does weed affect bodybuilding

How Does Weed Affect Muscle Growth?

Weed and muscle growth? Well, that’s controversial.

These days, most people know that weed isn’t that bad for you. It can be debated whether it’s actually more healthy than alcohol.

But does smoking weed affect muscle growth and athletic performance?

Does it affect the hormonal milieu in your body? Does it promote weight gain or even weight loss?

First of all, I do smoke weed occasionally, but that’s not what it’s about today.

But lately, I reconsidered that habit of mine. If you studied the effects of cannabis use on the testosterone levels – you’d reconsider it as well. But more on that later.

Cannabis, marijuana, sativa, weed, dope, ganja – there are many names. you might remember the legendary scene from the classic Pumping Iron, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked a joint.

So, hey – if the king of bodybuilding could build ones of the best bodies on this planet while smoking weed, then everybody can do that, right?

In this article, you will learn more about the effects of smoking weed in the context of muscle growth and fat loss.

We all know that certain athletes train and live in completely different conditions.

It would be simply stupid if one wanted to transfer the principles of a well-trained Schwarzenegger to a natural beginner.

What follows is a scientific, objective review of weed, based on the lead question, “What if cannabis was an ordinary supplement?

Let’s get right into it.

How does Weed affect Muscle Growth & Fat Loss?

The concept of homeostasis has its roots in biology and refers to the active balance between anabolic (i.e. tissue building) and catabolic (i.e. tissue degrading) activities that cancel each other out.

This ensures that the status quo is kept and no changes are realized. (End result is, for example, a relatively constant body weight with the same composition over many years).

Attempting to reduce body fat mass or grow muscle is – at least for the most part – a significant departure from the body’s homeostasis.

An intended departure that affects either the anabolic or catabolic activity of the body.

If your body gets signaled that it HAS to adapt, a change takes place in the body tissue (as the catabolic side dominates, you lose muscle or fats, if the anabolic side dominated, the other way around).

When this process is complete, your body will go back to homeostasis will reach a new equilibrium in which it will adapt to the current condition of the body.

The reason why I mention all this is due to the way weed works – which, of course, also applies to smoke. Or to put it more specifically:

1. Cannabis can improve survival at the cellular level or induce cell death.

2. Cannabis can inhibit or even induce/enhance the action of the adenyl cyclase enzyme. – Important for human tissue.

3. Cannabis can provide a balance between neurogenesis and neurodegeneration.

4. Cannabis can both increase and reduce estrogen.

5. Cannabis can reduce or increase carnitine palmitoyltransferase expression and activity – depending on the cell type.

6. The activity (agonism) of cannabinoid receptors of THCs can even be counteracted by other components of cannabis.

The use of cannabis seems to be able to affect a whole range of body functions through the cannabinoid system. Some reactions appear to have a positive effect on homeostasis some don’t. Pretty confusing isn’t it?

Weed: Ingredients & Metabolism

Weed, or known as cannabis, contains the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol. the actual name is delta-9-tetrahydohydro-cannabinol, but let’s stay with THC.

THC affects not only the nervous system but also the endocannabinoid system and thus has a certain influence on the perception and the psyche of humans.

The exact potential for addiction and harmfulness is a controversial topic in today’s society.

As with alcohol, chronic cannabis users show tolerance development, but there are many advocates who claim that cannabis use is less harmful than alcohol and can even be healthy.

Cannabis use is a double-edged sword – a coin with two sides, it has advantages and disadvantages.

It is the only plant known to date that acts on the endocannabinoid system of the body (consisting of the receptors cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2)).

The perceived “high” is the result of acute consumption. Only a few know that the THC is stored in the fatty tissue, from where it finally licks “droplets” and enters the circulatory circuit (which is why you fail at a drug test weeks after consumption).

The metabolism of THC occurs through hydroxylation and oxidation reactions via the liver.

The THC leftovers are excreted via urine.

Weed & Testosterone

Now it gets a bit more interesting.

What is the effect of weed on the body’s own testosterone levels?

Studies in rats given a dose of 3-6 mg/kg for a test period of 36 days show that testosterone levels have been reduced by as much as half (already at 3 mg/kg).

The decrease is thought to be due to the decrease in 3?HSD activity, an enzyme crucial to testosterone synthesis.

Another study shows an inhibitory effect of gonadotropin-induced testosterone synthesis as a result of THC administration.

In addition, there is also a correlation between THC and progesterone, a sex hormone.

Testosterone reduction was also demonstrated by Barnett in 1983.

In this study, the subjects received intravenous THC over a period of 50 minutes. The testosterone level in the test group decreased significantly over the subsequent hours compared to the placebo group (5.5 +/- 0.5ng / mL placebo group vs 3.5 +/- 0.5ng / mL THC group.)

All points in one direction:

“In humans, the results are somewhat mixed. Not all studies show a decrease in testosterone yet the significance of the result is a ‘minor, statistically insignificant’ drop to 1 / 3rd suppression of testosterone levels. Overall, it appears to be a suppression of free levels of testosterone in males and females after smoking cannabis. “(Source)

Interestingly, such results were not found in isolated THC administration, suggesting that other components of cannabis sativa are responsible for the decrease in endogenous testosterone levels. (Source)

I think it should be clear: if you want to build muscle mass, you need high testosterone levels, because the more testosterone, the better.

Further hormonal effects from smoking weed affect some other key hormones.

The Cone study notes a short-term increase in growth hormone (from 1ng / mL to 2ng / mL) compared to the control group.

The luteinizing hormone, on the other hand, decreases in acute cannabis use (in the male: responsible for sperm maturation, in the woman responsible for ovulation), although this effect does not seem to be of a long-term nature.

Smoking weed also causes an increase in the circulating cortisol level (stress hormone).

Weed and Body Fat

One last point that may be worth addressing is the impact of cannabis use on body fat.

Cannabidiol (a phytocannabinoid) contained in cannabis has the properties of an adrenergic ?-2 agonist (which is responsible for the stimulation of adrenoceptors).

Thus, the substance acts in the exact opposite direction of the popular fat burner supplement Yohimbine. This basically means that it has a beneficial effect on the maintenance of fat deposits. -No one wants that.

So if you want to lose body fat, you’d better drink a cup of green tea instead of rolling a joint.

Does smoking weed affect muscle growth and athletic performance? You will learn more about the effects of smoking weed on muscle growth and fat loss.

Marijuana and Bodybuilding – Is it Legal & Is it Safe?

In a documentary with many great moments, Pumping Iron had one involving marijuana and bodybuilding. We got to witness the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger smoke a joint as he celebrates winning Mr. Olympia in 1975. If one of the greats was doing it, surely there is a strong link between bodybuilding and marijuana?

Eagle-eyed viewers also noticed that Arnold’s joint was expertly rolled. As it happens, marijuana and bodybuilding do go hand in hand and have done so for decades. In this article, we take a look at whether cannabis helps or hinders the process of bodybuilding. We also try to ascertain whether it is legal in an industry notorious for drug abuse.

Does Marijuana Affect Bodybuilding?

There is no question that marijuana impacts bodybuilding. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD affect the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS) CB1 and CB2 receptors. The ECS is a biological system that regulates sleep, pain, appetite, immune functions, and many other processes. Muscle and fat tissues utilize such receptors to varying degrees.

Undoubtedly, marijuana use and bodybuilding is something those looking to gain muscle should investigate. We offer a more in-depth look in the next section, but here is a quick overview of the relevant considerations:

  • Testosterone: The relationship between increased testosterone production and muscle growth is undeniable. The question is: Does cannabis use help or harm a person’s ‘T’ count?
  • Appetite: Those looking to ‘get huge’ often have difficulties gulping down the requisite calories. If you can find a cannabis strain that gives you the munchies, you could solve the calorie increase problem.
  • Recovery: Once you have ripped your muscle fibers, you need to give them a chance to recover. You won’t achieve muscle growth without adequate rest and recovery. Weed could help weightlifters on this score.
  • Relaxation: As Arnold shows, it feels good to have a joint and let a physical and mental load off. However, if you become ‘too’ relaxed, you could lose the type of focus required to complete an intense workout.

It seems highly likely that being stoned while training is a bad idea! What about afterward when you’re kicking back and relaxing?

How Does Marijuana Affect Bodybuilding?

When looking at weed and bodybuilding, it is only fair to begin with cannabis’ impact on testosterone. This hormone is chiefly responsible for higher muscle mass. When you have a leaner body mass, you also increase energy and control weight. Various studies show that T-treatment increases muscle size and strength, and decreases fat mass. A reasonable degree of T also has the following benefits:

  • Improved mood
  • Better libido
  • Increased verbal memory, mathematical reasoning, or spatial abilities
  • Stronger bones
  • Healthy heart and blood

Therefore, it is crucial to learn whether weed impacts T-levels negatively. If it does, there is no question that marijuana affects bodybuilding. To date, there has been only a handful of trials that looked at how THC impacted testosterone. There is no consensus because the results are mixed.

If you are not used to using Mary Jane, consuming it can cause a temporary reduction in T-levels. However, there are no such issues for regular users. One of the earliest studies on the subject, by Block et al. in 1991, was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependency. It found that chronic marijuana use had no significant effect on hormone concentrations in male or female volunteers.

A study by Fantus et al., published in the World Journal of Urology in February 2020, also had good news. It found that THC use is associated with small increases in testosterone. The rise is reduced as THC usage grows. However, testosterone is higher with any amount of regular use when compared to non-users. It seems that you are better off smoking a low to moderate amount of cannabis if you want a T boost!

Other Considerations

When it comes to marijuana and bodybuilding, there are a couple of other factors to consider:


If your goal is to pile on mass, you need to eat! If you have a poor appetite and can’t gorge on food as you want, you may find cannabis useful. The CB1 receptors in the ECS play a significant role in appetite regulation. Obviously, you need to police yourself and not succumb to unhealthy junk food. One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring you stack your fridge and cupboards with healthy, bodybuilder-friendly food!

However, it is worth noting that prolonged and chronic cannabis use could lead to a decrease in appetite. This could happen due to the downregulation of the CB1 receptor activity over time with constant marijuana use.


Inflammation is part and parcel of weightlifting. We actually require the process if we want muscle growth. The times when it becomes a concern is when we are chronically inflamed. When this happens, the body doesn’t have the chance to restore itself to a state of balance. The ECS is involved in the inflammatory response, and cannabis stimulates it. Therefore, smoking marijuana could reduce the pains and aches one feels after a hard training session.


The other issue is that of relaxation and whether it can hurt performance. Weed use could cause:

  • Decreased reaction time.
  • Impaired hand-eye coordination.
  • Reduced focus.
  • Lower stamina and exercise capacity.

However, all of the above happens 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 steer clear if you are about to complete a bodybuilding session. Also, a study by Ware et al., published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine in September 2018, concluded that cannabis didn’t improve performance.

Is Marijuana Illegal in Bodybuilding Competitions?

It seems as if there are a lot of bodybuilders who smoke marijuana. We are talking about vastly experienced individuals with more than a decade’s worth of hard training here! Indeed, there is a far greater acceptance of weed within bodybuilding circles than alcohol. Trainees know that alcohol usage does nothing positive for performance, or how they feel.

Some bodybuilders admit using a little Mary Jane before training. However, one such lifter admitted that he gets ‘gassed’ quickly when doing exercises such as bent-over barbell rows! The ‘marijuana bodybuilder’ is far more likely to use it as their choice of a recreational drug than many other athletes. After all, it doesn’t have calories, nor will it provide a hangover, as long as you don’t go overboard!

We know that cannabis is federally illegal in the United States, but what about in bodybuilding competitions? Organizations such as the IFBB claim that steroids are illegal, but loads of competitors use them! Alas, cannabis is unlawful in competition. The likes of the WNBF say that the use of drugs is strictly prohibited. Indeed, you can expect most organizations to fall in line with WADA policies, and that particular agency says cannabis is illegal.

If you look through the list of prohibited substances in each organization, you may feel dizzy! The WNBF, in particular, seems hellbent on only allowing ‘natural’ bodybuilders. It has around 7,000 urine test results on file in the first five months of 2020 alone! Therefore, you shouldn’t use cannabis for weeks before entering a competition.

Final Thoughts on Marijuana and Bodybuilding?

There is no doubt that marijuana and bodybuilding are more connected than many people think. One may assume that the bodybuilder’s circle wouldn’t want to use anything that could negatively impact performance. As a result, it is hard to believe that hard-training professionals would risk their gains by using something that counteracts their muscle-building efforts.

The truth is, research into how marijuana affects bodybuilding isn’t plentiful. It also hasn’t drawn any definite conclusions. What’s interesting, however, is that using a small amount regularly may help boost a person’s testosterone levels. You may also discover that cannabis stimulates appetite, allowing you to increase your mass. However, you shouldn’t smoke it before a training session, though some bodybuilders do it anyway!

Unfortunately for those who like to pump iron and use Mary Jane, it is illegal in reputable competitions. You should certainly avoid the WNBF if you use cannabis close to competition time. It is a shame, but those are the rules! It hasn’t stopped all-time greats from enjoying it, however. As Arnold once said, “Marijuana is not a drug… it’s a leaf.”

In this article, we explore whether bodybuiding and marijuana are a good mix. You might be surprised by some of our findings!