Marijuana: How does it affect exercise and your weight?

By March 26, 20109 Comments




There’s a bit of irony in the following if intriguing story.

The setting is the  mid to late 1960s.  Imagine if you will the culture of the time.  The main character, one of the premiere bodybuilders of his day.  For our purposes, we’ll just call him John.

John admitted that early in his career he did use drugs — especially anabolic steroids — in order to achieve his goals.  But as his career progressed he dropped the use of them, realizing their dangerous long-term effects.

But steroids weren’t the only drugs he used.  He had a pre-workout routine that he kept very secret, but was eventually revealed. He smoked marijuana before he worked out.  Now, when we say “smoked” marijuana, we don’t mean he took a hit or two on a joint prior to his exercising.

Oh no!  He savored his pot for an hour or so, and then went to hit his routine.  And apparently he did this without displaying any well, ill effects, let’s say.

Today, there are many athletes — and we’re not just talking bodybuilders — who also indulge in the “herb.”  They it relaxes them and “expands their minds.”  Marijuana has long been held by those who smoke it to reinforce and emphasize the mood you’re already in.  If you’re feeling good, for example, then you’ll feel better after smoking marijuana.

It’s curious that this particular body builder found his performance enhanced.  Later studies demonstrate that because of the physical effects of the plant, most notably an increased heart rate, athletic performance and physical activity is impaired.


In fact, in one study, men who cycled against increasing workloads and smoked marijuana displayed decreased exercise performance. But that’s not the only study to illustrate this concept.

Another piece of research conducted using 161 men and women came to a similar conclusion.  The participants all were administered THC — the active ingredient in marijuana.  All experienced a general drop in standing steadiness, simple as well as complex reactions times and a decrease in various other athletic skills.

Not only that, the use of marijuana has also been shown to decrease an individual’s concentration and his focus.  This is effect is so powerful, according to researchers, that it can’t even be overcome with the use of amphetamine drugs.

But from an athlete’s view — and especially that of a body builder — the question is Does marijuana affect the anabolic hormones, like testosterone?

It appears that it inhibits the production of not only this hormone, but of luteinizing hormone as well at least in animal studies.  LH — as the latter hormone is usually referred to — is produced in the pituitary gland.  It governs the endogenous testosterone synthesis in men.  Research has yet to discover this same reaction in pot use in human males.

A scientific study, now 20 years old, gave 17 male participants both high and low doses of THC.  Then the researchers tested their hormonal responses.  The results showed that the hormones remained unaffected by this usage.

Yet, scientists still try to determine what causes the so-called “amotivational syndrome” that is most notably associated with this drug.  In laymen’s terms, this is the couch potato equivalent to the TV junkie.  The person who prefers to smoke pot all day, really doesn’t care about much of anything else.  A study conducted recently has failed to confirm the existence of this syndrome.

Well, then, what effects does marijuana have on lung function as well?  Good question.  With all the studies that have been conducted, it appears that the verdict is still out on this one too, believe it or not.

Some studies clearly show that marijuana smoke clearly dilates the breathing passages in the lungs.  Other studies, however, show that airway passages are obstructed. One doctor believes though that marijuana is responsible for the apparent rise in lung cancer at an earlier age.  Dr. Kasi Sridhar claims that smoking this drug is actually 100 to 200 times more likely to cause lung cancer than smoking cigarettes.

So we can’t prove that marijuana can enhance your workout (even though you may be convinced that the entire world is enhanced while you’re smoking it).  Just how does the use of this drug affect your metabolism.

In other words:  Just how does the munchies affect your dieting?

Another excellent question, and one that has intrigued the researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine recently.  They looked at the appetite of six men for 13 days.  They took these men through two pot-smoking sequences, the use of two joints in the morning and two in the afternoon, and  the replacement of potent marijuana cigarettes with placebos.

All the men ate three meals every day.  But in addition to this, they had unlimited access to candy bars, potato chips soda and several other kinds of “junk food.” On the days that the men smoked the pot, the amount they consumed at every meal didn’t increase, but they ate enough snacks to consume 40 percent more calories in a day compared to when they smoked the placebo joints.

And the result?  An average six-pound weight gain in a mere 13 days.  On days they smoked pot, they not only snacked more but they were less physically active and burned fewer calories.

Hmm.  Perhaps the rumors of pot as a weight-loss instrument are a bit off base?

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • jonathan says:

    Nice article, well done!

  • Classic bro – great post Sakolicious

  • Pat says:

    It probably does make you more lazy during a workout session but does it actually directly affect the growth of muscles? You wont get maximum gains while smoking, but for the one time use, does it actually affect muscle growth or repair? What u think?

  • Jeff says:

    I smoke before running, and my performance is enhanced for sure! My lungs feel wide open compared to when I don’t smoke. But more importantly, my mental drive is amplified and I push myself way harder to reach goals and climb hills etc. I guess it helps that it makes the “pain” of running more pleasurable. Basically it feels great to be burning those leg muscles and conquering those hills. I only take one hit at a time though, so maybe there’s a discrepancy between my method of use vs the average couch potato. If I smoked two Js in the morning, I’d be a f’ing zombie too! That’s ridiculous! I think a medical study using that much at a time is more than a little biased toward negative results. It’s a shame that nobody seems to talk about the positive mental, creative, and yes, motivational benefits that can result from this wonderful drug, when used in moderation.

  • Tim says:

    I too smoke about a one hitters worth right before I walk into the gym. I feel it greatly motivates me and helps my focus. A pair of headphones while stoned during a workout, I think about nothing else when I’m in there. Not the roided meat- head next to me or the dude checking himself out in the mirror in front of me. Plus like in your article, where it talks about an increased heart rate, wouldn’t that help with pumping more blood into the muscle your working which creates more small tears, leading to more muscle repair (gain). I’ve also always been told that too get rid of lactic acid in your body after an intense workout, to do some cardio to get your blood flowing and flush it out. Wouldn’t an increased heart rate from marijuana be the same as an increased heart rate from cardio? Just some questions I’ve had.

  • The increased heart rate from Marijuana isn’t the same. Marijuana could caused prolonged periods of increased heart rate. There’s a lot of info out on the web that is conflicting. I do also know people who perform at high levels but I guess it’s up to you and if it works go for it. Hope this helps 🙂

  • Kazza says:

    You should look into research of long term users and how it has effected their weight to make a fleeting statement like you did at the end. I know from my own and others experience that once you become a long term user, you appetite begins to decline. I have lost a stone and a half in a year, unintentionally! When i decreased my intake, my appetite returned…

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