Bodybuilding and Cannabis (THC) Use - What You Should Know

Bodybuilding and Cannabis (THC) Use - What You Should Know - 1st Detachment

Written by Justin Harris, Thomas Lackie, and Team 1D

The benefits of cannabis for your bodybuilding goals

Regardless of one's political views, it is becoming harder to deny that cannabis is an effective treatment for multiple diseases in certain individuals.

When I began studying cannabis during my freshman year at the University of Memphis, I came across several studies and publications that suggested it could benefit bodybuilders and others by improving appetite, reducing fasting insulin levels, lowering insulin resistance, reducing waist circumference, and lowering inflammation markers that may help prevent diabetes and other diseases.

Male bodybuilder bench pressing heavy weights to build endurance and strength.

Cannabis use and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance.

In 2013, a groundbreaking study was published that examined the link between cannabis use and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance. The study surveyed 4,657 adult men and women, including current and previous cannabis users.

The participants' use of cannabis was self-reported in a private setting, and they provided blood samples after a 9-hour fast. The study's multivariable-adjusted models found that current cannabis use was associated with 16% lower fasted insulin levels and 17% lower HOMA-IR (2).

Additionally, the study found that cannabis use was linked to smaller waist circumferences (3). This study sheds light on the potential health benefits of cannabis use and its impact on insulin and glucose levels in the body.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a metabolic disorder that occurs when cells in the body become less responsive to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

In bodybuilders, insulin resistance can occur as a result of prolonged high carbohydrate consumption and high-intensity resistance training.

When we consume carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. In response, the pancreas releases insulin, which signals cells to take up glucose and use it for energy.

However, when we consume large amounts of carbohydrates and engage in high-intensity resistance training, the body can become less responsive to insulin, leading to insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance in bodybuilders can have several negative effects, including:

  • Impaired Muscle Growth: Insulin is an anabolic hormone that promotes muscle growth by stimulating protein synthesis. When cells become resistant to insulin, this anabolic effect is blunted, which can impair muscle growth.
  • Increased Fat Storage: Insulin resistance can lead to increased fat storage, particularly in the abdominal area. This can make it harder for bodybuilders to achieve a lean physique.
  • Reduced Energy: Insulin resistance can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leading to feelings of fatigue and reduced energy levels.

      It's important to note that insulin resistance is a complex condition that can have multiple causes, and bodybuilders should consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action for their individual needs.

      Cannabis use may be an effective way to help reduce glucose and insulin levels.

      Bodybuilder exercises with heavy weights for muscle building.

      Diabetes mellitus and cannabis use.

      In 2012, I came across an intriguing study that aimed to investigate the connection between cannabis use and diabetes mellitus.

      Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) resulting from the body's inability to produce or use insulin effectively.

      Among other things, diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which includes conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.

      High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis and an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

      The study included a total sample of 10,896 adults who were divided into four groups: non-cannabis smokers, past users, light users, and heavy users. The prevalence of elevated C-reactive protein (>0.5 mg/dl) was significantly higher (p<0.0001) among non-cannabis users (18.9%) compared to past (12.7%) or current light (15.8%) or heavy (9.2%) users (3).

      According to the researchers, the reduced prevalence of diabetes mellitus in cannabis users could be attributed to the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of one or more cannabinoids.

      While bodybuilders may be at lower risk for diabetes compared to the general population, it's still important for them to maintain a healthy lifestyle to minimize their risk.

      This includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels.

      Professional male bodybuilder athlete curling weights to build and tone muscle.

      Cannabis's effect on appetite and its potential benefits for bodybuilders.

      For bodybuilders, consuming a high amount of calories is essential to build muscle, but it can be challenging if their appetite is poor.

      Researchers have found that cannabis can be a useful tool to increase appetite in individuals, typically by more frequent feedings throughout the day.

      Cannabis has also been found to be beneficial for cancer and HIV patients as it can reduce nausea and increase appetite.

      In a study, the researchers observed that smoking cannabis increased the fasting ghrelin concentration in all patients. Ghrelin is known as the "hunger hormone" produced in the gastrointestinal tract>and acts on the hypothalamic brain cells to increase hunger.

      What is the "hunger hormone," ghrelin?

      Ghrelin is a peptide hormone that is produced in the stomach and stimulates appetite. Ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease after meals, signaling to the body that it's time to eat.

      Ghrelin works by binding to receptors in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that regulates hunger and satiety.

      When ghrelin binds to these receptors, it triggers the release of neuropeptide Y, a neurotransmitter that increases appetite and food intake.

      What else does ghrelin impact in our bodies?

      • Metabolism: Ghrelin can increase metabolism and energy expenditure, which may help regulate body weight.
      • Growth Hormone: Ghrelin has been shown to stimulate the release of growth hormone, which is important for muscle growth and repair.
      • Stress Response: Ghrelin can also play a role in the body's stress response by reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.
      • Blood Sugar: Ghrelin can affect blood sugar levels by increasing glucose production in the liver and reducing insulin sensitivity.

      Therefore, the higher the ghrelin secretion, the hungrier a person feels, making it easier for someone like a bodybuilder to eat a lot of calories.

      Reducing inflammation: another potential benefit of cannabis use for bodybuilders.

      In addition to the studies mentioned above, there are other potential benefits of cannabis use for bodybuilders. One of the most significant potential benefits is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body.

      Inflammation can be detrimental to bodybuilders, as it can interfere with muscle recovery and growth.

      However, some studies have found that cannabis can reduce inflammation in the body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system.

      What is the endocannabinoid system, and what role does it play in bodybuilding goals?

      The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is involved in regulating various physiological functions, including mood, appetite, pain sensation, inflammation, and immune system responses.

      It is also believed to play a role in regulating important aspects of the nervous system, such as synaptic plasticity, neuronal development, and the overall balance of neurotransmitters.

      This interaction can lead to reduced inflammation and a faster recovery time for bodybuilders after intense workouts.

      Male and female bodybuilders lifting weights to increase muscle mass.

      Cannabis for improving sleep quality and recovery.

      Another potential benefit of cannabis use for bodybuilders is its ability to improve sleep.

      Adequate rest and recovery are critical for muscle growth, and bodybuilders require sufficient sleep to repair their muscles after intense workouts.

      However, many bodybuilders struggle with sleep, which can impact their performance in the gym. cannabis has been found to have sedative effects, which can help bodybuilders fall asleep faster and improve their overall sleep quality.

      Cannabis has been used by many people as a sleep aid for centuries. The plant contains several active compounds, including cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which have been shown to have effects on sleep.

      Here are some potential benefits of cannabis use for sleep:

      1. Insomnia: Cannabis has been shown to help people with insomnia fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. THC, in particular, can help induce sleepiness and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
      2. Sleep Apnea: Cannabis may be beneficial for people with sleep apnea, a condition where breathing is interrupted during sleep. THC has been shown to improve breathing during sleep and reduce the number of apnea episodes.
      3. REM Sleep: Cannabis use can reduce the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the stage of sleep where we dream. This can be helpful for people with conditions such as PTSD, where nightmares are a common symptom.
      4. Pain and Discomfort: Cannabis can also help alleviate pain and discomfort, which can interfere with sleep. CBD, in particular, has been shown to have pain-relieving properties.
      5. Relaxation: Cannabis can have relaxing effects, which can help people fall asleep more easily. The terpenes found in cannabis, such as myrcene and linalool, have been shown to have sedative properties.

      However, it's important to note that the effects of cannabis on sleep can vary depending on the strain, method of consumption, and individual tolerance.

      Some people may experience negative side effects, such as anxiety or grogginess, after using cannabis for sleep.

      Professional male athlete bodybuilder showcasing his back muscles.

      Considerations before Professional Athletes use Cannabis

      If you are considering using marijuana for bodybuilding, here are some things you should take into consideration:

      1. Legality: Marijuana use is illegal in many countries and states. Before using marijuana, make sure you understand the laws in your area and the potential legal consequences of using it.
      2. Risks to Health: Marijuana use can have both short-term and long-term health risks, including respiratory problems, impaired cognitive function, and addiction. Additionally, the use of marijuana may interact negatively with other medications or supplements you are taking.
      3. Dosage and Form: The potency and dosage of marijuana can vary greatly depending on the form in which it is consumed. Edibles, for example, can be much stronger than smoking or vaping, which can lead to unpredictable effects.
      4. Prohibited by Many Sports Organizations: Cannabis use is prohibited by many sports organizations, including the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the National Football League (NFL). Athletes who test positive for cannabis can face penalties, including disqualification, suspension, and loss of prize money.
      5. Medical Use: Some athletes use cannabis for medical purposes, such as pain relief and management of neurological conditions. In some cases, athletes may be able to obtain a medical exemption to use cannabis, but this varies depending on the sports organization.
      6. Performance-Enhancing Effects: While some athletes believe that cannabis use can enhance their performance by increasing focus and reducing anxiety, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. In fact, cannabis use can impair reaction time, coordination, and motor skills, all of which are crucial for athletic performance.
      7. Public Perception: Cannabis use by professional athletes can also be a sensitive topic due to public perception. While public opinion on cannabis use has become more favorable in recent years, some people still view it as a negative influence on sports and athletes.

        Overall, professional athletes should carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use and consult with a healthcare professional and the rules of their sports organization before using it.

        They should also be aware of the potential consequences of violating anti-doping policies and the impact it could have on their career.

        Alternative options:

        There are many other supplements and medications available that are specifically designed to support muscle growth and athletic performance.

        Before using marijuana, consider exploring these alternative options and discussing them with a healthcare professional.

        Ultimately, the decision to use marijuana for bodybuilding is a personal one that should be based on careful consideration of the potential risks and benefits, as well as consultation with a healthcare professional.

        Cannabis plants with buds ready to be harvested to be utilized for the many health benefits.

        The takeaway.

        In conclusion, the use of cannabis may offer several potential benefits for bodybuilders.

        The studies mentioned in this article have shed light on its ability to improve appetite, reduce fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, lower inflammation markers, and potentially prevent diabetes mellitus.

        Moreover, its ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system may reduce inflammation and promote a faster recovery time after intense workouts.

        Additionally, cannabis's sedative effects may help bodybuilders improve their overall sleep quality, which is crucial for muscle growth and repair.

        While further research is needed, these findings suggest that cannabis use could be a valuable tool for bodybuilders looking to improve their performance and achieve their fitness goals.


          1. (Penner, Buettner, & Mittleman, "The impact of cannabis use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults.," n.d.)
          2. Wallace, T. M., Levy, J. C., & Matthews, D. R. (2004, June 01). Use and Abuse of HOMA Modeling. Retrieved June 28, 2018, from
          3. Rajavashisth, T. B., Shaheen, M., Norris, K. C., Pan, D., Sinha, S. K., Ortega, J., & Friedman, T. C. (2012). Decreased prevalence of diabetes in cannabis users: Cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III. BMJ Open, (1).
          4. Gropper, Mie, et al. Ghrelin Concentration and Obesity: The Effect of Smoked Drugs. Sept. 2009,

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