By this point, you’ve already heard all the dead-horse punchlines about stoners and the munchies. Pot-smokers, after all, are solely to blame for weird fast food menu items, bizarre snack chip flavors, and 99% of all Ben & Jerry’s ice cream combinations.
And, okay, pot-induced junk food binges are, obviously, not great for maintaining a healthy diet.
This is because science has routinely shown that irregular eating patterns (i.e., hitting up a late-night drive thru for a taco or four when you already had dinner) can lead to overeating, which can lead to being overweight, which can lead to a whole host of health complications up to and including heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (colon cancer, for one).
But, jokes (and threats!) aside, there’s also some interesting science emerging regarding marijuana, appetite, weight gain, and weight loss.
Researchers are beginning to determine the role marijuana plays in metabolism, fat loss, and—here’s a biggie—motivation as it relates to a healthy lifestyle.
That may lead you to wonder if enjoying some THC could, in some strange way, actually help you lose some pounds. Or, in the very least, that partaking in weed may not be as bad for your waistline as you once assumed.
Is weed the unsung weight loss tool you’re missing? Or is it a dangerous drug that will leave you raiding the fridge and sabotaging any semblance of a healthy approach to eating?
While the research on all this is still relatively new, some interesting findings are coming to light.
THC seems to bump metabolism over time, so even if there’s an initial hit of the munchies, the metabolism boost compensates—and then some. “And if modern strains have lost the munchie effects, but increased metabolic rates remain, I would think the effects of reducing obesity would be even greater,” Clark says.
And you don’t have to be a frequent smoker to lose pounds. A one-time user bumps his metabolism for up to four weeks, so getting high a couple of times a month can get you noticeably trimmer, studies revealed.
The exact dose needed is unclear, but THC is a must, as opposed to its more widely legal, nonpsychoactive counterpart cannabidiol (CBD). The thinking goes that our modern American diet is too high in omega-6 fatty acids, which come from sources like vegetable oil and butter. In excess, omega-6 can cause inflammation in the body. It also overstimulates a receptor called CB1R, which causes increased hunger and makes food taste better, decreases metabolic rates, and encourages fat storage. THC is able to “talk” to the CB1R receptor and help restore homeostasis, Clark says. In other words, it may help reduce hunger and weight gain.
Choosing the right strain for weight loss
Now, before we get too hung up on the idea that weed can keep you skinny, it’s important to remember that consuming large amounts of calories without burning them off will certainly not help you in your weight loss plan, no matter how much ganja you smoke; some strains are bound to make you want to gorge.
Most strains, in fact, but not all.
Some strains of cannabis, especially landrace strains from South and East Africa, have actually been shown to suppress appetite because they contain the compound THCV. This cannabinoid is actually an antagonist of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which means it blocks THC, keeping you from getting high and from getting the munchies. It has the same psychoactive affect as THC, however, and tends to take effect much more quickly (think “one hit wonders”), but the high is much shorter lived, which is why it is often bred out of popular strains.
To find strains with a high amount of THCV, ask your budtender or keep your eyes peeled for these popular, appetite-suppressing strains.
Durban poison is a very popular sativa strain from South Africa. Offering a sweet, earthy flavor; a smooth smoke and ton of energy, Durban Poison is the perfect strain for to keep you active and on track.
It has been known to promote high levels of anxiety, however, so if that’s an issue, you could try mixing the strain with a mild indica strain, or just chew on a few peppercorns should an anxiety attack occur.
Super Silver Haze:
This sativa-dominant hybrid –a cross between Northern Lights, Haze and Skunk #1 — offers a long-lasting body buzz accompanied by a very clear-headed cognitive high. The buds are dense and covered with trichomes, and the flavor is mellow and earthy.
Despite being categorized as a sativa, however, the indica qualities of its parent strain, Northern Lights, comes through a few hours after smoking. If you’re planning on using Super Silver Haze in addition to your diet, make sure stay active during your high to help maintain motivation.
G13 is an indica strain whose origins are still up for debate. The rumor is that G13 was one of many strains produced secretly by the government in the 1960’s and 70’s in an effort to create an ideal indica. G13 was said to be the best of the 23 strains cultivated thanks to its ability to ease pain without causing drowsiness.
The flavor profile of G13 is a pleasant one, featuring a sweet, earthy flavor with a slight pine overtone. The effects are also very pleasant, but may make you feel a bit lazy, so don’t sit down after toking unless you don’t want to get up again.
Known for its quick high and sweet taste, Green Crack is increasingly becoming a favorite around Denver. It was given the name by none other than Snoop Dogg because of its quick-acting, high-strung effects and short-lived high.
This sativa-dominant hybrid features the citrus flavor and aroma characteristic of its parent strain Skunk #1, but takes a bit longer to take effect. Be careful not to overindulge as Green Crack has been known to cause time lapses and slight disorientation.
How to incorporate marijuana into your weight loss plan
Though cannabis has been shown to help reduce plaque build-up in arteries and potentially improve the body’s ability to absorb glucose, if there is an excess of sugars and fats in your diet (that is not burned off through regular exercise), weight gain is eminent. To reap the benefits of the marijuana diet, you will still need exercise and consume a proper diet.
Begin by ridding your cabinets of fatty, salty and sugary foods which also cause cravings. If you focus, instead, on having only healthy fruits, vegetables and grains, then if the munchies do occur, you’ll be prepared.
I also recommend choosing a sativa-dominant strain to help maintain your motivation. Plan at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, being careful not to overdo it early on lest you damage your muscles and make it more difficult to continue.
Finally, wind down with a calming indica such as G13 to help you relax and restore. If your muscles are especially sore, try using a topical cannabis lotion to ease the pain.
Weight loss is often an uphill battle (no pun intended). Even though it starts out easily enough, continuing to make that climb count for something will naturally become harder as your body gets used to your new routine. Though incorporating cannabis into your weight loss plan might help you accomplish certain things (a healthier insulin level or a more enjoyable cardio workout, for example), it is still no replacement for a good diet.
To see that your cannabis hobby helps (rather than hinders) your weight loss plan, choose appetite-suppressing strains in addition to your regular diet and exercise regimen.