smoking weed and bodybuilding

The Weed Effect: Marijuana And Muscles

To smoke or not to smoke?

We’re all familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victory celebration after winning the 1975 Mr. Olympia title. It’s a popular scene from “Pumping Iron” that many people still reference today. It depicts Schwarzenegger smoking marijuana and eating fried chicken, all while wearing his “Arnold is Numero Uno” t-shirt. It’s a great piece of film history for sure. One take away is that the fried chicken Arnold had that night was no doubt some of the best he’s eaten in his entire life. Another is – how does marijuana effect muscle growth?


There have been many studies on the effect of marijuana on testosterone. The consensus is that the results have been split down the middle. In users who have smoked little to no marijuana, there have been signs of a slight decrease in testosterone production levels, a big red flag for any bodybuilder. However, studies have also shown that regular smokers have maintained their testosterone levels. Testosterone is a major part of growing muscle, so smoking weed will likely end up being a gamble for any bodybuilder.


Many people have cited marijuana’s effect on their bodies post workout. After a hard pumping day in the gym, its always essential to give your body adequate rest in order for your muscles to repair and grow. Supporters of marijuana have stated that smoking or ingesting the plant makes them feel relaxed after a long day at the gym and this can help ease tension through the body for even better rest.


An increased appetite is another side effect of smoking marijuana that can’t be avoided. This can be helpful or hurtful depending on the user’s discipline. On the one hand, if a smoker still manages to plan out their diet and adhere to strict guidelines, then increased appetite will likely not be an issue. In fact, if you plan things out you could use the munchies to bulk. On the other hand, if a user is prone to binge eating, and putting anything into their mouths, then it could backfire. Fighting off urges are hard enough without something sending your hunger into overload.

Mental Focus

Marijuana can at times effect ones mental focus – having ill effects on short term memory. The relaxation felt during smoking can also hurt mental drive, and that carefree lethargic feeling some users get. This kind of mental disruption could end up effecting long term focus during training. The last thing we want, is to feel uninspired and lazy in the gym. Bodybuilding takes a dedication and focus to make continuous gains.

Best Way to Get Green as a Bodybuilder?


There’s a real tendency for smokers to have a lazy streak. Sure, marijuana may stimulate the mind sometimes, but if you’re looking to get into the gym and make some gains, it could leave you lethargic, planted on your ass and too lazy to do anything. It may not happen to everyone but to those who are affected, it can be a hindrance.

Nervous System

Some people have gone so far as to state marijuana’s effect on their nervous system. They cite the plant’s ability to calm down their nervous system, giving them that extra push in the gym. For this reason many people have said they’ve had their best workouts while they were high.

Oxygen Levels

The smoke inhalation is definitely a concern for any hardcore bodybuilder. Muscles need oxygen for proper growth and if you smoke with blunts or papers you’ll be taking in all the toxins from the artificial byproducts. This especially effects your oxygen levels if done before a workout. If you do choose to smoke, using a vaporizer would be the way to go.

Pain Relief

In many cases, marijuana has been used as pain relief for patients. As stated above, marijuana can have a relaxing effect. This effect includes relaxing the muscles and removing the soreness suffered by a tough workout. A few post workout puffs can go a long way to taking away any nagging pains one might suffer from a hard session in the gym.

Not everyone feels the same effects of marijuana and ultimately, like anything else, having too much of it can be potentially harmful. The consensus seems to be that with regulated use, marijuana’s effect on the body and any internal hormonal changes become balanced over time. Despite that, smoking in general is always a risk and isn’t something to be done on a whim. We at Generation Iron understand that marijuana is an illegal substance in most states of the U.S. (and the U.S. Federal Govt. still considers it illegal) and in no way condones the illegal use of the substance. But if you’re of age and living in Colorado, Washington, Oregon or Alaska where its recreational use has recently been made legal, then by all means puff or ingest away, but always in moderation.

Final GI Roll-Up

Marijuana, weed, pot, grass, reefer, ganja, sticky-icky – whatever you wanna call it, it’s hands down the most popular illegal drug in the U.S., if not the world. And just like all other drugs including; alcohol (legal), cigarettes (legal), prescription drugs & coffee – too much of it will have some sort of negative effect. Although no one has ever reported a death due to overdosing on Marijuana, unlike these other drugs, it still remains illegal in the eyes of our Federal Government. We love Arnold here at GI, and he obviously smoked weed back in the day, as did president Obama, and many of our iconic artists and athletes. When used in moderation, many feel the plant’s main effects to the human body are happiness, hunger, relaxation and creativity. Others feel paranoid, lazy and sleepy. In any case, there’s good and bad to everything, so if weed makes you happy then go for it, if it has negative effects, then stay away, but it should be no one else’s choice but your own After all, we’re still in the land of the free – or are we?…

What’s your opinion on the topic of marijuana, exercise & muscle growth? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Schwarzenegger smoking marijuana and eating fried chicken, all while wearing his "Arnold is Numero Uno" t-shirt. It's a great piece of film history…

THC and Bodybuilding

By Robert Schinetsky

The humble cannabis plant is garnering the lion’s share of attention in health and fitness circles now more than ever thanks to the increasing interest in all things CBD as well as the growing popularity and legalization of marijuana.

The plant has been inextricably linked to the bodybuilding culture for decades, and there’s no more defining image than that of the great Arnold Schwarzenegger puffing on a joint following his sixth Mr. Olympia victory.

This has led many lifters to wonder if marijuana, and/or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive compound in weed), is helpful or harmful to the bodybuilding goals.

Let’s discuss this.

The Effects of Marijuana on Bodybuilding

Both THC and CBD (cannabidiol) affect the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system is a biological system that affects appetite, immune functions, sleep, pain sensation, temperature regulation, and many other processes in the body.

In fact, both fat and muscle tissues utilize these receptors to varying degrees. [1] [2]

THC can help assist with increased appetite and temporary pain relief.

Now, before we get into the specific effects of THC on muscle growth, it bears mentioning that there’s not a wealth of information on the subject matter.

To be quite honest, the number of human studies investigating the effects of marijuana on muscle growth is sparse, but there is some insight to be gleaned from the available body of literature.

Let’s start by discussing marijuana’s impact on the hormone most often associated with muscle growth — testosterone.


To date, there have been several trials investigating the effects of THC on T-production in humans and the results are mixed.

In persons not accustomed to smoking weed, marijuana usage does lead to a slight, temporary decrease in testosterone production levels.

However, in regular tokers, weed seems to have little-to-no impact on testosterone levels. [3] [4] But, it should be noted that regardless if you do take a ride with Mary Jane your sperm quantity and quality takes quite a significant hit.


As we mentioned, the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system play a role in appetite regulation.

The two primary cannabinoids of marijuana (THC and CBD) interact with the cannabinoid receptors, an acutely increasing appetite.

If you’re looking to pack on mass, this may be a beneficial thing as it could help you get in those all-too-important muscle-building calories if you’re someone who struggles with poor appetite.

However, this is really only beneficial if the munchies you get have you eating foods that are in line with your nutrition plan.

If the smoking weed has you binging on pizza, ice cream, and all sorts of other high fat, high carb, low protein foods, well then you might get more fat gain than you had initially hoped.

There’s also something else to consider — while marijuana usage in the short-term acutely spikes appetite, chronic use may actually decrease appetite.

Animal studies and epidemiological research has noted that prolonged use of marijuana may cause a decrease in appetite.

Researchers believe this may be due to the downregulation of CB1 receptor activity over time with continued cannabis use.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that some inflammation is needed for muscle growth to take place.

Therefore, if hypertrophy is your main goal, you may not want to smoke any weed immediately following your training session as the anti-inflammatory effects of ganja could conflict with the necessary immune response following resistance-training needed to drive hypertrophy.


If you’re someone looking to experiment with marijuana, the one time you really don’t want to use it is immediately prior to your training session.

The reason for this is that cannabis negatively impacts performance through a variety of mechanisms, including: [6]

● Reduced concentration
● Decreased reaction time
● Impaired hand-eye coordination
● Lowers exercise capacity and stamina

A recent literature review on the effects of cannabis and athletes noted the plant offers no performance benefits. [5]

So, while it may help you feel less achy in the days after your training session, it’s not advised to take it immediately prior to or immediately following exercise.

Finally, there’s hasn’t been much research done to investigate the effects of marijuana directly on muscle protein synthesis in humans, but some animal studies indicate that chronic use of marijuana may disrupt mTOR signaling. [7]


There’s a lot of talk regarding inflammation these days, especially with regard to chronic disease.

And while we might be led to believe that any type of inflammation is bad, the truth is that inflammation is needed for muscle growth.

The times when inflammation becomes a concern is when we’re chronically inflamed and the body never has a chance to return to normal homeostasis.

Since the endocannabinoid system is involved in the immune system and inflammatory response, coupled with the fact that marijuana stimulates the ECS, it may help reduce some of the aches and pains caused by inflammation induced by resistance training.

Therefore, if you’re someone who regularly pushes the envelope and tends to experience symptoms of overtraining, marijuana may help you to recover a bit quicker.

The Bottom Line on Marijuana and Bodybuilding

At the end of the day, more research is needed to understand the many ways weed affects bodybuilding.

It reduces performance and inflammation in the short term, which means you won’t want to use it in the hours immediately surrounding your workout.

But, if taking at other points of the day helps you relax (reduce cortisol levels) and potentially eat more “good calories” it could support the muscle growth and recovery processes.

Until more research is done, we’re mostly left to speculate and glean insight from the current body of literature.

THC and Bodybuilding By Robert Schinetsky The humble cannabis plant is garnering the lion’s share of attention in health and fitness circles now more than ever thanks to the increasing