Marijuana Linked to Increased Abdominal Fat

Cannabis and Athletic Performance

Marijuana Can Affect Athletic Performance. Lew Robertson/Getty Images

Marijuana just so happens to be the most widely used mind-altering drug in the world. It's also one of the most controversial subjects in the news today. There are ongoing heated debates regarding medicinal use and efforts to legalize it throughout the country.

Marijuana has a long list of pet names with Weed, Mary Jane, Pot, Cannabis, Joint, Blunt, Doobie, Grass, Hemp, Ganga, Reefer and Stink Weed coming in at most popular. 

Pot smokers are typically labeled as lazy “stoner” stereotypes that sit around indulging in munchies watching hours of mindless television. I hate to blow the lid off that myth but you would be surprised who is indulging in a little Ganga.

Despite what is thought about marijuana use or who is smoking it, this article is for the purpose of explaining how cannabis may affect athletic performance and overall composition of the human body.  Also, the content of the article is for informational purposes and not taking a position stand for or against marijuana use. 

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana Comes From a Plant is Dried and Used for Smoking or Ingesting. PhotoStock-Israel Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Marijuana comes from a plant grown naturally or in the wild and used for medicinal and recreational purposes. The hemp 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 bind to receptors in our brain and body.  

How Cannabis Works in the Body

Marijuana Buds
Marijuana Contains Active Ingredients are THC and CBD. Tommy Flynn Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

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 explains the statement reported by the American Diabetes Association “cannabis smokers had a higher percent abdominal visceral fat”. Typical effects of smoking marijuana 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.  

Weed and Workouts

Cannabis Alters Responsiveness and Sensory Awareness. Lew Robertson Photodisc/Getty Images

Cannabis is shown to alter responsiveness and sensory awareness and doesn't go well in a gym setting. Research indicates weed greatly hinders athletic performance and will not help your exercise efforts. 

Handing over the heavy dumbbells after getting high is like giving the car keys to an intoxicated person. Research evaluating the effects of marijuana and exercise performance by Steadward and Singh discovered “resting heart rate and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly elevated at rest after marijuana consumption compared to both control and placebo group”. 

The study also revealed, “when subjects were acutely given THC orally (215 µg/kg) acutely, significant deficits in general performance, standing steadiness, reaction time and psychomotor performance were observed over a 5 hour period post-ingestion”.

The bottom line: weed and workouts do not mix!

Ganga and Weight Gain

Marijuana edibles
Medical Cannabis Edibles. Bob Berg Getty Images News

There are mixed reviews with marijuana intake and weight gain. Further studies are required for more conclusive feedback. However in an abstract study reported by Innovations of Clinical Neuroscience, “Marijuana is a clinically controversial substance, but one potential medical benefit may be weight gain.”

Additional studies report contradictions based on short and long-term cannabis use showing appetite suppression and weight loss.

Reported by the American Diabetes Association “not only did cannabis smokers have a higher percent abdominal visceral fat, they also had lower plasma HDL cholesterol”. Visceral fat is the deep fat wrapping  around the inner organs and an increase spells trouble for your health.  High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol protecting our bodies and it's important to maintain a high level. 

Although the findings for weight gain and marijuana use are inconclusive, enough physiological negatives providing awareness to consider putting the pipe down.   


American Diabetes Association, Metabolic Effects of Chronic Cannabis Smoking, Ranganath Muniyappa, MD, Ph.D. et al., 3/25/13

University of Washington, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, Marijuana and Appetite, 4/18/12

Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, Marijuana and Body Weight, Randy A. Sansone, MD, 8/14

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, London Nutrition and Metabolism, The effects of caffeine, nicotine, ethanol, and tetrahydrocannabinol on exercise performance,  Dominik H Pesta et al., 12/13/13

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