Marijuana’s gotten a bad rap for years now. Between the Reefer Madness and the fear-mongering effects of doobies, this herb is classified as a life-threatening drug that urges people to behave unusually, sometimes to the point of paranoia. But, here’s the twist.
Many active individuals, including long-distance runners and bodybuilders, claim that this controversial herb has helped them get into serious shape. From boosting their athletic performance and reducing muscle soreness to skyrocketing their testosterone levels, advocates support that marijuana may not be as harmful as we think, especially when it comes to achieving our fitness goals. But, is this really the case or is there more to the story?
Crazy for Mary Jane – The Need-to-Know
Marijuana, also referred to as pot or weed, is a greenish-gray mixture which consists of dried, crumbled flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant. Even though it’s indigenous to eastern Asia, this plant is now known and grown worldwide thanks to its extensive use.
Consumed mostly for recreational and sometimes medicinal purposes, marijuana is packed with several psychoactive chemical compounds (a.k.a. cannabinoids). When ingested, these compounds become one with your brain and body receptors, affecting several functions such as pain stamina, appetite, emotions and even memory.
Two of the most active cannabinoids in weed are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is considered a non-psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa plant and is mainly responsible for bringing about that calm and relaxed feeling. On the flip side, THC is labeled as the primary psychoactive component of marijuana and produces a bunch of biological and behavioral responses, from feeling euphoric and relaxed, a.k.a. “high,” to lacking focus and sometimes feeling drowsy.
Even though many people consume marijuana in the form of hand-rolled cigarettes or through water pipes (bongs), the controversial herb is also used to brew tea, especially when consumed for medicinal purposes. What’s more, weed is frequently mixed into foods such as brownies and cookies. However, it’s worth noting that the effects of pot on your body and mental sharpness remain the same, no matter way how you consume it.
Marijuana and Testosterone
According to research, THC -one of the most active components of marijuana- is linked to various responses which affect multiple hormonal aspects of your health such as the thyroid, adrenal, prolactin, gonadal and growth hormones. So, what does that mean for your testosterone levels?
Marijuana as an Endocrine Disruptor
To this date, several studies prove over and over again that THC is indeed a potent endocrine disruptor. This psychoactive compound can alter various neural transmitters in the hypothalamus, including the testosterone-related function of GnRH (Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone). By blocking this hormone, THC basically reduces the LH (Leutenizing Hormone) and FSH (Follicle Stimulation Hormone) levels in the male body. As a result, your body cannot produce as much testosterone as it usually does.
Not only that, but the chronic use of marijuana is linked to reduced levels of other testosterone-related hormones such as prolactin and thyroid hormones. Long story short, weed -TCH, in particular- influences several endocrinal pathways which can significantly depress testosterone synthesis down the road.
Marijuana as a Xeno-Estrogen
Chances are you’ve heard stories about marijuana’s effects on the male body. However, the one that often steals the show refers to gynecomastia, a.k.a. man boobs. According to experts, this side effect occurs because CBD, a significant weed component, and other compounds compete against estradiol for binding to estrogen receptors. So, in a way, specific compounds of marijuana serve as xeno-estrogens, mimicking primary functions of the female sex hormone and making things harder for testosterone.
What’s worth noting, though, is that these scientific data are based on in-vitro rodent research. That means that the whole experiment was conducted in test tubes and with on isolated rat cells rather than actual humans. So, some suggest that there is still some room for doubt. With these in mind, further research is always welcome.
Marijuana as a Testosterone Suppressant (?)
Even though evidence suggests otherwise, many studies show that the chronic use of marijuana doesn’t really affect testosterone levels whether you are a man or woman. So, at the end of the day, weed should not be considered and treated as a testosterone suppressant.
Marijuana and Athletic Performance
So, if marijuana does NOT affect testosterone levels in any way (good or bad), then how come regular weightlifters and athletes use it to boost their performance? Apparently, there is not a science-backed reason why they should.
According to an extensive report, none of the cannabis’s components can improve athletes’ exercise performance in any way. In fact, the report shows that many athletes can’t actually go through with their workout regimen because of the adverse reactions caused by cannabis. On the flip side, experts stress the need for everyone involved to take necessary measures regarding athletes misusing marijuana, even if they are using it on a recreational level.
The Ugly Side of Marijuana Use in Men
Even if using marijuana doesn’t directly affect your T levels, it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to worry about. Research proves that the controversial herb still takes a toll on men’s health by reducing sperm quality and causing fertility problems.
In fact, one study reports that men who smoke weed more than once a week display a 28% decline in semen concentration compared to non-users. Now, if they happen to add some alcohol in the mix, this number rises to 55% (!) which is beyond bad. But, this is not the only study supporting the harmful effects of weed on sperm motility. Further research proves that THC inhibits ATP production in sperm which attenuates a number of fertility markers including semen quality, motility, and count.
So, what’s the deal with marijuana and testosterone? These two just don’t have an interest for one another. In fact, studies prove that weed doesn’t lower or boost testosterone levels, sometimes leaving the hormone’s concentration as is. Keep in mind, though, that more often than not marijuana reduces T levels in men. Fortunately, the effect is negligible to make a huge impact.
It’s also worth noting that the herb’s effects are temporary. So, even if you’ve smoked a joint or eaten an out-of-the-box brownie, 24 hours and a good night’s sleep are all you need for your T levels to go back to normal.
The bad news is that testosterone levels shouldn’t be your only concern when it comes to marijuana. Using the herb regularly can significantly reduce a man’s sperm quality and fertility, for that matter. So, better use wisely than suffer the consequences.