Even if you haven’t watched the 1977 bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron, you’ve surely seen the infamous image of stoned Ah-nuld celebrating his sixth Mr. Olympia trophy with a joint & fried chicken.
Staunch marijuana activists often cite the scene in support of their legalization causes.
(Surprisingly, no fried chicken joints have jumped on it yet.)
For bodybuilders, the scene doesn’t answer the question of weed legalization as much as it forces the question: How the hell did Arnold smoke pot AND win 6 Mr. Olympia titles (7 overall)? After all, doesn’t weed deplete T??
What a damn good way to put it… because YES, weed does deplete T.
Shit’s sake, Schwarzenegger, you have some quick explaining to do.
Weed is a leaf
Despite a documented history with marijuana, Schwarzenegger insists that he “didn’t take any drugs.” In an interview with GQ magazine, the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician defended his pot-use by redefining marijuana:
“That’s not a drug. It’s a leaf.”Fair enough, Arnold. Cannabis plants do have leaves (in addition to stems, buds, flowers, stalk & roots) and its “drug” status is relatively shaky:
- The legal distinction between Arnold’s leaf and other leafs is a fat Schedule I drug listing—which ranks marijuana alongside “high potential for abuse” drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, and methamphetamines. Relative to these Schedule I “high risk” drugs, marijuana’s supposed “risks” pale in comparison (we’ve yet to see an OD case directly related to the plant).
Yet, regardless of how you define marijuana, legally and otherwise, the effects it has on your body remain unchanged. And, unfortunately, one of those effects is lowered T production. According to animal & human research, this works in two ways:
- Numerous studies show that THC, weed’s active ingredient, inhibits GnRH secretion & several testicular enzymes. Resulting in a net loss of T.
- Additionally, marijuana has shown to possess estrogenic effects, which is a fancy scientific way of saying: Marijuana gives you man-boobs.
We don’t know about you, but that scares the living shit out of us.
(Luckily ZINC, one of our top-ranked T-Boosters, fights man-boob development).
It seems counter-intuitive to mix marijuana with bodybuilding, which hinges immensely on muscle gains & testosterone—especially at the level of competition that Schwarzenegger was performing.
But science be damned, bodybuilders and exercise enthusiasts still argue on the positives & negatives of post-workout pot: In their arguments, marijuana either A) Hurts muscle gains by depleting T, or B) Helps muscle recovery by eliminating stress (Many also claim that having the “munchies” helps pack on mass… yet, we doubt it’s the muscley type of mass you’d be hoping for).
Realistically, the positives & negatives of post-workout pot are probably blown way out of proportion. Especially since the effects of marijuana on T production were experimentally shown to be reversible within 24 hours.
Ultimately, underneath all the pot science & propaganda, weed is, after all, just a leaf.
So, does this mean bodybuilders are good to dabble in the dew?
Or does Arnold represent a special case of athletic reefer-smoking?
Arnold is numero uno
Initially removed from the documentary, Arnold’s notorious pot-smoking scene was later included in Pumping Iron’s re-release on the insistence of Schwarzenegger:
“I would not refuse to wipe out that record or change it or alter it because of image’s sake. That would not be true to the filmmaker.”
However, much to the dismay of pro-pot advocates, Schwarzie’s weed trail ends there:
“The bottom line is that’s what it was in the ‘70s, that’s what I did. I have never touched it since.”
Until more “hidden” footage of Schwarzenegger’s weed habit surfaces, we’ll have to take this statement for what it is and believe he truly quit pot following the scene… But let’s not be so naïve to assume it was his first meeting with marijuana.
Consider another (now) illegal substance he was openly consuming in the ‘70s: Steroids.
If we’re to assume that Schwarzenegger was periodically smoking pot up until his 1975 Mr. Olympia celebration, then we’re to also assume he was periodically diminishing his T supply—which doesn’t sound like the mark of a 7-time Mr. Olympia world champion.
Steroids would counter the negative effects of marijuana, and then some.
But, on this point, Schwarzenegger offers another explanation for his illicit behavior:
“It was what I had to do to compete. The danger with steroids is over-usage. I only did it before a difficult competition—for two months, but not for a period of time that would harm me. And then afterward it was over.”
Despite what we now know on the short-term effects of marijuana and the long-term dangers of steroid-use, Schwarzenegger aged pretty damn well.
In no way are we suggesting that taken together (or independently for that matter), weed & steroids can serve functional purposes in bodybuilding. We believe that regardless of the substances he consumed, Schwarzenegger represents a rare breed of Alpha male (Dammit, he won his first Mr. Olympia at age 23). And the only reason those substances didn’t derail his success was due to his remarkable self-restraint in their usage.
Clearly, Schwarzenegger is a man of both talent (bodybuilding, acting, politics) and vice (marijuana, steroids, politics). But it’s his resistance against lingering on a single talent & vice that made him numero uno.
Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked weed and was successful. Yet, smoking weed wasn’t a factor in his career. For most people, smoking pot is a hindrance to success. In regards to Schwarzenegger, smoking pot just further demonstrated his damn-near impenetrable athletic ability.
There’s no getting around the fact that weed is probably gonna impact your T levels, and maybe your workout intensity too. That’s why — if you use marijuana — it’s a good idea to take a kickass T-booster and maybe a good PWO supplement to offset the herb’s unwanted side effects.
The ultimate take-home message here: Don’t use Schwarzenegger as a strict model of success.
You’re not Arnold, bro.
Outside of the bodybuilding arena, weed does seem to offer many health benefits. But, when nutritionists advise athletes to include more leafy greens in their diets, we don’t think they’re referring to marijuana.
All-in-all, serious bodybuilders wouldn’t promote pot for helping muscle gains & T levels.
There’s another leaf for that: It’s called spinach.