The number of people who are either overweight or obese has grown exponentially in the ‘Western’ world in the last generation or so. In the United States, for example, an estimated 160 million Americans are obese or overweight. According to the CDC, over 93 million of us are ‘obese.’
For the record, a person is classified as ‘obese’ when their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. To be clear, BMI can present inaccurate measurements in some cases because it doesn’t take into account muscle mass. What is obvious, however, is that the average person is getting heavier with a higher percentage of body fat.
For these reasons, the weight loss industry is thriving. The industry is worth an incredible $78 billion per annum, showing no signs of slowing down. The industry offers everything from metabolism-boosting pills to meal replacements. Slick marketing keeps the machine going. However, you’ll see that many products are not worth the packaging they come in if you look at it objectively.
Oddly enough, one left-field solution that might offer real benefits is marijuana. Traditionally, weed is associated with an increase in appetite (via the ‘munchies’). Yet, some research suggests that cannabis may be a viable weight-loss option. Let’s find out more in this article.
Marijuana & Weight Loss – The Studies
Certain marijuana strains can boost a person’s appetite. However, others could act as an appetite suppressant. There is also evidence that cannabis users have lower body mass index rates than non-users.
A study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2018 looked into this issue. The researchers concluded that cannabis was likely a better option for weight loss than surgery or pharmaceuticals for many people. The study also found that weekly or even biweekly usage was sufficient for helping with weight loss.
Meanwhile, a study by Michigan State University published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2019 discovered that adults who smoke weed weigh less than those who don’t, on average. The study looked at the BMI of over 33,000 volunteers, but it did provide very interesting results.
The study was conducted over three years and discovered that while 20% of non-users were obese, only 15% of marijuana smokers were the same. Overall, users were two pounds lighter than non-users on average. It doesn’t seem like much. However, it takes on greater significance as it remained prevalent across the entire 33,000-person sample.
Research found an association between cannabis use and BMI, but this doesn’t necessarily mean one affects the other.
According to the study’s lead author, Omayma Alshaarawy, the results were interesting because the difference was seen across 30,000+ people with different types of behaviors. She said the lower weight amongst weed users was down to being more conscious of their food intake due to the potential for the munchies.
Alternatively, cannabis could modify how specific cells or receptors respond in the body. The study found an association between cannabis use and BMI, but this doesn’t necessarily mean one affects the other.
Other Research Linking Cannabis & Lower BMI
Plenty more studies show that marijuana users tend to have a lower body mass index than non-users. A 2011 study by Le Strat and Le Foll, also published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, discovered this link. The researchers looked at data from a pair of large surveys in the United States, which had a total of 52,000 participants.
In survey #1, they found that over 14% of regular weed users were obese compared to 22% of non-users. In survey #2, over 17% of regular marijuana smokers were obese compared to over 25% of non-users. The association between cannabis use and reduced levels of obesity remained relevant. This remained the case when factors such as age, gender, and cigarette smoking were taken into account.
Of course, other factors could account for the difference.
An Australian study by Hayatbakhsh et al., published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in 2010, predates the two studies above but says the same thing! Overall, almost 51% of young adults reported the use of weed in the previous month or year. The analysis showed that those who used it were less likely to have a BMI of 25+ than non-users.
Again, these studies have noticed an association between BMI and cannabis use. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean cannabis use causes someone to lose weight.
How Does Marijuana Work for Weight Loss?
The honest answer is: It’s still unclear if marijuana causes weight loss! There are a few theories that require more research. For example, while THC is known to increase appetite, THCV could act as an appetite suppressant. Like other cannabinoids, THCV impacts the CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, it seems to act as an ‘antagonist,’ which means it blocks THC, reducing the likelihood of getting the munchies.
However, there is research that suggests that THC could also help us lose weight. A study by Cluny et al., published in PLOS One in December 2015, examined obese mice and mice at a normal weight. Both sets of mice received 2mg of THC per kilogram for three weeks and 4mg per kg for an extra week. While the THC did not affect the regular weight mice, it reduced fat mass, energy intake, and weight gain in the obese mice.
There is another theory, one which relates to the link between increased marijuana use and decreased alcohol consumption. A team of economists and statisticians used data from 1996 to 2014 on the states that legalized medical marijuana. Overall, the rate of obesity in the 21 states included in the study decreased by between 2% and 6%.
According to the head of the research, Joseph Sabia, one possible explanation was that young adults were less likely to consume alcohol when they had access to cannabis. As for middle-aged people, cannabis possibly did such a good job alleviating aches and pains that they could become more active than before.
What Strains Help You Lose Weight?
Bear in mind that research is ongoing, but the idea that THCV could help suppress appetite is gaining some traction. While it is intoxicating like THC, it offers a more clear-headed effect. Indeed, it may result in the THC content hitting you much faster than usual.
However, the effects of THC may also die off faster in strains with a reasonable level of THCV. The following represents our recommendations, but there isn’t any evidence that these are the best strains for weight loss.
1 – Durban Poison
One cut of Durban Poison by TJ’s Organic Gardens contained around 1% THCV a while back. This was when it took third place in the Sativa category at the 2014 High Times Cannabis Cup in Seattle. The strain was famously brought from the South African town of Durban by an American activist in the 1970s. It is a pure sativa with THC content rising to 20%.
Durban Poison is potentially an excellent mood booster and also gives you enough energy to exercise. Indeed, its effects have been likened to a shot of espresso. The cerebral high inspires you and makes it likely that you complete those tasks you have been trying to finish. The clear-headed high lasts for several hours, and you probably won’t focus on food during that period.
The combination of energy and a light physical high ensure that Durban Poison helps you counteract those stressful feelings that build up. Rather than causing you to slink to the couch, this strain gives you a ‘get up and go’ attitude that usually translates to a greater level of physical activity.
2 – Dutch Treat
Despite the name, Dutch Treat was likely developed in British Columbia rather than the Netherlands. Its origins are completely unknown, and it possibly earned the name because it quickly became a favorite in Amsterdam’s coffee shop scene. It is a strongly indica-dominant hybrid with a THC content of up to 25%, not to mention a healthy level of THCV.
Those who use this strain feel as if they are flying through the air. The potent cerebral high makes you feel light and happy. It is the perfect ‘chill-out’ strain because it gradually alleviates stress. Eventually, you will be able to think clearly, while the euphoria could lead to inspiration.
As well as relieving the tension you feel in the body, Dutch Treat could keep your appetite at bay. Its ability to potentially reduce pain symptoms mean you may feel compelled to start exercising once again. Also, this strain may aid you in the quest for restful sleep, and if you feel energized in the morning, you’re more likely to get active!
3 – ACDC
Some research suggests that CBD could also help with weight loss. ACDC contains minimal THC but can have up to 24% CBD! It is a cross of Cannatonic and Ruderalis but seems to provide slightly sativa effects, if anything. Resin Seeds bred it as a medicinal strain that doesn’t provide a high.
Rather than feeling cerebral effects, you are more likely to enjoy the feeling of full-body relaxation. The combination of cannabinoids seems to provide an uplift in mood. You will feel ‘good’ without fully understanding the reason. Users of ACDC sometimes report a feeling of mild euphoria, but there is little danger of being stoned.
There is no doubt that recreational users will probably steer clear of ACDC due to its low THC content. However, it is still linked with a reduction in chronic pain and is also used to combat anxiety and stress. As well as feeling clear-minded, you are extremely unlikely to get a case of the munchies. Indeed, you may feel less hungry than normal.
4 – Green Crack
This marijuana strain was originally called Green Kush, but Snoop Dogg renamed it. He presumably did it because once you have Green Crack, you won’t go back (or something). It is a sativa-dominant hybrid that’s a cross of Sweet Leaf Indica and Skunk #1. It is a potentially potent strain with a THC of up to 21%.
There is no doubt that Green Crack is one of the world’s most loved sativa strains. The strong cerebral high makes you feel joyful, relaxed, and euphoric. Despite the potency of its effects, there is no heavy body high, and you may feel more energetic. It is a popular wake and bake strain, especially amongst creative types looking for early morning inspiration.
Overall, Green Crack offers a smooth high with no crashing comedown. It is often used to fight chronic fatigue. Therefore, if you don’t exercise because you feel tired all the time, a few tokes of Green Crack could have surprising effects. While it may not suppress your appetite, Green Crack can boost your activity level, which in itself could promote weight loss.
5 – Super Silver Haze
This is one of the world’s most popular marijuana strains and won numerous Cannabis Cup awards in the 1990s. Super Silver Haze is a strongly sativa-dominant hybrid that’s a cross of Skunk #1, Haze, and Northern Lights. Its THC content isn’t especially high by modern standards but is still reasonable at 18%.
Despite the moderate THC, Super Silver Haze’s effects make themselves known in rapid time. The high makes it almost impossible not to smile, and a boost of energy joins the uplifting feeling. You can safely use this strain in the morning because it boosts productivity without making you feel hazy and tired.
Super Silver Haze has long been a popular medicinal marijuana strain and is regularly used to help with fatigue and stress. It is also commonly used to deal with chronic pain because it helps you feel better without sedative effects. The balanced physical and mental effects ensure that this strain is a fantastic all-rounder.
How Much Do You Have to Smoke to Lose Weight?
No one knows! If you remember, the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research study suggested that once a week, or even once a fortnight was enough to keep BMI down. Even using it this infrequently could boost your metabolic rate enough to help with fat loss.
However, the reality is that studies have tested volunteers who use cannabis at different rates. In many cases, the data finds that you can smoke weed at almost any frequency and potentially benefit from weight loss.
For instance, the Le Strat and Le Foll study used individuals who consumed marijuana at least three days a week. What research has found is that marijuana leads to BMI and lower obesity for the following reasons:
- Increased mobility, which leads to more calories burned each day.
- Reduced stress, thus steering you away from comfort food.
- A lower alcohol intake. Alcoholic beverages have empty calories and could also spike your appetite.
- Better quality and quantity of sleep. Research has found a link between poor sleep and weight gain.
- Increased metabolism. Marijuana interacts with the CB1 receptor in the ECS, which plays a role in food intake and metabolism. A faster metabolism results in less energy storage and a lower BMI.
You don’t necessarily have to smoke weed to benefit from weight loss. CBD could counteract some of THC’s effects and reduce marijuana’s appetite-stimulating effects.
A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2018 looked at the role of cannabinoids in obesity. It found that certain cannabinoid receptor agonists could aid in the control of obesity and appetite. CBD doesn’t directly block these receptors. However, it could help other molecules to block the receptors instead.
Famously, cannabis is associated with the ‘munchies,’ a sudden spike in appetite. Surely, this means marijuana is an ineffective weight loss solution?
Will the ‘Munchies’ Cause Weight Gain?
Most people familiar with cannabis know about the plant’s propensity to cause the ‘munchies.’ This is the term used to describe a sudden desire to eat when high. Typically, an individual with the munchies gravitates towards high-calorie snacks.
A study published in Economics and Human Biology in 2020 looked at junk food consumption in states with recreational cannabis legality. The researchers found that these states showed an increase in junk food sales since legalization.
Of course, one of the golden rules of science is that ‘correlation doesn’t mean causation.’ Yes, there was an increase in junk food sales, but it doesn’t mean that marijuana was solely responsible.
Even so, there is a suggestion that cannabis users can lose weight even if the drug increases appetite. One possible explanation is THC’s apparent capacity to increase metabolism. Therefore, even if your eating habits suffer slightly, the metabolism bump could compensate adequately.
If you use marijuana with a high CBD content, this particular cannabinoid could take the edge of the munchies caused by THC.
Your Weed Diet Plan: 3 Quick Tips to Accelerate Weight Loss
Even if marijuana can ultimately help you lose weight, don’t classify it as a miracle cure. Instead, use weed as part of a tailored diet and exercise regime that not only helps shed the pounds but keeps them away for good! If you remain consistent, you may find that you feel energetic most of the time.
Before we proceed, here are a few basic things to remember:
- Marijuana strains have different effects on people. You may find that one of the strains we mentioned above gives you a case of the munchies. If so, experiment until you find one that doesn’t!
- Make sure you have stacks of healthy snacks if hunger pangs come.
- Only a combination of a better diet and more exercise will work in the long term.
- Reducing stress and getting better quality sleep could work wonders for your weight loss efforts.
- Prepare meals in advance so you don’t end up ordering pizza for the third time this week.
- Smoking and weight loss are not a guaranteed combination!
1 – Avoid These Foods
Incorporating something like a weekly cheat meal into your diet is psychologically important. This tactic makes it more likely that your weight loss efforts will succeed. Just make sure a cheat meal doesn’t become an all-out binge. If this does happen, shrug it off and try again.
In general, the goal should be to follow a lifestyle you can stick to permanently. This is why fad diets seldom work in the medium to long term. You can do yourself a favor by avoiding the following as much as possible and substituting with healthier foods:
- Potato Chips & French Fries: Try plain potatoes instead. You can create chunky French fries from potatoes for a treat.
- Sugary Drinks: We drink far too many calories. Learn to love water and invest in no-added-sugar concentrate drinks. They aren’t completely healthy either, but at least you get the flavor in your water.
- Baked Goods: Cakes, cookies, and pastries are loaded with carbs. Satiate your sweet tooth with a few pieces of dark chocolate.
- Ice Cream: It is lovely but filled with sugar. Stick to yogurt or make ice cream with healthy ingredients.
- Fast Food: Need we say more? Filled with calories, minimal nutritional value, and unlikely to keep you full.
When in doubt, load your plate with cruciferous vegetables; they keep you full for a long time!
2 – Become More Active
Your heart will thank you for it! The recommended weekly minimum level of moderate aerobic activity is 150 minutes. This should include 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Frankly, these levels should be the bare minimum! Spread your exercise across at least five days a week to get in a routine.
You don’t have to follow the usual advice of jogging or sprinting if you don’t enjoy it. Try fun activities such as wall climbing, swimming, or take up a sport like tennis. You should also consider strength training 2-3 times a week to increase muscle mass while losing body fat.
3 – Drink More Water
The recommendation is usually eight x 8oz glasses of water per day. You’ll need more if you exercise regularly, though. There are ample studies that show a lack of water impacts your energy levels and brain function. There is also plenty of research to show that being well hydrated helps you lose weight.
Drinking just 500ml of water could boost your metabolism by up to 30% temporarily.
A study by Boschmann et al., published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2003, looked at how water impacts weight loss. It found that drinking just 500ml of water could boost your metabolism by up to 30% temporarily. The researchers also estimated that drinking two liters of water daily increased the level of energy a person expends by nearly 96 calories.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana & Weight Loss
Ultimately, there is some evidence that cannabis use could play a role in the quest for weight loss. However, the level of research is far from extensive. Also, the authors of each study believe there are other reasons why weed users carry less weight. Maybe they steer clear of alcohol, or else the energy provided by certain strains gives them the impetus to be more active? Perhaps the reduction in pain helps people exercise more?
It is also possible that certain cannabinoids, such as THCV, are effective appetite suppressants. What we can tell you is that weed is NOT a panacea for weight loss. You can’t expect to smoke joints and magically lose weight by sitting on the couch. If you REALLY want to lose weight and keep it off, you must make certain changes in your lifestyle.
Does Weed Make You Lose Weight Fast?
There is research that suggests marijuana could help with weight loss. In such studies, cannabis users had lower BMIs than non-users on average. The effect of marijuana’s cannabinoids on receptors in the body could be responsible. However, researchers aren’t yet convinced that marijuana consumption alone will help someone lose weight.
Does Weed Make You Skinny?
Once again, there is promising research that suggests that marijuana users carry less weight than non-users. However, there are a ton of factors that could contribute. Maybe the cannabis helps users to become less anxious, or else it takes the edge off the pain that was otherwise keeping them inactive. It is too simplistic and probably inaccurate to suggest that weed can ‘make’ anyone skinny.
Does Weed Speed Up Your Metabolism?
Possibly. Evidence to date suggests that the THC in marijuana could speed up the metabolism. It also seems as if a single use of cannabis could provide a four-week metabolism boost. However, the extent of this boost remains unknown.
Does Smoking Weed Burn Calories?
Perhaps. Observational studies have shown a correlation between marijuana use and a lower risk of diabetes or obesity. The aforementioned metabolism boost could help your body become a fat-burning furnace. However, there are also possible lifestyle factors that account for weight loss rather than cannabis helping to burn calories faster.
Can Smoking Weed Help Lose Belly Fat?
There is research linking regular cannabis use with a small waist circumference. This is arguably more important than BMI reduction. BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass or body fat. However, a smaller waist makes it more likely that you have less belly fat than someone with a large waist.