Several US states relax their stance toward marijuana. Does that mean you should light up? Or do you risk your hard-earned bodybuilding and workout success?
What Actually Is Cannabis?
To understand what cannabis does, we first have to look at what it is: a plant with about 60 psychoactive substances, of whom the one with the most effect is tetrahydrocannabinol. That’s a mouthful, so it’s usually shortened to “THC.”
In the brain there are so-called “cannabinoid receptors” responsible for controlling memory, thought, pain, concentration, and coordinated movement. THC docks to these, and the effect is what consuming marijuana is known for: you relax, take it easy and are as mellow as a piece of butter in the sun.
Cannabis And Bodybuilding
As nice as that sounds, it’s pretty much the opposite of what we want when we work with weights:
Cannabis And Testosterone
Two factors mentioned in the video I want to look at a little more in-depth: marijuana’s effect on your testosterone level and eating.
Let’s start with the testosterone, where the evidence is mixed. A 1983 study found that even one joint lowered testosterone, but the effect lasted only for 24 hours. A 1984 study found that pot not only lowered testosterone but also thyroid, prolactin and growth hormones.
On the other hand, a 1989 study gave 17 men either a high or low dose of THC and then measured what happened to their hormones. There was no effect. And these are just three studies from a very huge pile, where one paper says yes, the next no.
My impression is that infrequent usage should not significantly influence testosterone in the grand scheme of things. But smoking often, let’s say a joint per day, can have an effect for as long as you keep that up. It’s pretty much as with bodybuilding and alcohol: the more you have of it, the worse the side effects.
The Amazing Munchies…
Eating more due to smoking weed, or “getting the munchies,” is familiar to most people who tried cannabis. But did you know how much more it can make you eat? If you try to keep your body fat under control, there’ll be a problem!
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine looked at how marijuana affected the appetite of six men. For thirteen days they either smoked two real or placebo joints in the morning and another two in the afternoon. On each day they were given three meals, but also access to a devilish unlimited amount of candy bars, chips, soda and other caloric motherships. To how much would they help themselves?
On the days the men smoked the genuine pot, they ate their usual portions during meals, with no extra helpings. But on the snacks they went amok and ended up eating 40% more calories than on placebo days. After 13 days each one had gained an average 6 lbs.
I said in the video that I’m not discussing the legal factor of marijuana. That’s because the issue is complex and can go from “all cool, man” (North Korea and the Netherlands) to “would you please stand before that wall” (China and Singapore). You are well-advised to check how your local law handles cannabis consumption and possession.
In addition also keep in mind your personal situation. If you have an athletic or sports scholarship, for example, marijuana use can lead to its termination. If you are a professional bodybuilder, competitions you participate in can have a zero tolerance policy. Many of these contracts require drug tests and THC can be traced weeks after consumption.
Picture courtesy of Manuel Martin Vicente.