The stereotypical caricature of a stoner is someone sitting on a couch with their hand elbow-deep in a bag of something nacho cheese-flavored, surrounded by empty pizza boxes. It’s kind of dramatic, but it’s not completely baseless. After you smoke weed, you might feel tempted to go all-in on some fries. But why?
Cannabinoids are the culprit. Cannabinoids are the compounds that power your weed. They make you high, happy, sleepy, relaxed, and oftentimes, hungry. It’s all in the way that certain cannabinoids are processed by your body. THC is often the major culprit, but other cannabinoids are capable of driving you to snack.
You may not be able to avoid the munchies, but planning ahead can make them much easier to deal with. If you expect to get hungry, have something waiting. You’ll thank yourself about half an hour after you finish that joint.
RELATED: Can Weed Help You Lose Weight?
The way your body uses cannabinoids
There are over 113 cannabinoids in every bowl of weed. How much of each cannabinoid exists in a particular strain is what makes all the difference. Strains that are high in THC put you on a wild ride. High CBD strains might send you straight into an impromptu nap.
The cannabinoid balance of a sativa will give you the motivation you need to clean out your closet, and the balance of an indica will inspire you to wrap yourself up in your favorite blanket and remain motionless for hours.
There are thousands of cannabinoid receptors in your body, and they react to different cannabinoids in different ways. Cannabinoids provoke effects, either by binding to the receptors or encouraging them to do something. When these receptors are impacted by cannabinoids, they change the way your cells communicate. The desire to eat comes from cell communication, and that’s where the hungry feeling comes from.
What THC does to your system
THC binds to your cannabinoid receptors and makes you high. Your body is constantly sending its own natural messages. THC comes in to rewrite those messages and change the way information is relayed. Most people know that THC alters their cognition, but they may not be aware of everything else their cannabinoid system does.
Your cannabinoid system happens to regulate your appetite and hunger cues. When THC changes normal communication between cells, you might start to feel a persistent urge to eat. This can happen whether or not you’re hungry. Even if you ate a decent meal an hour before you smoked, you might be wishing you had leftovers soon.
While cannabinoids often produce many effects that people desire, like relaxation or heightened creative thinking, this hunger can go either way. Some people benefit from the appetite stimulant effects of THC while others would prefer to avoid them.
Do other cannabinoids act as appetite stimulants?
Since there are over 100 cannabinoids that exist in varying amounts, researchers aren’t conclusively sure what each of them might do. They do know that cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and its converted form CBG, may act to stimulate appetite in animals. CBG and CBGA are still being studied on humans.
CBD falls into a grey area. It doesn’t necessarily stimulate appetite, but it may help to reduce nausea. CBD is great at relaxing people. If your stomach turns when you’re tense, CBD might help to relieve some of that tension. In return, your appetite can come back. While it doesn’t work the same way that THC does, it may still help.
The positive side of weed’s appetite stimulant effects
Weed’s appetite stimulant effects have been extensively studied for medical purposes. The research successfully concluded that THC acts as a natural appetite stimulant, and this is one of the very few instances where the FDA listened.
The FDA approved a drug containing THC to be used for appetite stimulation in certain patients. The on-label uses for this drug are people experiencing loss of appetite or nausea as a result of chemotherapy treatments, and people living with HIV or AIDS.
These two groups of people will usually, as a result of their condition or treatment, experience a significantly diminished appetite. Their lack of appetite frequently leads to dangerously low body weight. THC is the first line of defense between these conditions and underweight BMI. When users of the drug regularly take their medication, they’re reminded to eat more. Their body’s desire for food is restored, and they’re able to maintain a healthier body weight.
Many people have shared personal anecdotes about using cannabis as a tool to aid in their recovery from eating disorders. People who have lived extensively with disordered eating patterns that involve restriction can’t simply “just eat.” Their bodies adapt to a state of starvation, and they no longer feel a connection to their appetite.
Some people who have successfully recovered from disordered eating behaviors cite cannabis as an important part of their path to wellness. Since cannabis awakens the appetite, it may be easier for someone who has lost touch with their appetite to find it again.
A few states consider eating disorders a condition for which medicinal cannabis may be prescribed. Cannabis is not a cure for eating disorders, but depending on the nature of the eating disorder and the mindset of the patient, it may be a push in the right direction.
The negative side of weed’s appetite stimulant effects
Most people don’t smoke a bunch of weed and decide to go mountain climbing. In fact, that’s a horrible idea. Don’t ever do that. Weed is better suited for sedentary activities.
When you aren’t moving around and your body is suddenly hungry, this creates a tricky situation. It’s easy to pack on more than a few unwanted pounds when you regularly smoke cannabis, as weed’s entire message to your brain is “sit down and eat.”
Many health-conscious and active people enjoy cannabis. If one of your major rules is that you shouldn’t be mindlessly snacking or overeating, this isn’t going to work for you. If you eat what you want to eat when you want to eat it, you’re probably not bothered by the munchies. Live your life and be happy.
Smoking weed without eating everything in the house
If you’re looking to contend with the munchies, you can’t necessarily make them stop. Your body responds the way it responds. Some people find that staying distracted draws attention away from the munchies. If you’re busy doing something else, you won’t be thinking about food your body doesn’t have a legitimate need for.
If you’re not the type to get lost in distractions, plan ahead. Smoke weed before you eat a big meal, rather than after. The appetite stimulant effects of weed will drive you to eat, even if you’re full. Avoid being full first.
Planning ahead always helps. If you have a whole container of brownies, a big bag of pizza rolls, and two bags of chips, guess what you’re going to do? You’re going to pick the easiest food that takes the least amount of effort to prepare because few people are patient gourmet chefs when they’re high.
Instead, keep dedicated weed snacks or prepare something healthy ahead of time. If you know you’re going to want to eat everything, slicing up a few apples and putting a little bit of peanut butter in a small container is a great idea. You’ll have something easy to eat, and it’s not bad for you.
Alternatively, you can order something healthy. Have a salad or some grilled chicken delivered. If you order it before you start smoking, it will likely arrive exactly when you need it. Look out for your future self by making healthy choices while you still have the wherewithal.
Although it’s wildly inconvenient to enter munchie mode when you don’t have any snacks in the house, and it may be less than ideal if you do and you eat all of them, weed’s appetite stimulant effects aren’t always a bad thing. There are people who truly depend on them to feel better.
Setting yourself up with healthy snacks can avoid a carb binge you might regret later. Saving your weed for pizza night also helps. When you’re high, it’s better to have something delivered than it is to go out and get it.
Speaking of having something delivered, that’s what we do. Emjay can deliver you cannabis flower just as soon as the place down the road can deliver your pizza (and maybe even faster). Get comfy and order up a quarter of your favorite strain. We’ll be there soon.