Weed and Bodybuilding – Can Cannabis Improve Your Gains?

There are many misconceptions about weed and bodybuilding. While millions of Americans struggle every year to lose weight, millions of others grapple with the opposite problem: the ability to bulk up. Gyms and fitness clubs are filled with eager bodybuilders stymied by their own inability to grow their muscle mass beyond a certain point. To overcome these challenges, many are turning to an unlikely solution: cannabis. But do marijuana and muscle growth really go hand in hand? It all depends on your approach.

The Relationship Between Marijuana and Bodybuilding

Cannabis won’t magically transform your body. You still have to put in the work in the gym. What cannabis can do is provide you with supplemental advantages, such as:

  • Increased focus and energy
  • Increased appetite to consume more calories
  • An improved pain threshold
  • Reduced post-workout muscle soreness

In order to reap these benefits, you have to be mindful of your timing, your dosage, and even the strains you consume. A variety with a strong indica profile might improve your appetite and relieve pain, but it could also render you catatonic if you use it before your workout. That’s why it’s important to have a game plan when adding cannabis to your workout regimen.

Table of Contents

The Relationship Between Marijuana and Bodybuilding
Using Cannabis for Improving Focus and Energy
Using Cannabis for Increased Appetite
Using Cannabis for Pain Relief and Recovery
How Does Marijuana Affect Testosterone?
Best Ways to Consume Cannabis for Weight Training
Tips for Integrating Cannabis Into Your Workout

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Using Cannabis for Focus and Energy

Working out can be a monotonous process, especially if you’re feeling tired or unmotivated. To push past the sluggishness and get the most from your bodybuilding session, you might benefit from a sativa-heavy marijuana blend.

Sativas are known for promoting a “head high,” leaving the user with heightened focus, energy, and euphoria. If you struggle to maintain the necessary energy and enthusiasm to work out several days a week, try a pre-workout boost with a sativa strain like the following:

  • Jillybean: Known for promoting happiness and euphoria, this uplifting variety will make you feel like you can conquer the world.
  • Green Crack: Don’t be put off by the name. This high-energy strain will keep you on your feet after an extended bodybuilding session.
  • Sour Diesel: This is one of the more popular sativas for good reason: it’s fast-acting and energizing with the added bonus of providing pain relief.
  • Jack Herer: This sativa-dominant hybrid strain offers all the motivational and energizing benefits while also promoting a healthy post-workout appetite.
  • Super Lemon Haze: This two-time Cannabis Cup winner has a citrusy aroma and is awesome for achieving a natural burst of energy.

When incorporating weed into your workout, you’ll need to time it so that the effects begin right as you hit the gym floor. The exact timing will depend on how you consume your weed:

  • Smoking: 10-15 minutes before working out
  • Vaping: 10-15 minutes before working out
  • Edibles: 45-60 minutes before working out
  • Tinctures taken sublingually: 10-15 minutes before working out
  • Tinctures mixed into foods/drinks: 45-60 minutes before working out
  • Powders: 15-20 minutes before working out

When combining weed and bodybuilding, microdosing is best. You don’t want much more than 2.5 mg of THC. If you’re smoking a joint, about 2 to 3 puffs should do the trick. When using a vape pen, powder, or tincture, note the THC concentration and indulge accordingly.

Smoking Weed to Increase Appetite

One of the most useful ways weed can help bodybuilding goals is by increasing your appetite, thus allowing you to consume more calories than you typically would. To pack on pounds, you need to figure out how many calories you must consume to maintain your current weight. Healthline has a handy calculator that can instantly give you this result.

Once you know your baseline, you need to aim for a calorie count above that threshold. In other words, you need caloric surplus. A pound is equal to 3,500 calories, so if your goal is to gain a pound a week, shoot for an extra 500 calories a day. Be sure to stick with nutritious, protein-rich foods.

Certain strains of marijuana can stimulate the appetite, potentially enabling you to consume more and have extra fuel when working those core muscle groups. It’s all thanks to the THC. This compound activates the body’s CB1 receptors, releasing hormones that stimulate hunger. That’s why marijuana use is often associated with “the munchies.”

Sativas typically have higher concentrations of THC, so it would seem logical to go with sativa-dominant strains to encourage appetite. However, based on anecdotal evidence, the majority of appetite-stimulating strains are indica-dominant. This might be because sativas increase serotonin production in the brain, and serotonin is a natural appetite suppressant.

The following varieties can help you to stimulate your appetite:

  • Critical: With a profile that’s 60% indica and 40% sativa, this robust option is known for encouraging a ravenous appetite while still being stimulating.
  • Sunset Sherbet: Part of the Girl Scout Cookies line, this is one of the rare indica-dominant varieties with energizing qualities. It also stimulates appetite.
  • Opium: This award-winning, Amsterdam-based selection is known for triggering insatiable hunger—in part because of its high THC content (as high as 21%).
  • Mango Kush: Another indica-dominant hybrid, this wildly popular strain is both energizing and blissful.
  • Platinum Purple Kush: This may be one of the best appetite stimulants of any marijuana strain, but it does promote couch lock. Use only for post-workout.

If you live in a state with recreational or medicinal use, your doctor or dispensary may be able to make additional recommendations. The great thing about appetite-friendly strains is that you can use them whenever it’s convenient and you’re ready to eat.

In terms of dosage, it’s probably best to stick with microdosing once again. Dr. Jeffrey Raber, Executive Director of the Association of Commercial Cannabis Labs, noted that “the very little we think we may know seems to indicate smaller doses are more likely to increase appetite.”

But while cannabis may give you a short-term appetite boost, the onus is on you to create and follow an appropriate diet plan. As further observed by Dr. Raber, “Only a proper diet, the right amount of calories in the right fashion, along with proper exercise, can help support weight gain.”

Using Weed for Muscle Recovery

The bodybuilding recovery period can be a source of discomfort. If pain persists, it can also inhibit your subsequent workouts and make it difficult to work the same muscle groups on a consistent basis. While you always want to ensure adequate rest for every muscle group (for instance, never work the same muscles on consecutive days), you also don’t want general inflammation derailing your routine.

Cannabinoids—the active compounds found in cannabis—have potent anti-inflammatory properties, and clinical research has found marijuana to be an effective pain reliever for many people. As a result, weed may be effective for treating the pain that arises during a workout and also the pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness.

The following strains are known for their pain-fighting and anti-inflammatory effects. They include a mix of indicas, sativas, and hybrids.

  • ACDC: ACDC is an effective pain fighter due to its high cannabidiol (CBD) content. In fact, the ratio of CBD to THC is as high as 20 to 1, so you won’t get as much of a buzz. Because it can be relaxing, it’s best used post-workout.
  • Death Star: This powerful indica promotes a potent body high and can help to soothe all of your soreness. Save it for after the workout.
  • Tangerine Dream: When used in moderation, this award-winning strain can be used both pre- and post-workout for preventing and eliminating pain.
  • Quantum Kush: Another strain that relieves pain without zapping your energy, Quantum Kush is also good for promoting appetite. Like Tangerine Dream, it’s suitable for both the pre- and post-workout.
  • LA Confidential: With its smooth, pine taste and fast-acting effects, LA Confidential is a top choice for pain relief. It has a strong indica profile and can contribute to couch lock, so reserve it for after the workout.

Use the “post-workout” suggestions in microdoses when you’re at home relaxing. This can help prevent and reduce inflammation. If you want to reduce the pain that occurs while bodybuilding, use the pre-workout-appropriate strains before you hit the gym. Just be careful not to overexert yourself.

How Does Marijuana Affect Testosterone?

Some workout enthusiasts are leery of using marijuana due to its perceived impact on testosterone. A well-known 1974 study—and a similar 1984 study—concluded that marijuana use results in reduced testosterone levels.

However, more recent studies—including a 2019 Harvard study—have come to vastly different conclusions. The Harvard study found that marijuana use is associated with higher sperm counts and higher serum testosterone levels, particularly when cannabis use is enjoyed at low dosages. The researchers theorized that the impact of cannabis on the body’s endocannabinoid system may have a positive impact on sexual function. A 2015 Danish study yielded similar results.

It’s also worth noting that even the critical 1984 study concluded that “Many of the effects on the endocrine system caused by chronic treatment of animals with THC are completely reversible with time and there is reason to believe that tolerance develops to these effects with acute exposure to THC.”

So at worst, the negative impact on testosterone is likely negligible and temporary. At best, weed may actually help to increase testosterone levels and improve your workout.

Optimal Ways to Use Weed for Weight Lifting

There are many ways to consume marijuana for bodybuilding, but each method comes with its own set of pros and cons. If you partake on a regular basis, you might already know the method that’s most comfortable for you. If the cannabis world is new to you, it’s important to start by acquainting yourself with the benefits and drawbacks of each popular method.

  • Smoking: This is one of the fastest-acting delivery systems. Expect the effect to hit its peak in as little as 10 minutes. However, a lot of athletes shy away from smoking because of its effects on the lungs and overall respiratory system.
  • Vaping: It’s easy to control the dosage, and the effects are almost instant. However, research from Johns Hopkins has found that vaping can have a more potent effect, so if you’re prone to anxiety, distraction, and paranoia with cannabis use, vaping might intensify these feelings.
  • Edibles: The delivery system is as simple as it gets. You don’t have to roll any joints, load any cartridges, or understand how a cannabis grinder works. All you have to do is eat. However, it can take up to 2 hours to feel the full effect.
  • Tinctures: These oils are easy to take under the tongue and are virtually odor-free. They’re also among the most discreet delivery systems available; you can use them at the gym without attracting attention. However, they can be more expensive than other methods.
  • Cannabinoid Powder: While traditional edibles can take up to 2 hours to achieve their full potency, water-soluble powders can take effect within 20 minutes. Not only that, but their effects can last a full four hours. Like tinctures, though, they can come with a higher price tag.

Tips for Integrating Cannabis Into Your Workout

Cannabis on its own will not give you the gains you’re looking for. Still, if you’re looking to experiment with it for additional performance gains, follow the following tips:

  1. Stick with indica-dominant strains for maximum appetite.
  2. Use sativas for focus and energy.
  3. Choose the delivery system that works best for you, whether that’s smoking, vaping, edibles, or powder.
  4. Use marijuana both pre- and post-workout along with a protein supplement.
  5. Stick with microdosing, especially before your workout; 2.5 mg of THC is plenty.
  6. Time your usage carefully when preparing for a workout.
  7. If your goal is to bulk up, strive for a calorie surplus each day; 500 extra calories should add one pound per week.
  8. Eat nutritious, protein-rich foods in addition to working out.
  9. Never work out the same muscle groups on multiple consecutive days.
  10. Be consistent about going to the gym at least 3 to 4 times a week. If you eat more food but neglect to work out, you’re not going to like the type of weight you gain.

You’re not going to see results overnight, but with consistency and commitment, cannabis can help you achieve the bodybuilding results you’re hoping for.

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