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 scientifically 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

Testosterone:

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.

Cannabis users are also associated with having more visceral fat than non-users, which will definitely impede your ability to show off a six-pack.

Pain Relief:

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,

“Despite being younger and with fewer cardiovascular risk factors than non-users, during stress cardiomyopathy, the marijuana users were significantly more likely to go into cardiac arrest (2.4% vs. 0.8%) and to require an implanted defibrillator to detect and correct dangerously abnormal heart rhythms (2.4% vs.0.6%).”

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).


Conclusions and implications:

Chronic marijuana use can lead to reintoxication, increase in estrogen and bodyfat, down regulation of growth hormone, and clearly reduces cognitive and athletic performance. While it is less toxic than tobacco smoke, for a person meal-prepping and working hard in the gym, it might rob you of your gains, and it perhaps left better to those people who actually derive benefits from medical marijuana.


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