weed and muscle growth

Cannabis and Muscle Growth

Celena Morales
Jan 8, 2018 · 4 min read

With the legalization of marijuana, this question has been asked many times, and while people who enjoy smoking it say, “of course not! Those studies were done on rats,” and those who don’t, say, “of course it does, it increases estrogen, gives you the munchies, and you get fat,” there’s definitely more to the story.

What is Marijuana

Marijuana (has a lot of nicknames, but it sci e ntifically known as cannabis). In most states, it is illegal, and the effects of this drug come from a chemical called THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). Use of marijuana is hotly contested and for good reason. When searching scholarly articles and even anecdotal evidence, we are left with more questions than answers.

Effects of Marijuana

There are more studies about the effects of medical marijuana rather than recreational (obviously). With this in mind, you have to do your own research and draw conclusions. The American Academy of Family Physicians states that long-term use of marijuana lowers testosterone levels in men. We know from science 101 that lower levels of testosterone mean less muscle mass. If you know anyone who has ever had to supplement testosterone before, they will also tell you that low levels of this also leave you feeling sluggish (which could translate into less exercise overall).

THC is also stored in fat cells (which produce estrogen, the more bodyfat you have, the higher the estrogen levels are), and when you break down bodyfat (lipolysis) to lose weight, you can even become reintoxicated. So if you are trying to make weight for a competition and drop enough bodyfat, your blood THC levels could potentially disqualify you from an event.

The major benefit associated with medical marijuana is pain relief. People who deal with chronic and neuropathic pain were found to have a huge reduction in pain and stress-related hormones. In the study made famous by Neuropsychopathology in 2009, chronic pain sufferers found that nearly half of patients had at least a 30 percent reduction in pain, while only 18 percent reduction in the placebo group.

Metabolic and Nutritional Effects:

THC has been shown to decrease human growth hormone and increase dopamine (and therefore, ghrelin). While it might make you feel good in the moment, due to the way your body processes this, you will feel hungry, even if you have just eaten. Some anecdotal evidence shows that some smokers have an increased ability to smell, which may also make food more enjoyable because it will seem more flavorful. The scent of food is a huge part of the eating experience because you force air through the nasal passages as you chew. It does not decrease your metabolism, but increases your appetite for carbohydrate-rich and fatty foods.

For those who smoke marijuana, it may result to better oxygenated tissue, as it acts as a vasodilator. Depending on the sport and the task, this could prove beneficial for sport.

Muscles-Tension, Relaxation, and Myopathy:

For those people who have seizure disorders or any other frequent twitching or muscular tightness marijuana has proven to be successful treating this as well. These patients have sometimes found that they are able to participate in daily activities and do normal tasks with little to no help. Marijuana reduces muscular tension, aches, and pains.

There are some new studies out there that definitely show negative effects of cannabis use on heart muscle,

Athletic and Cognitive Performance:

Ingesting or smoking marijuana impairs reaction time, hand-eye coordination, perception, and divides attention for up to 36 hours after usage. One study using licensed airplane pilots demonstrated that marijuana led to a huge increase in major and minor errors and deviations from flight plans, even when the pilots had practiced the patterns and routes previously. And just in case you’re already hot and bothered about this one, it was actual human pilots in this study (not mice).

With the legalization of marijuana, this question has been asked many times, and while people who enjoy smoking it say, “of course not! Those studies were done on rats,” and those who don’t say, “of…

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…