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 were ‘obese’; a figure that equates to almost 40% of Americans!
For the record, a person is classified as ‘obese’ when their Body Mass Index (BMI) is over 30. To be perfectly clear, BMI can present wildly inaccurate measurements 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 absolutely thriving — even though what it is selling isn’t working! In fact, the industry was worth an incredible $72 billion in 2018, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The industry offers everything from metabolism-boosting pills to meal replacements. Slick marketing keeps the machine going, but if you look at it objectively, you’ll see that most products aren’t worth the packaging they come in.
Oddly enough, one left-field solution that might actually offer realistic benefits could be marijuana. Traditionally, weed is associated with an increase in appetite (via the ‘munchies’), but there is research which suggests cannabis is a viable weight-loss option.
Marijuana & Weight Loss – The Studies
While it’s true that certain marijuana strains can boost a person’s appetite, there are others possibly capable of acting as an appetite suppressant. Remember, there are thousands of marijuana strains out there, and each of one can contains over 100 different cannabinoids and 200 terpenes.
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. Okay, the study looked at the dreaded 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, but as it remained prevalent across the entire 33,000-person sample, it takes on greater significance.
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 continued by suggesting the lower weight amongst weed users was down to being more conscious of their food intake due to the potential for the munchies. Alternatively, the herb itself could modify how specific cells or receptors respond in the body.
What’s interesting is that a 2011 study by Le Strat and Le Foll, also published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, essentially discovered the same thing. 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 14% of regular weed users were obese compared to 22% of non-users. In survey #2, 17% of regular marijuana smokers were obese compared to 25% of non-users. The association between cannabis use and reduced levels of obesity remained relevant even when factors such as age, gender, and cigarette smoking were taken into account.
Of course, other factors could account for the difference. For instance, there is research which says that devoutly religious people don’t use drugs but are more likely to be overweight. One possibility here is that they are substituting one vice for another.
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 weed were less likely to have a BMI of 25+ than non-users.
There are studies in Italy, Poland, Hungary, Canada, and the United Kingdom which have replicated these findings.
How Does Marijuana Work for Weight Loss?
The honest answer is: No one knows! 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 has an impact on the CB1 and CB2 receptors but seems to act as an ‘antagonist’ which means it blocks THC, thus reducing the likelihood of getting the munchies.
However, there is research which 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 which had 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 binge drink when they had access to cannabis. As for middle-aged people, it is possible that weed did such a good job alleviating aches and pains that they were able to become more active than before.
What Are the Best Marijuana Strains for Weight Loss?
Bear in mind that research is ongoing, but the idea that THCV could help suppress appetite is gaining some traction. While it is psychoactive like THC, it offers a more clear-headed effect. Indeed, it should result in the THC content hitting you much faster than usual. However, the effects of THC also die off faster in strains with a reasonable level of THCV.
1 – Durban Poison
A cut of Durban Poison by TJ’s Organic Gardens contained around 1% THCV 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 a THC content rising to 20%.
Durban Poison is known to be 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 reduce pain symptoms means 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
There is ample research which 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 being able to explain the reason fully. 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, and may actually 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, so 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 the uplifting feeling is joined by a boost of energy. You can safely use this strain in the morning because it boosts productivity without making you feel hazy and fatigued.
Super Silver Haze has long been a popular medicinal marijuana strain and is regularly used to treat fatigue and stress. It is also commonly used to deal with chronic pain because it helps you feel better without any sedative effects. The balanced physical and mental effects ensure that this strain is a fantastic all-rounder.
3 Quick Tips to Accelerate Weight Loss
Even if marijuana can ultimately help you lose weight, it should not be classified 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’ll 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.
1 – Avoid These Foods
Bodybuilders like to have what they call a ‘cheat meal’ or even a ‘cheat day.’ This involves eating what you like for a day, or at a single meal, or even during a 3-hour timeframe. When trying to lose weight, you are better off avoiding ‘cheating’ of any kind for 14-21 days. This period will feel like hell, but it makes you appreciate the ‘naughty’ food a little more.
You shouldn’t completely deprive yourself after this initial phasing-in period, however. A weekly cheat meal is psychologically important and 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 flavor in your water.
- Baked Goods: Cakes, cookies, and pastries are loaded with trans fats. 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 your own 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 your metabolism going.
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 lose weight.
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 96 calories.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana & Weight Loss
Ultimately, there is some evidence that cannabis use could aid the quest for weight loss. It must be said that the level of research is far from extensive, and the authors of each study believe there could be 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, certain changes must be made in your lifestyle.
If you eat too much crap food, cut it out! Stay away from alcohol whenever possible and start exercising regularly. You will feel so much better afterward. As we said, the jury is out on whether marijuana can help with weight loss, but it doesn’t appear to cause weight gain as many people seem to believe.
Want to read more about Cannabis and Weight Loss? Learn how CBD may work to suppress appetite in individuals over 40:
- CBD for Appetite Suppression and Weight Loss in Individuals Over 40