Cannabis and Muscle Mass: Is Pot the New Protein?

One of the main reasons people work out is to build muscle mass. From those who want to use this mass to increase their metabolism to those who want a six-pack outside of their refrigerator, all sorts of people head to the gym to pump iron. Weightlifting is one of the most popular activities, particularly among men.

Ways to Build Muscle Mass

Fortunately for the muscle-bound, there are many ways to up the size of triceps and biceps. If the montage from every movie ever is to be believed, drinking a blender full of raw eggs will do the trick. Per Men’s Health, you cannabis and muscle masscan also do the following:

Eat meat: Apologies to the vegans, but meat is a good way to build muscles. That’s because it’s packed with protein, which is vital to muscles – it, quite literally, completes them. This isn’t to say you have to enjoy beef and chicken in order to get ripped: cheese, eggs, and beans have a ton of protein too. So do vegetables, tofu, and peanut butter.

Eat more: Hail the greatest news ever! When you’re trying to put on muscle mass, you have to add mass to your plates as well. It’s recommended that you consume an extra 500 calories a day, but make sure they’re the right calories. In other words, skip the sugar for protein.

Work your largest muscles: Yep, there’s a reason why gyms dedicated to finger weightlifting aren’t a thing (note to self: new business idea). You build the most mass the fastest by focusing on the largest muscle groups. Thus, focus on your chest, back, and legs before moving onto other areas.

Drink a carbs/protein mix prior to working out: Studies suggest that people who drink carbs mixed with protein shakes prior to working out increase their protein synthesis (these results only occurred when drinking before the workout, not after)

Lift every other day: Some people jump into lifting full throttle, lifting day after day until they look like Popeye. But lifting every other day is more impactful. Keep your workouts challenging, but give your body a day of rest in between.

Cannabis and Weightlifting

While eating certain things and drinking certain concoctions is conducive to amassing muscles, what about cannabis?

Do weed and weightlifting go hand in hand? Is Mary Jane your spotter?

According to Herb Magazine, the idea that THC and triceps go together came about in part because of Arnold Schwarzenegger; he smoked a joint after winning the 1975 Mr. Olympia title. But what does the science say? Well, it says that marijuana isn’t ideal for muscle building, at least not when it comes to testosterone in rats.

Per the National Institutes of Health, THC has the potential to reduce testosterone levels, but not to alarming degrees. It does this by suppressing the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, something that is responsible for around 5 percent of testosterone production. Thus, it can theoretically decrease a person’s testosterone by 5 percent, but only for a short-lived time (around twenty-four hours). It’s also likely that the decrease isn’t as high in people with tolerance.

Pain Relieving Influences of Marijuana

Just as Mary Jane taketh away, she also giveth; she seems to get along well with estrogen. Thus, she may prove beneficial to weightlifting. Pot won’t directly increase muscle mass -it’s not akin to the aforementioned Popeye’s can on spinach, but it helps muscles feel better.

Of course, estrogen is another thing that plays into muscle mass; too much of it increases body fat. But, for women especially, marijuana interacts with estrogen in a helpful manner: it enhances pot’s pain-relieving effects. This is something that may aid lifters, particularly in people with muscles that are especially pained and achy.

The Human Growth Hormone Factor

The pituitary gland produces the Human Growth Hormone (GH), a hormone that is responsible for cell growth and regeneration (and you thought your job was important!). Muscles require this hormone in order to build….and living requires it too. THC, as it does to testosterone, may also decrease the amount of GH produced by the body in rodents. This is because THC causes the release of somatostatin, a chemical that halts its production.

Still, like so many medical studies, what happens in rats isn’t always what happens in people. A study conducted back in the dark ages of 1986 found that, in humans, THC showed the potential to increase GH and cortisol, a hormone that helps the body use sugar and fat for energy and helps the body manage stress.

What all of this comes down to is that marijuana probably won’t be a huge influence on your weightlifting program – any impact it does have is likely to be small. But that doesn’t mean it can’t affect things indirectly

If you smoke strains that are known for couch-lock, for instance, you’ll probably end up hitting the snooze button more often than you hit the gym. Certain strains can also leave you unmotivated – or if they’re super potent – unwilling to get things done. Other strains can have the opposite cannabis and muscle masseffect. If you imbibe on occasion, strains of choice likely won’t have much influence on your workout routine, but if you toke up regularly, you might want to choose your flowers carefully.

Naturally, the infamous munchies also weigh in. Most people who get the munchies crave sugary treats that aren’t going to turn you into a lean, mean, muscular machine. Strain choice, again, can help: some strains leave you starving to death more acutely than others. And keeping good foods around your house helps too; if bags of chips and boxes of candy are conveniently placed inside your pantry, you’ll probably treat yourself when the munchies come calling.

However, the munchies can work in your favor. As mentioned above, one of the tricks to building mass is eating more and the munches are champions in that department. Thus, help yourself by eating more of the foods that will leave you so muscular any flexing is guaranteed to rip your shirt. That doesn’t mean you need to abandon sugary foods entirely, but add in the extra protein. In other words, don’t get high and go to Dairy Queen; go to Shake and Steak instead.

Jenn Keeler

About the author: Jenn Keeler is a freelance writer and illustrator specializing in humorous lifestyle articles. She is one of the few people on earth actually using an English degree. Her heart belongs to the Denver Broncos and her husband. In that order.