What is the Role of Cannabis for Intermittent Fasting?

Matt Weeks February 24, 2021 0 comments

Could Intermittent Fasters be helped by something that’s famous for the munchies?

The idea of intermittent fasting (IF) is a simple concept, even if it can be a challenge to achieve. It is based on the principle of abstaining from eating anything for large portions of the day. Instead, practitioners create a ‘feeding window’ within which all calories are consumed. There are different levels of IF: 12 hour fast, 16 hour fast, 20 hour fast, even the 5/2 diet.

The fasting portion of the day involves the consumption of low carb liquids only, like water or black coffee. This time-restricted eating pattern is meant to result in rapid and healthy weight loss, often accompanied by: better blood-sugar levels, lowered insulin resistance, improved immune functioning, increased mental clarity, and more consistent hormone levels — at least these are the claims of advocates.

Interestingly, many animal studies back up these claims, and there are entire internet galleries of remarkable transformations of people before and after starting the diet. But, like all diets, intermittent fasting is challenging and may be counterproductive, if used incorrectly. Binge eating and overeating are two common side effects of intermittent fasting.

Fasting and Cannabis: Busting the Myths

Ok, so here’s a diet that requires enormous willpower not to eat outside of a defined window and you want to add cannabis — the substance that famously causes the munchies. That sounds self-sabotaging, doesn’t it?

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Well, firstly, not all cannabis products cause food cravings. The cannabinoid responsible for the munchies is THC. Products that contain only CBD may actually be beneficial to dieters during their fasting times. Additionally, strains high in THCV may even curb the appetite!

The Potential Role of CBD in Intermittent Fasting

First, CBD helps alleviate stress. For people who tend to snack when they get nervous, it could be a game-changer.

Second, CBD has been found to reduce appetite in both people and animals. A 2018 study,[1]Rossi, Francesca et al. (2018). Role of Cannabinoid in Obesity. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 19(9): 2690. doi: 10.3390/ijms19092690published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, found CBD works in opposition to THC. Instead of engaging with the body’s CB1 receptors responsible for hunger, CBD works through different receptors and may even prevent THC from binding to CB1. The result could be a reduction in appetite.

fasting and cannabis represented by white woman with measuring tape wrapped around her

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What about THC to Encourage Appetite in the Eating Window? 

So maybe the munchie-causing power of THC is bad news for fasting times. But what about the rest? While some intermittent fasters choose to eat for six hours a day, some feed for as little as a single hour. In those cases, that hour needs to be highly powered to deliver enough nutrients to get a dieter through another twenty-three hours.

Unlike CBD, THC encourages appetite. That can be good for intermittent fasters, whose bodies may reject eating during a short window of time. Although it seems counterintuitive, after prolonged periods of fasting, the body does not respond by desiring a glut of calories at once. Instead, a handful of grapes may satiate the dieter’s natural hunger. But, that is not enough to keep the body healthy.

Under-eating can lead to malnutrition, lack of energy and mental fog, totally undermining the health benefits you are going for.

THC can help stave off those symptoms by stimulating appetite during eating periods. Encouraging hunger can make healthier foods seem more appetizing, prodding dieters to get the right kind of nutrition during their brief windows of eating.

Other Kinds of Fasting and CBD-Rich Strains

Intermittent fasting usually refers to one brief period of eating during the day, however some fasters engage in periodic fasting, which means abstaining from food for entire days.

During these complete no-food days, cannabis could be vital. It can keep the mind sharp in lieu of food, aid in meditation, and soothe the body’s worries about nutrient intake. What’s more, a 2016 study[2]Parray, H.A., Yun, J.W. (2016). Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Molecular and Cellular Biochemiestry.  416, 131–139. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11010-016-2702-5published in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, found that CBD can play a helpful role in the weight loss goals of fasters. CBD has properties that help convert white fat — the bad kind — into brown fat, which the body can use to burn calories. Not only that, but after CBD helps change white fat to brown, it also aids the body into breaking down stored fats at a faster clip.

In other words, CBD may help dieters lose weight faster and more efficiently.

fasting and cannabis represented by asian man fondly looking at cannabis plant

Ancillary Help from Cannabis

Aside from the obvious ways that intermittent fasting and cannabis can work together, some dieters claim to get additional side benefits from consuming cannabis.

Some intermittent fasters say cannabis helps distract them from gnawing hunger. It helps them forget about food and become engrossed in other activities.

Other say smoking cannabis, when they break the fast, encourages them to eat full meals, instead of unhealthy snacks. Even further, cannabis can make dieters more introspective. This allows them to focus on long-term goals, instead of the immediate gratification of eating. Other dieters say the “couch lock” that comes with certain cannabis chemovars is crucial in helping them stay out of the fridge.

Studies show that cannabis helps people sleep, which is not only paramount for weight loss, but can keep people from absent-mindedly munching late into the night.

The bottom line is that intermittent fasting and cannabis complement each other perfectly well. For those considering embarking on a fasting diet, consider the ways cannabis can help your journey.


Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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