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Does CBD oil help with weight loss? Here's how CBD plays a role in your fitness - SFGate

Let’s be honest, CBD oil has become a recent craze in the health and wellness industry. Also known as cannabidiol, the second-most prevalent ingredient in cannabis, CBD is growing in popularity thanks to its lack of a “high” feeling — as well as a laundry list of purported health benefits — which has led both consumers and researchers to ask: Can CBD oil help with weight loss?

While the verdict is still out on whether or not CBD oil can support a weight loss or fitness routine, here’s what you need to know.

CBD is one of the two main cannabinoids (or active compounds) found in the cannabis plant. Unlike the more commonly known THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD is a non-intoxicating extract, which means that it doesn’t cause the “high” commonly associated with cannabis use. While recreational use of cannabis has made many skeptical of CBD, it continues to rise in popularity thanks to its many potential health benefits — including treating pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorder. 

So how does CBD oil help? Researchers believe that it might work with the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) — a system that’s still being heavily researched — but is known to play an important role in the modulation of sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and hormone function.

“The endocannabinoid system’s main function is homeostasis: homeo meaning same, stasis meaning state,” says Dr. Jeff Chen, who is the founder of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative as well as the CEO and CoFounder of Radicle Science. “So the endocannabinoid system’s job is to maintain an equilibrium state in light of changing conditions. For example, if there is inflammation, endocannabinoid release is triggered to reduce inflammation. If there is excessive neuron firing that is signaling pain, endocannabinoid release is triggered to reduce neuron firing and pain signals.” 

According to Dr. Chen, there are have animal studies suggesting that CBD can help slow the breakdown of endocannabinoid. But there isn't any conclusive evidence that proves CBD has the same impact on humans because we’re still learning about how exactly CBD works.

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While a direct link between CBD usage and weight loss is still being researched, there are a few ways that CBD oil might be effective in supporting weight loss.

Pain relief

One of the most well-known uses of CBD oil is as an analgesic, AKA a pain reliever. A 2012 study indicates that CBD oil may be an effective treatment for those suffering from chronic pain, and other studies have also explored the effects of CBD use on patients with arthritis, noting a significant decrease in pain and inflammation with no adverse side effects.

This means if chronic pain has been preventing you from being able to exercise, CBD may provide you much-needed relief to restart your fitness journey, which in turn can help with weight loss. 

Improved mood

While CBD’s stress-relieving properties might not seem like they’d directly impact weight loss, experts suggest otherwise.

“It can lift your mood and give you more motivation to do your workout,” says Dr. Felecia Dawson, a physician and cannabis advocate. Even better? “It can decrease pain and inflammation associated with exercising.”

How? Because CBD can improve your overall mood — with initial research suggesting that CBD might be a good treatment for anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder — as your general mental health and sense of wellbeing improves, you’re far more likely to hit the gym. Motivation is a critical factor in whether or not many people reach their fitness goals, which is why supplementing with CBD might give you the boost you need to actually do your workout and stick to your fitness plan.

Boosting the metabolism

While CBD might have an indirect effect on weight loss, initial research suggests that it might benefit weight loss by increasing our metabolism. That’s because CBD impacts both our CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system that are associated with metabolism and hunger. Unlike CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors are not always active, but CBD can help activate them. When active, the CB2 receptors have been shown to have anti-obesity effects.

While the effects of CBD on the metabolism have largely only been studied in animals, a 2015 study on rats showed that CBD oil activated the CB2 receptors producing “a profound reduction in body weight gain” — even without reduced food intake. While much is to be explored about the ECS and CB2 receptors, this suggests that CBD usage might play a significant role in boosting our metabolism.

A further look into CBD’s effect on our metabolism reveals something researchers call fat “browning.” Typically, adults have an abundance of white fat cells — responsible for storing fat — located beneath the skin and in the abdominal cavity. The second type of fat cells, known as brown fat cells, are sparse and located in regions like the shoulder blades and spinal cord. More brown cells in the body are associated with overall better health and are known to encourage weight loss.

A 2016 study revealed that CBD may interact with these fat cells in a huge way: fat “browning.” CBD in the body can promote a process known as transdifferentiation in which white fat cells are converted into brown fat cells. As more white fat cells become brown fat cells, lipid metabolism (aka fat burning) is increased.

Increasing energy

Another promising weight loss area that CBD oil might impact is its potential to increase energy or wakefulness. However, more studies need to be done to confirm whether or not this is true.

While this isn’t directly linked to weight loss, having more energy typically translates to more energy being expended. If you feel an increase in energy after using CBD, you’re might be more likely to go for a walk around the block or make it to your workout class.

Improved sleep quality

As an added bonus, CBD oil can also help improve your sleep. Not only does this mean you’ll wake up feeling more rested when your alarm goes off for your morning workout. Better sleep can actually play a direct role in improving your weight loss. 

In fact, experts suggest that sleep is one of the most critical — and most overlooked — factors in weight loss. A lack of sleep can translate into increased appetite, slower metabolism, reduced exercise levels, and more — all of which can greatly diminish your weight loss. 

Sleep also plays an important role in recovery, meaning your night-time CBD use isn’t just helping you relax. It’s also making it easier for you to hit your fitness goals. 

If you’re ready to incorporate CBD into your fitness routine, Dr. Dawson recommends starting with an organic or Clean Green Certified product that is third-party tested. She suggests using broad or full-spectrum CBD to get better results at a lower dose — especially when compared to an isolate.

As for when you should take CBD? It’s really up to you.

“If you want to absorb as much as you can from an oil, consume it after a meal containing fat post-workout. If you want to consume before the workout, a tablespoon of coconut oil may help you absorb more of it,” Dr. Dawson says. “If you want to inhale it, I recommend an electronic vaporizer made for dry herb before or after the activity. An ethanol-based tincture can be held under the tongue and can be used before or after the activity.”

While CBD oil has many positive effects, research is still pending for a direct connection between its usage and weight loss. CBD oil isn’t meant to be a holy grail product — or a substitute for living a healthy lifestyle.