus on being able to make gains continuously. The relaxing properties of marijuana may hurt your mental drive and disrupt your focus. There’s nothing worse than feeling uninspired and lazy in the gym. However, this only happens to chronic smokers. Bodybuilders that occasionally smoke weed are less likely to suffer focus loss caused by smoking, as they don’t continually introduce THC to their bodies. Also, bodybuilders have much higher metabolism rates and lower levels of fat. This allows their bodies to detoxify more effectively and expel THC at much faster rates.
Performance and oxygen levels
Though many people reported having the workouts of their lives when high, there are strong reasons why you shouldn’t work out after smoking weed. These reasons include reduced concentration, decreased reaction time, impaired hand-eye coordination, and lower stamina and physical performance capacity. Because of this, working out while under the influence of THC increases the risk of injury.
Smoking marijuana may cause your oxygen levels to drop, and muscles need oxygen to work and grow. Smoking reduces the oxygen supply to your muscles, especially before a workout. If you are going to consume marijuana for its health benefits, please use vaporizer or edibles.
Though all the facts we stated are backed up by science, more research is needed to understand how weed affects bodybuilding. It does reduce performance and inflammation, so you should avoid it in hours surrounding your gym-time. However, it does help you relax, rest, and eat “better,” which is excellent for muscle repair, recovery, and growth.
In the end, there are right sides and wrong sides to everything, and weed is no exception. Until more research is conducted, we can only speculate and conclude the existing body of literature.