What Are the Munchies and How to Avoid Them

OK, so you’ve been partaking in your medical marijuana as your budtender suggested, or maybe you’ve been partaking for awhile and are more seasoned. Either way, you’ve undoubtedly hit some of the commonly known after effects from taking marijuana. One of these is the munchies.

Munchies are those intensified cravings for food and snacks that can come after taking marijuana. If you like food or are particularly fond of carbs, these cravings can be even stronger. But what exactly are the munchies? What causes them? And most importantly, what can you do to prevent or manage them? (You don’t want to over eat and gain a bunch of weight!)

Why does marijuana give you the munchies?

For many years the ‘go-to’ answer to that question was that THC affected the part of the brain that controls our senses and, hence our appetites. THC is one of the two primary components called cannabinoids (CBD is the other) and is the one that give the psychoactive effects in cannabis (CBD does not give the same psychoactive feelings). As the THC molecules connect with the different parts of the brain via the CB1 and CB2 receptors, sense are heightened and appetites (among other things) also increase. So therefore, you have cravings, a.k.a. “the munchies”.

And while this explanation is generally correct, it’s almost too general and too simple. To understand a bit more of the science behind this, we need to dig a little deeper into what creates hunger in the first place.

medical marijuana bud

It’s all about the hormones

What creates the feeling of hunger and cravings in the first place is a hormone the stomach produces called ghrelin. When released, this hormone tells the brain that you are hungry (obviously if a person is actually starving there are many other signals the body gives the brain) and there are some researchers that believe that marijuana could impact this process – either by increasing the amount of ghrelin or by facilitating the signal that it sends to the brain.

The research is just beginning on this but because of the current federal scheduling of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, the research – and financial funding thereof – is limited. Still, with what we know and are learning about marijuana and how it interacts with the human body via the Endocannabinoid System, it seems reasonable to think that marijuana has some kind of positive effect on this as well.

Regardless of the reasons, for people suffering from diseases, viruses or other conditions that kill their appetite, the stimulation that weed brings is a welcome benefit. For example, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy usually get sick, lose their appetite and lose a tremendous amount of weight. Weed can help restart their appetites as well as ease their pain and discomfort from the disease.

How do you stop the munchies?

For most of us, we are using medical marijuana for more common, less dire conditions – or perhaps recreationally. And inevitably we will experience the munchies. The best way to stop the munchies is first and foremost: prevention.

Before smoking, prepare yourself and your surroundings by doing things like:

  • Remove all junk food, snacks and sweets – don’t forget the soda!

  • Have plenty of healthy foods around like raw fruits and vegetables; unsalted/sweetened nuts, seeds and trail mix; plain popcorn or plain cottage cheese. Just be careful if there is added sugar or too many carbs as these intensify the appetite triggering from weed.

  • Have activities planned like hiking, walking around the block, writing or something creative. This will help you keep your mind busy. If you feel cravings coming, it’s best not to sit in front of the TV – get up and go!

  • Eat a reasonably sized, healthy meal before you partake and drink plenty of water (hydration is the key to so much with our health – with or without MJ!)

serving bowls with healthy snacks berries fruit nuts

If you feel the munchies coming on, stay strong and do your best to control the urge to eat something, especially something unhealthy. The urge to eat things like pizza, chips, ice cream, left over lasagna or those ribs in the frig will be very strong – but remember that just like smokers trying to give up cigarettes: one is too many and a hundred is not enough. If you eat one chip or one piece of pizza, chances are you’ll want more and more and more.

If you are going to eat, eat something healthy. At least if you eat too much if will be too many celery sticks or too many grapes or too many unsalted, plain walnuts. Additionally, here are some other things you can do:

  • Get active – go for a walk or a run, exercise at home, get up and move around! Like we mentioned before this will help keep your brain focused on something else.

  • Do an activity to keep you mind on something else. I find that if I immerse myself in something like organizing a closet or my personal business files that I forget about my cravings at least for a while.

  • Take a shower or a bath – you can’t pig out in the tub!

  • This might sound silly but take a look at yourself in the mirror and imagine 15-20 pounds more on your body. As strange as this might sound, it could be the thing that keeps you from giving into powerful weed-induced munchies.

man walking in the woods

True story

The last point – imagining yourself 15-20 pounds heavier – comes from my own personal experience. When I started partaking in marijuana (smoking it recreationally in college) I befriend this funny and awesome girl who was a fairly new marijuana user. One of the first times we smoked together she showed me a picture of her from about 7-8 months earlier. She was thinner, about 15-20 pounds thinner, in the picture. She told me her weight gain was from the munchies.

two girls passing a marijuana joint and smiling

The picture she showed me and her story of her weight gain (100% the munchies) really affected me – especially since I loved food to begin with. I knew the munchies would hit me hard so I always tried to remember that day sitting with my college friend and think of myself gaining 15-20 pounds from the munchies.

This was enough to keep me (most of the time) from giving into eating too much junk food when I smoke. Instead, grapes and carrot sticks have been my snack of choice when the munchies do hit!

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