How does cannabis use impact your weight? Although cannabis is now under investigation for several exciting therapeutic benefits, the stereotype of the lazy-stoner continues to prevail. If you take a moment to review the research however, it's easy to dispel this lingering notion that people who use cannabis are overweight, unfit, and unhealthy.
Today, we know this isn’t true.
While there is definitely something to be said about the appetite-inducing qualities of the plant, these old stereotypes don't tell the whole story about cannabis for weight management. The relationship between cannabis and body weight is much more complicated.
The science tells us that cannabis has several valuable weight management characteristics. In some cases, it's useful for preventing weight loss associated with disease. From other research, we know that people who consume cannabis tend to weigh less than those who abstain.
As one report eloquently put it, "Marijuana users weigh less, defying the munchies." But really, "Defying the munchies" is only half the story, for patients going through chemotherapy or coping with HIV related anorexia and cachexia, cannabis seems to have the opposite effect. How can a single plant have two different effects?
Cannabis influences body weight through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. If you are unfamiliar with the endocannabinoid system, it's a body-wide network of receptors and chemical transmissions. It's responsible for many different biological processes, including appetite, mood, and pain.
Researchers now recognize how the endocannabinoid system, and in particular the receptor called cannabinoid 1 (CB1), influences weight loss and weight gain. CB1 receptors are present in areas of the brain responsible for managing food cravings, control of energy, and body weight.
Additionally, animal studies suggest that overstimulation of CB1 receptors can lead to obesity. Returning the endocannabinoid system to a balanced state may help reduce the risk of weight gain and related diseases (this supports the munchies experience).
So how does cannabis play into all this?
Let's be clear; cannabis isn't a miracle weight loss pill. Diet and exercise are still the only real options when it comes to directly influence your weight. That said, early research does show us how cannabis influences mood, inflammation, appetite, and more - all areas which can indirectly impact weight.
The statistics show us that people who use cannabis tend to have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than people who never touch it. This information is according to the latest analysis of 33,000 Americans who took part in the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. Researchers pulled information related to cannabis consumption and BMI to discover even chronic consumers tended to weigh much less than those who didn't consume at all. We recognize that BMI is not an accurate or all-inclusive way to measure health, but please be reminded we are speaking about weight in particular with this blog.
Cannabinoids stimulate our appetite. Certain cannabinoids, like THC, are such potent appetite stimulants that cannabis is now commonly prescribed to help minimize or stop disease-induced weight loss (ex: HIV, chemotherapy, and Multiple Sclerosis). You may be familiar with the way cannabis helps maintain a healthy appetite for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Even if cannabis stimulates increased caloric intake, cannabis use is not connected to a rise in obesity. Many studies actually demonstrate the opposite that cannabis reduces the risk of obesity.
So, what is going on here?
The physical effects of cannabis (as related to weight management), include appetite stimulation (the munchies), regulation of insulin, protection against various obesity-related health conditions. This may even include lowering the risk of diabetes.
The mental effects of cannabis, as related to weight management, are likely based on the plant's ability to regulate mood. There is already a lot of early evidence showing how certain cannabinoids can reduce anxiety and reduce the signs of depression. For many, anxiety and depression can lead to changes in appetite, including over or under eating.
It may be this unusual combination of the mind and body influence which makes cannabis a natural choice for weight management. When needed, cannabis shows the ability to help improve appetite (and increase weight gain), but in other cases, it can help reduce the risk of obesity and obesity-related illness.
In other words, we shouldn't look at cannabis as a help nor a hindrance to weight loss, but more of a weight management tool.
The cannabis plant's many compounds produce a unique combination of mental and physical effects which trigger healthy weight management. We can't draw any clinical conclusions yet (more research is needed), but it's clear that cannabis does have valuable characteristics for the realm of weight management. With more study, cannabis might become one option in a broader holistic approach to weight management.
You may have noticed that many of your favorite athletes are partnering with cannabis brands and promoting cannabis (especially CBD) for sports recovery. According to Men's Health magazine, CBD, in particular, is especially exciting for its neuroprotective (protects brain cells) and anti-inflammatory properties.
If you already exercise, then you know the importance of rest days. Rest days allow the body to recover from physical activity, and to heal the tiny tears in our muscles that are crucial to building muscle mass.
The theory behind cannabinoids for sports recovery is still in its infancy, yet big names are throwing their weight behind it. These pro-CBD athletes include the Diaz brothers, MMA fighters in the UFC, and several current and former NFL players like Nate Jackson, Ricky Williams and Eugene Monroe. They advocate for cannabis as a means to recover faster and improve performance. Again, there isn't a ton of research behind their claims, but the logic checks out.
There isn’t much backing for THC in sport, but as mentioned earlier CBD is an anti-inflammatory compound and neuroprotectant. In sports, anti-inflammatories are helpful for post-workout recovery.
CBD is also under investigation by Harvard University and two ex-NFL players for the potential to treat chronic traumatic encephalopathy also known as CTE, a common sports-related brain injury. Their study will also look at CBD for pain management.
Both these valuable characteristics could have a positive impact on performance because they help improve recovery time. If you recover faster, you can get back into the gym faster.
So, while there are no conclusive studies thus far, cannabinoids are widely used as a natural way to bounce back from physical activity. With more research, these characteristics could just be yet another way cannabis helps improve a healthy lifestyle.
As you can see, the connection between cannabis and body weight is a complicated one. Cannabis is not going to make you overweight, but it's also not the miracle solution to weight loss.
It might help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and soothe depression, and therefore make it easier to eat better and improve physical activity. The plant could also help protect against obesity and many obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes (as mentioned), liver disease, and for weight-related osteoarthritis. Finally, certain cannabinoids could improve recovery time and therefore increase performance. Clearly, there is a lot to learn about cannabis for weight management.
Have you had experience with cannabis and weight manipulation before? Let us know what your thoughts about cannabis and weight management are on our social post, building a community that is working towards a greater understanding of cannabis’ gifts and shortcomings is part of our goal. Let’s help each other; as always, start low go slow and stay healthy!