Does Using Marijuana Make You Fat?

The Truth About Weed, Workouts, and Weight Gain

Hand Holding Marijuana Leaf with Cannabis Plants in Background
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Marijuana is considered the most widely used mind-altering drug in the world. It also remains one of the top-ranked controversial subjects in the news today. Heated debates regarding medicinal use and efforts to legalize it throughout the country are ongoing. 

Several states have broadly legalized marijuana in some form. A few states including California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada passed measures legalizing recreational marijuana effective January 2018. This will make marijuana use more accessible and even acceptable among the American population. With marijuana use on the rise, what does this mean for your health?

Despite what is thought about marijuana use or who is smoking it, understanding how cannabis may affect your body, health, and even athletic performance is important. Legalizing the use of marijuana doesn’t change the science-based evidence surrounding potential health effects.

The following content is for informational purposes and does not assert a position for or against marijuana use.

What is Marijuana?

"Marijuana" is actually one of many nicknames for the psychoactive drug, which comes from the Cannabis plant. Cannabis is grown naturally and used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Other street names for the drug include: weed, Mary Jane, pot, grass, herb, ganja, and stinkweed. 

The plant is dried and the buds are usually smoked. However, additional processing of marijuana enables it to be used in edible food products. The active ingredients in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC and CBD are cannabinoids that bind to receptors in your brain and body. 

THC is the chemical responsible for most of the psychological effects of marijuana like feeling high after smoking a joint. CBD is the compound said to have several medical benefits without making an individual feel stoned after ingestion. 

How Cannabis Affects Your Body

Once a joint is smoked or pot ingested, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) enter the endocannabinoid system in the body and interfere with metabolic processes. The endocannabinoid system controls appetite, immune function, stress reactivity, and pain sensation along with other important body functions. 

THC likes to hang out in fat tissue and according to several research studies, marijuana users are shown to have a higher percentage of abdominal visceral fat. THC is said to stimulate appetite in some users and one of the primary reasons weight can be gained.

Typical effects of smoking marijuana may include euphoria, relaxation, drowsiness, heightened sensory awareness, altered responsiveness, and increased appetite. Depending on the strength of the THC and individual person, effects may differ.  

Does Pot Make Me Fat?

There are mixed reviews with marijuana (THC) use and increased body fat. However, a study published in the Journal of Innovations of Clinical Neuroscience, indicated one of the potential medical benefits of marijuana may be weight gain. Patients suffering from certain cancers causing weight loss, for example, are sometimes prescribed THC to stimulate appetite in an effort to promote weight gain. 

The American Diabetes Association reported cannabis smokers having a higher percentage of abdominal visceral fat along with lower plasma HDL cholesterol. Visceral fat is the deep fat surrounding your organs and an overabundance can adversely affect your health. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol protecting your body and important to maintain higher levels. 

Some studies show contradictions to the marijuana weight gain theory based on short and long-term cannabis use indicating appetite suppression and weight loss. It appears weight gain from ingesting marijuana affects each user differently. 

Research suggests long-term regular use can influence increased body fat and weight gain. Smoking an occasional joint on the other hand wasn’t shown to have an effect on increased food intake or weight.
According to research, many factors need to be considered in order to clearly understand how marijuana affects body composition. The components of marijuana, dose, frequency, various exercise levels, and prescribed medications can play a role in whether weight is gained or not. Also, regular marijuana users are shown to have higher rates of other substance abuse which can also affect weight gain or loss. 

So, can marijuana make you fat? The inconclusive evidence makes answering this question a bit confusing. The answer could be yes and no. There is enough feedback to show marijuana (THC) stimulating appetite and weight gain, especially for regular users. Contrarily, other research indicates additional factors should be considered to accurately address the question. Further studies are required for more conclusive feedback.

How Does Weed Affect Your Workouts?

Cannabis is shown to alter responsiveness and sensory awareness, a combination definitely not recommended in a gym setting. Research indicates weed greatly hinders athletic performance and negatively affects exercise efforts. 

Working with heavy dumbbells after getting high can be compared to getting behind the wheel of a car after a few adult beverages. Impaired sensory awareness slows down your motor response to physical activity. Decreased motor function means diminished muscle function. 

The inability to execute proper exercise form under the influence of marijuana can increase the risk of personal injury and can extend to workout partners. Imagine trusting someone to spot a heavy chest press or squat after a few joint hits causing a slowed response time. Would you feel comfortable under that heavy bar? 

Other research indicated marijuana (THC) significantly elevated resting heart rate and blood pressure during and for several hours following physical training. Those participants who ingested THC orally (215 µg/kg) showed significant deficits in general performance, standing steadiness, reaction time and psychomotor performance over several hours post-ingestion. 

The bottom line: Weed and workouts don’t mix.

A Word From Verywell:

Although findings for weight gain and marijuana remain inconclusive, there is enough evidence provided to consider increased body fat a possibility with use. It’s also shown to decrease motor function and sensory awareness impairing your exercise performance. Marijuana may be widely used but appears not to be the best choice for improved body composition and physical fitness. 



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