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THCV and Fasting

These days, more and more people are finding out about the enormous opportunities for cannabinoids like CBD and THC to help improve their lives and daily well-being. But, there is another, lesser-known cannabinoid that has its own unique and exciting potential to change our lives for the better.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is superficially related to THC but works in nearly the opposite way. While THC works to stimulate appetite and slow down your mental processes by engaging the CB-1 receptors in your brain, THCV blocks these receptors, turning down your appetite signals and turning up your level of alertness. This is why THCV is sometimes called the “anti-munchies” drug, or “ganja’s Jenny Craig” – instead of increasing your urge to finish all the snacks around your house, it’ll help suppress those cravings until later and let you focus your energy on the more important things at hand.

zen women intermittent fasting

The Science

You might be thinking, “this sounds too good to be true!” – so let’s take a look at what the scientific studies have found about THCV.

In a research study conducted in 2009 for The National Center for Biotechnology Information, researchers found that THCV is quite effective as an appetite suppressant in rodents. During the study, researchers sought to test how central nervous mechanisms and food-seeking behavior were influenced in fasted and non-fasted rodents that were injected with ∆9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (∆9-THCV).

The suppression of food intake by [∆9-THCV] (10 mg.kg-1) endured for a period of 6-8 hours when administered acutely, and was continuous when injected for four consecutive days …. The data strongly suggest (i) the long-term home-cage observation system is a sensitive and obesity-relevant tool, and (ii) the phytocannabinoid Delta9-THCV is a novel compound with hypophagic properties and a potential treatment for obesity.”

British Journal of Pharmacology, 2009

In other words, THCV consistently and persistently decreased the amount the animals ate even when presented with a virtually unlimited supply of appetizing food stuff. These findings are further supported by careful investigations of the endocannabinoid system in humans conducted by researchers at Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale. The same researchers also reported evidence that THCV was even increasing the basal metabolic rate (i.e. the number of calories your body burns at rest):

Altogether these findings suggest that hypothalamic CB(1) receptor signaling is a key determinant of energy expenditure under basal conditions and reveal its specific role in conveying the effects of leptin and pharmacological CB1 receptor antagonism on food intake…

Journal of Endocrinology, 2012

Even more studies on THCV have hinted at other potential applications beyond its appetite-controlling properties; one study found evidence to suggest that THCV might help curb anxiety attacks in people suffering from PTSD, and another study found that THCV has the potential for reducing symptoms like tremors and poor motor control in patients with Alzheimer’s.

THCV for Fasting

The takeaway from these studies is that even at low doses, THCV is able to subtly reduce the shiny rewarding feeling we get from snacking, making it ideally suited for those who find this type of distracting hunger makes fasting difficult. This type of hunger is not the kind of hunger we get because our body really needs anything. In reality, this hunger is caused by one of two things, either because it’s a time we’ve learned to expect a meal, or because we’re actually bored.

The majority of the time when we get hungry, it’s because we’ve trained ourselves to expect a meal, but there’s no intrinsic reason our bodies need to eat at breakfast time / lunch time / dinner time. And so when starting fasting this can be a difficult hurdle to overcome – it’s like learning to ride a bike without training wheels, those two side wheels (meals) aren’t necessary! You’ll be able to move faster and smoother on a single wheel, but it can be harder to get started without a push. That’s where THCV comes in, by giving you a quick boost of energy to get through the worst of the hunger pangs, you’ll be able to retrain your body to be hungry at the times that are right for you.

The other important source of unwanted hunger is actually just boredom in disguise. Pretty much everyone has had the experience of trying to sit down to work and then achieving nothing but snacking and procrastinating. This is because eating both feels good and it gives us something to do, which makes it feel like we’re making progress – even when we’re not. Again, this is where THCV can help; by temporarily turning down how ‘good’ the snacking feels, you’ll be able to refocus on what you really want, instead of being dragged around by the temptations of your environment.

THCV and traditional appetite suppressants

Of course, THCV is not the only compound out there that has the ability to suppress appetite, there are a number of different types of drugs and supplements that have been used over the years to help reduce hunger or cravings. However, for most of these compounds, reducing appetite is accompanied by a variety of side-effects that range from inconvenient to life-threatening. Traditionally, the most common compounds in this appetite suppression category include caffeine, nicotine, or amphetamines, and these are known to cause any of the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid or abnormal heartbeat.
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Addiction and dependency (especially for nicotine and amphetamines)
  • Digestive problems
  • Muscle breakdown
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Mood swings

As for THCV, all of the human studies have reported no significant side effects. Although out of an abundance of caution, it is generally not recommended to consume THCV if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, even though this is primarily because there is not enough reliable information to know if it is safe to use.

That being said, THCV is not a cure-all or magic weight-loss drug. On the contrary, THCV works best as a supplement to a new dietary lifestyle change such as intermittent fasting. It is best used to make the fasts people are already doing a little bit easier; these are mostly fasts which are measured in hours, not days. THCV can also be really useful during the first couple of days of a multi-day fast when hunger is the worst. However, THCV should not be used to extend the end of already long multi-day fasts. The “return of hunger” multiple days into a fast is an important sign that it’s time to end a fast. Those who are new to intermittent fasting, in general, could benefit from THCV as well.

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Conclusion – Is THCV right for you?

We believe that the research available indicates that THCV has incredible promise to help people along their fasting journey and build healthier eating habits for life. As this cannabinoid becomes more popular for its energy-increasing, weight-loss-boosting capabilities, it’s likely that THCV could be the next big thing in the fitness/wellness world. This is certainly a welcomed change from many of the unsafe substances that consumers often use for weight-loss.

If you plan to regularly fast, THCV can be a very beneficial supplement to take. The advice we want to give to readers out there is to use THCV to make your fasts easier by reducing hunger pain, but not as a cure-all for your weight loss – and remember that you should always talk to your doctor before making major changes to your diet or introducing new supplements to your daily regime. But, with their blessing, THCV is simply a very effective supplement to an already existing weight loss routine.