Everybody knows and remembers the infamous video of Arnold Schwarznegger smoking a joint with a bucket of fried chicken to celebrate his 1975 Mr. Olympia title. A lot of things came out of that video — like the knowledge that the particular fried chicken Schwarznegger ate during that video was some of the best he ever had in his life. Oh, and of course, the big kerfuffle about whether or not cannabis was conducive to bodybuilding or muscle sports in general.
A lot of different rumours have made their way around since then. First, there’s the whole cannabis and sperm count thing, which a lot of people thought also meant that cannabis also lowers testosterone (myth). Then CBD birthed itself into the cannabis industry and things changed again in the relationship between cannabis and muscle sports.
It’s probably not as simple as “cannabis is bad for your beef” or “cannabis is good for your guns”. It’s never that simple — especially when cannabis is the subject at hand. In the absence of good (or any) scientific research about cannabis and muscles, how do we go about this?
Well, there are a few ways. Let’s have a look at them.
Cannabis maybe increases serum testosterone levels?
Contrary to the belief that cannabis lowers sperm count because of lowered testosterone (it seems to have some other mechanism), there’s some evidence that testosterone levels might be higher in regular cannabis users (both men and women).
There were a handful of studies conducted in the 80s and 90s on this topic but then was abandoned until the last few years. The overall consensus is that higher testosterone levels are associated with recent cannabis use. But there’s no understanding of how long this effect lasts. There’s no evidence that the increase in testosterone has a cumulative effect.
So far in the scientific understanding, testosterone doesn’t seem to be a very big player in the conversation about body-building and cannabis.
Mental focus and agility.
This is where things get… a little more complex. Cannabis affects different people differently. For some, the effect of a rich sativa strain gets the mind focused and agile. For others, cannabis turns the mind into an imaginative playground which has all the stability of soup.
Some people might not feel comfortable with their ability to lift extremely heavy, and therefore dangerous, weights while they’re high. That impaired motor control effect. Others might feel that cannabis gives them the focus and stamina they need to do the job perfectly.
With all this subjectivity in the cannabis experience, body-builders should be thinking about their own minds, bodies, and their own typical reactions to cannabinoids. It’s probably important to think about dosage too (for an in-depth guide on dosage, check out our dosage chart). A 10 mg hit of THC might put you in the zone, but any more than that could push you over the edge into the who-needs-training zone. For safety, as well as your own physical performance, it’s really important to consider these things on a personal level.
If you’re the kind of person who melts into a ball of jelly after using cannabis, that doesn’t mean cannabis can’t help your workout. You would just be introducing it at different parts of your day.
Relaxation and recovery.
This is where cannabis really seems to shine when it comes to bodybuilding — or any kind of professional athleticism in general. Athletes are understanding more than ever that rest is equally as important as training. And without rest, good training just doesn’t happen.
If training has been particularly difficult or caused pain or inflammation, cannabis can help. Topical and orally consumed cannabis can both help to reduce pain and inflammation, and essentially assist the body in its winding down process.
Those who like to use cannabis recreationally might find a lot of joy in smoking cannabis before doing some night time stretching to rejuvenate the body and the muscles. And for others, cannabis might be the ticket to a good sleep, opening up the door for good training tomorrow.
When it comes to bodybuilding, CBD is different to THC.
CBD doesn’t come with any of the cognitive effects of THC, which for bodybuilders, means it’s very different. For example, unless you take a very big dose of CBD, it’s not likely to impair your motor control or your memory.
Most importantly, in 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of banned substances. It’s therefore recognized that it doesn’t have an effect on your physical performance, but it might have a positive effect on your mental performance.
At lower doses, CBD is somewhat stimulating, may improve mental focus, and is unlikely to hinder your physical performance at all. Some athletes use CBD before training as a way to prime the muscles and avoid inflammatory responses to training. It also provides pain relief in the event of injuries or sore muscles.
Some professional athletes use CBD before game day as a way to level out the mind, reduce any anxiety or fear, and get on with the competition. There’s no reason why bodybuilders and muscle junkies shouldn’t take advantage of what CBD has to offer in terms of attitude, mental performance, and overall wellbeing.
Never one size fits all.
The moral of the story is that there’s unlikely to be a rule book on how to use cannabis successfully in bodybuilding in the near future. But as we mentioned, there are at least some things you should very clearly think about. Like whether or not cannabis makes your mind wander or brings it back into focus, or whether you typically get lazy or excited after using cannabis.
When you find your sweet spot and it’s working, roll with it! And then share with us in the comments how you use cannabis for bodybuilding! We’d love to hear from you.