Can Marijuana Make You Gain Weight?
- Nutrition for Weight Loss
- Gaining Weight
A prevailing stereotype of marijuana users is that they always have the munchies. A body of evidence suggests that long-term cannabis use can lead to weight gain, particularly in men. With that being said, its effects on weight differ by plant strain, dose, route of administration, and frequency of use.
How Marijuana Influences Weight Gain
Different strains of marijuana will have varying concentrations of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and terpenes. These psychoactive chemicals act on CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain that make up the endocannabinoid system, which plays a key role in regulating appetite, stress, and pain sensations, among a host of other factors that impact weight gain.
Whether smoked or eaten, cannabis affects the neurobiological circuits that control appetite, causing a temporary increase in the “munchies”. According to a 2015 study from the Yale University School of Medicine, activation of the CB1 receptor acted on by THC increases feeding behaviors and leads to decreased activity of the neurons responsible for feelings of satiety.
The effect is known to be considerable and one that can be used in medical practice to stimulate appetite in people with cancer, advanced HIV infection, and other serious medical conditions.
Appetite stimulation doesn’t inherently translate into weight gain, however. Within the HIV population, marijuana may help stifle weight loss but does little to reverse the wasting that can accompany serious illness.
What this suggests is that appetite stimulation is only part of what triggers weight gain in certain cannabis users.
Effect on Athletic Performance
Cannabis users have been observed to show marked decreases in performance, steadiness, reaction time, and psychomotor performance for up to six hours following use. This can make exercises like rock climbing or heavy-weight lifting more dangerous, a deterrent which, along with the muscle-relaxing properties of particular strains, may promote weight gain simply by decreasing a person’s capacity for exercise.
According to research, THC significantly elevates the resting heart rate (RHR) and blood pressure during and after physical training, decreasing a person’s overall tolerance for exercise.
That said, cannabis has also been shown to decrease pain and to inhibit exercise-induced asthma , which could make it a helpful adjunct to simple exercises that chronically ill patients otherwise couldn’t do.
If many pain patients switch to medical cannabis for pain management in places where it is legal at the state level, it will become important to research these effects more thoroughly.
Even in cases where light exercise may not be negatively impacted by cannabis use, it is still not likely to lead to peak performance.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Peripheral cannabinoid receptors activated by THC are involved in regulating pancreatic function and lipid metabolism. According to research published in 2015 by the American Diabetes Association, compared to non-users, cannabis smokers tend to have a higher percentage of abdominal visceral fat and increased insulin resistance, in addition to lower plasma HDL cholesterol.
It has been suggested, that strains of cannabis that are high to moderately high in THC are more likely to trigger weight gain, particularly among regular users.
Among healthy people who regularly use cannabis, there is a significant difference in how the drug influences weight if you are male or female.
A study conducted in 2015 by researchers at the University of Montreal found that cannabis use triggered significant and consistent weight gain in men, but not in women.
Although the reason for this remains unclear, the scientists suggested that differences in neurobiological targets, as well as general psychology, played a part.
A Word From Verywell
Although the association between weight gain and marijuana use is anything but conclusive, there is enough evidence to suggest that it can influence weight in certain people, especially frequent users who are male, who use cannabis strains higher in THC, or who have other risk factors for obesity or metabolic syndrome.
If you believe you have a marijuana addiction problem, contact the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence at 800-622-2255 for a referral to a treatment center in your area.
Marijuana is known to cause the munchies by stimulating appetite. Research has shown that it can increase weight and body fat in certain people.
Does weed make you lose weight? How one study sparked the debate
A study published in 2019 found lower rates of obesity in those who smoke marijuana.
However, the authors of the study said that the link did not mean a causal relationship and weed shouldn’t be used as a weight-loss tool.
Marijuana is used at least once a month by 8.4% of Americans aged 15 to 64. Of these, 37% use cannabis for medical reasons.
While smoking weed is often associated with an increased appetite, i.e. the “munchies,” a study in 2019 sparked the question: Could smoking marijuana help people lose weight and combat the negative health effects of obesity? Here’s what you need to know about weed and weight loss.
Using marijuana does not directly cause weight loss
A three-year study published in the October 2019 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology indicated lower rates of obesity, on average, in those who smoke marijuana.
However, the authors of the study cautioned that weed should not be relied upon as a weight loss aid as their study did not indicate a clear causal relationship between marijuana and weight loss. To find out more about the science behind weed and weight loss, Insider spoke to Jordan Tishler, a medical doctor, an Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Regarding the October 2019 study’s results, Tishler says “Clearly, this is not proof of anything, but is interesting.” He adds that, “there are no studies on using cannabis to cause weight loss.”
In fact, there are only five FDA-approved substances that have been scientifically proven to directly cause people to lose weight beyond basic calorie-restriction, and marijuana is not one of them.
Evidence that marijuana can even indirectly lead to weight loss is weak. “There is one cannabinoid, which is relatively rare, called THCV that does seem, in rodents, to decrease appetite. However, this has not been shown in humans,” says Tishler.
Cannabis may cause you to eat more, not less
Using marijuana can cause behavioral changes, such as munchies, that can, on an individual level, lead to weight gain. The “munchies” refers to the phenomenon where people who have used cannabis experience a surge of hunger thought to be caused by the chemical THC in the drug.
And while the munchies is largely a phenomenon shown in Hollywood films and known simply through personal experience, there is some scientific research to indicate that marijuana can, indeed, increase appetite and, as a result, may increase body mass in individuals who consume excess calories beyond their energy needs on any given day.
So, for some, not smoking weed may be a better choice when it comes to weight loss. “If cannabis use for you leads to munchies, and you have a tendency to satisfy those munchies with high-calorie foods, then stopping cannabis may be necessary,” says Tishler.
And if you can’t stop because you’re using marijuana for a medical issue, then Tishler recommends making sure you have plenty of healthy foods around for when the munchies hit. Fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, like chicken, fish, and yogurt, are more satiating options than the stereotypical junk foods often used in these scenarios.
“I always tell my patients that if they have a bag of Doritos, they will eat it. If, on the other hand, they only have access to carrots, they’ll eat those instead. Hence, buy carrots, not Doritos,” says Tishler.
A study published in 2019 found lower rates of obesity in people who smoked weed. But that doesn't mean weed makes you lose weight. Here's why.