Does Marijuana Increase Body Fat and Decrease Fitness?

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Marijuana Remains a Controversial Subject

Marijuana
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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.

Marijuana has a long list of pet names:  Weed, Mary Jane, Pot, Cannabis, Joint, Blunt, Doobie, Grass, Hemp, Ganga, Reefer and Stink Weed are some of the most popular. 

Pot smokers are typically labeled as lazy ‘stoner’ stereotypes that sit around all day indulging in munchies watching hours of mindless television. This is a marijuana myth and you would be surprised who is indulging in a little Ganga. 

Despite what is thought about marijuana use or who is smoking it, it’s important to understand how cannabis may affect athletic performance and overall composition of the human body. The following content is for informational purposes and not taking a position stand for or against marijuana use.

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What is Marijuana?

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.  

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How Cannabis Affects Our 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

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.

 

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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 our organs and an overabundance can adversely affect our health. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol protecting our 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 us 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 other factors should be considered to accurately address the question. Further studies are required for more conclusive feedback.

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How Does Weed Affect My 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. 

Handing over the heavy dumbbells after getting high can be compared to giving the car keys to an intoxicated person. Impaired sensory awareness slows down our motor response during 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 our exercise performance. Marijuana may be widely used but appears not to be the best choice for improved body composition and physical fitness.  

Sources:

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

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

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

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

 

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