By Lankford Jackson
Growing up in California in the 1980s, we were active. Video games had yet to complete their assault on kids’ recreation time. Our games comprised any sport that was in season – or you could simply ride your bike all day long. The sport stars and action-movie heroes we idolized all shared intense training rituals: Whether it was Arnold or Bruce Lee or Sylvester Stallone as Rocky, we dreamed of transforming our bodies and achieving some type of epic victory. And when we discovered weed, those dreams didn’t diminish.
Eventually, however, a full-time job, eating out, drinking and a decreased activity level took their toll. For me, my wake-up call came 16 years ago, when I decided to overhaul my life. Now, as a fitness professional, I’ve discovered that cannabis use is not just conducive to exercise – it’s an outstanding “supplement” for adding lean body mass, as well as an excellent means of aiding the body’s overall recovery from a workout. In fact, it’s the best supplement out there!
During my transition, I had the good fortune to pick up a bodybuilding book by Mike Mentzer. His logical approach to training allowed me to gain 40 pounds of muscle in my first year and took my strength to levels that I believe should have taken at least a decade to reach. In fact, with a half-hour of work once or twice a week, you should be able to see great results as well!
To start, let’s take a look at the laws of hypertrophy (muscle gain), since it’s a logical transition from there to all forms of exercise. Hypertrophy can be broken down into three basic laws, which are common to every single exercise endeavor:
1) You must impose a significant enough stress to cause micro-damage (soreness) and nervous-system response in the targeted muscle or muscle group.
2) You must allow the targeted muscle to recover through rest and nutrition.
You must also allow the nervous system to recover so that the same workload is easier the next time around. For example, after a workout, your muscles may have recovered their original strength in four days, but it may take another three to six days to allow the body to add extra lean tissue.
This last law is often neglected, usually due to ignorance (or by not following the second law). But neglecting this last law will have you spinning your wheels and cause you to stall at a particular plateau quickly. If you follow these rules, however, you’ll soon realize that the last two address recovery, which encompasses 50 percent of your workout results. (The other 50 percent is the workout itself.) But recovery doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
When muscles grow, it’s the result of recovering from damage – and damaging muscles requires intensity.But the intensity of your next workout, and its effectiveness, are both determined by how well you recovered from your previous workout. For example, if you go running on sore legs, your time will very likely be slower. If you try to bench-press while your arms and chest remain sore from your previous workout, expect to have trouble lifting the same amount of weight. Intensity is proportional to recovery: If you only recover to the point where you can complete your last workload, your recovery period has been insufficient – you need to recover to the point where you can exceed your previous workload. In short, you need to get stronger. And to do this, you must pay strict attention to nutrition and supplementation daily, and allow enough days between workouts for your body to adapt and overcompensate for the workload.
If you want to reduce fat, you need to eat a little less. But if you want to gain muscle, you need to eat a little more. Whatever your goals, fitness experts advise eating every three hours, with a complete protein source in each of these meals. Cannabis will definitely help with the eating. It’s not easy to eat six times a day, but a little toke will increase your appetite (and make that chicken and brown rice taste a helluva a lot better).
There are many supplements that provide an energy source for your workout, while amino acids and creatine are ingested post-workout. But for recovery, you have limited choices. Then again, what other supplement enables you to eat every three hours (no easy task), plus help you sleep well and relieve life’s stresses – and all without causing negative physiological effects like booze does?
Rest isn’t only a matter of getting a full night’s sleep and avoiding overtraining; the absence of stress is essential. A body under stress cannot be in an anabolic state (the process that promotes the building up of organs and tissue). All stress must be minimized to achieve optimal results. The perfect supplement to achieve this is cannabis: It not only allows deeper and longer sleep, but it reduces stress levels without all the negative side effects of prescription drugs or alcohol.
Athletes, coaches and managers need to realize that the traditional practice of partying and getting drunk after games is horribly counterproductive to recovery. Unless these athletes run afoul of the law, their post-game behavior is rarely questioned. Yet those who go home to smoke a bowl, relax, rest and recover are quick to be stigmatized as problem players.
Lankford Jackson (NASM CPT, PES) is a fitness professional with ICSP Fitness in San Diego. His upcoming book, Lanksystem, will focus on functional bodybuilding, which relies on brief and infrequent workouts.
The list of superstar athletes who have toked up is highly impressive – smashing the myth that marijuana detracts from peak performance.
The Olympic gold medalist, who holds the title of “World’s Fastest Human,” once told reporters, “When you’re a child in Jamaica, you learn how to roll a joint.” Later, Bolt’s handlers released a statement: “Although admitting to trying marijuana as a child, he has never used it as a competitor.” Then Bolt himself added, “Nobody in my family or those close to me smoke, and I don’t hang out with people who smoke.”
After winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Phelps was snapped expertly handling a bong. The photo ran internationally, and Phelps subsequently went on an apology tour, saturating the media with mea culpas for his stupidity.
The former Dallas Cowboy offensive lineman won two Super Bowls and was a five-time Pro Bowler. Unlike Bolt and Phelps, however, Stepnoski has been outspoken in his support for cannabis issues: He was the subject of a HIGH TIMES Interview, and he’s also a member of NORML.
One of the premier running backs in the NFL, Williams has been suspended multiple times for pot use. Williams now gets drug-tested regularly, but he’s said publicly that once his career ends, his smoking will resume.
In 1998, Rebagliati made Olympic history by being the first athlete to win a gold medal for snowboarding. Not so fast – after being drug-tested, he was stripped of his medal when pot was found in his system. Later, he got it back because pot wasn’t on the official list of banned substances at the time.
He’s won the grueling Iditarod dog race four times, and Mackey admits that he toked up throughout three of those races. But this year, Iditarod began testing the mushers, so Mackey went without – and won anyway. He’s quick to credit the dogs, however, since they’re the ones racing, not him.
After making one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history, the game’s MVP had to sit out the first four games of the 2010 season. NFL justice moves slowly: Holmes’s pot-possession rap occurred in the fall of 2008.
He’s been the Cy Young Award winner the past two years and led the National League in strikeouts this year. But Tim’s a toker, make no mistake. He was cited for puffing behind the wheel in 2009. He paid his fine, but gave no indication that his pot use was over – just that he’d try “not to let it happen again.”
Let’s be honest, cannabis may inhibit performance prior to exercise. A strongindica may impact the intensity of a workout, and smoke probably isn’t the ideal substance to inhale prior to aerobic activities like running or biking, because of its effect on optimum functioning of the lungs.
But stoners of the fitness community aren’t convinced. First off, these considerations are easily counteracted. Caffeine can be ingested to offset drowsiness – or, try a sativa. And vaporizers or edibles will negate the effect smoking may have on aerobic exercise. Significantly, millions of fitness enthusiasts prefer to get high before working out because pot allows them to focus more deeply on targeted muscle groups. Those who have experienced the tedium of moving down a line of weightlifting machines in the gym know that a few tokes help to release the rigors of linear thought. Long-distance runners say it helps them stay in the rhythmic, steady “zone” required to maintain a competitive pace.
There are three components of fitness: stretching, strengthening, and building stamina. However, stretching is generally neglected. Why? Because we’re all too busy, even though stretching is essential to pre- and post-workouts.
But many modern athletes swear by the benefits that pot has on stretching. The initial discomfort or stiffness commonly associated with stretching lessens under the influence of cannabis, they say. Instead, they “embrace the pain.”
Certainly, the use of cannabis is woven throughout yoga history and many yoga-philes wouldn’t dream of performing an asana otherwise. Pot may, in fact, be the perfect kinesthetic key to integrating body, mind, and spirit.