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The idea of taking Adderall for weight loss is a little unsavory. Why?
Since what you eat is up to you, weight is something you control. The thinking is therefore that you should be able to lose weight unaided by prescription drugs.
But the reality is less cut-and-dry. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to weight gain. One study found that epigenetic factors even play a role. For some, weight loss may become an endless struggle – a Sisyphean task.
There are also some similarities between drug addiction and the kinds of unhealthy dietary choices that lead to obesity. For example, the dopamine system in the brain is a common pathway implicated in binge eating and drug addiction.
Overindulging in carbohydrates is also an addictive behavior. Just like there’s a genetic component to addiction, there’s a genetic component to obesity and the level of difficulty you experience trying to losing weight.
If you can’t keep food cravings at bay despite an ongoing struggle with your weight, it’s worth considering drugs like Adderall.
Adderall is not a benign substance: it’s a remarkably potent pyschostimulant that carries the risk of addiction.
But obesity exacts a toll on your health as well, and there may be some situations where the risks of Adderall outweigh the negative effects of obesity. This cost-benefit analysis is best undertaken by an experienced physician.
Adderall: A Magic Bullet For Weight Loss?
Not even close. Adderall is a prescription psychostimulant prescribed for the treatment of ADHD. It’s effective at improving concentration, but has serious side effects. One such side effect is Adderall’s ability to suppress appetite. Adderall robustly reduces appetite. That’s why it’s occasionally prescribed off-label for the treatment of binge eating disorder.
Adderall also affects the basal metabolic rate. That is, Adderall tends to increase your metabolic rate, which indirectly leads to shedding pounds. But the appetite suppressing effect trumps this secondary effect on basal metabolic rate. Thus, the primary reason Adderall use leads to weight loss is through its effect on appetite and calorie consumption.
Obesity sucks, for three big reasons:
1) It affects your physical appearance and is difficult to mask.
2) Obesity adversely affects health, reducing life expectancy and predisposing you to diabetes, cardiovascular, and heart disease.
3) Some people will unfairly assume you lack self-control or are a slob, because weight it seen as something that’s under your control. But this whole “it’s your fault that you’re fat” narrative is misguided.
I’m most interested in #3.
There’s no doubt that your neurochemical makeup affects your susceptibility to delicious, sugary foods.
If you’re a smoker who recently quit, you’ll think about cigarettes incessantly. But someone who has never smoked – they never have cigarettes on their mind!
The same goes with your weight and eating behaviors. Some people never think twice about their weight. They’ve never grappled with food cravings a day in their life. This engenders a self-righteous, judgmental attitude toward people that are overweight. I’m skinny, and can control my dietary choices – why can’t you?
Some overweight people are disadvantaged from the outset. They’re like the nicotine-addled smoker who knows smoking is terrible for health but is unable to quit.
How To Use Adderall For Weight Loss
If you’re considering utilizing Adderall as a weight loss tool, tread lightly, because it can backfire.
You need a plan – an overall strategy that will guide you to success. That’s what this post is about – providing you with a weight loss strategy.
First, realize how Adderall functions in the brain. It’s a dopamine releasing agent; it activates your dopamine system. Dopamine is a catecholamine that promotes the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system. The net effects are decreased appetite and blood flow to your periphery (arms, legs, gastrointestinal system), and increased arousal, focus, heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, mydriasis (dilated pupils) and other physiologic effects.
Adderall is also an addictive drug. If you’re vulnerable to addiction, it’s not difficult to fall into the trap of dose escalation, chronic use, withdrawal, cravings, and drug reinstatement. So be careful!
Harnessing Adderall to suppress appetite isn’t foolproof, for a number of reasons:
The appetite-suppressing effects of Adderall can diminish over time (depending on how you apply the drug). Food cravings can actually be exacerbated by withdrawal from Adderall. Adderall can impair sleep quality. Also, not getting enough sleep also increases appetite and can promote weight gain. So get a good night’s sleep!
3 Keys to Using Adderall For Weight Loss Successfully
1. Forced Snacking is Key
Adderall suppresses appetite.
This can lead to situations where your appetite is suppressed during the day but then rebounds at night when the drug wears off.
You want to avoid eating a lot of junk food at night when your appetite rebounds.
The way to avoid this problem is to force yourself to eat protein and nutritious foods during the day, while your appetite is suppressed.
You don't want to starve yourself while amphetamine is in your system because amphetamine increases your metabolic rate. Your body needs fuel while your metabolism is ramped up.
I recommend eating small portions of nutritious food at least once per 3 hours during the day.
Foods like the following are particularly beneficial:
- Eggs - contains choline, which is beneficial for memory
- Fruits - I'm a big fan of blueberries
- Vegetables - Especially avocados, onions, peppers, broccoli, kale and other nutrient-rich vegetables
- Rice and beans - together they form a complete protein. Rice and beans are also cheap.
- Nuts - brazil nuts contain a lot of selenium which helps protect the brain
- Flax seed - rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
2. Avoid Vigorous Exercise
Anyone interested in weight loss is also likely to have some kind of exercise regimen.
It's not a great idea to exercise vigorously on Adderall. Why? The amphetamine salts in Adderall increase heart rate and blood pressure. So amphetamines can be a little hard on the heart. Exercise also tends to increase heart rate and blood pressure, which is compounded by amphetamine.
I recommend exercising at the end of the day, after the Adderall has worn off. Vigorous exercise on Adderall could result in cardiotoxicity. Another benefit of exercising at night is that exercise can help with the Adderall crash, i.e., the dip in mood after the drug has worn off.
3. Replenish Electrolytes
There are always people that will scold you for not drinking enough water.
When I was a preteen, I hated my camp counselor because he would insist that I drink copious amounts of water to the point that it made me sick.
But in the case of Adderall, this wisdom should be headed.
Adderall depletes electrolytes via multiple mechanisms. Electrolytes are just solutes like sodium, potassium and magnesium that are essential for cellular functions.
Too little sodium (termed hyponatremia) can actually cause brain damage.
It's important to stay hydrated on Adderall because amphetamines are potent diuretics. Amphetamines constrict blood vessels. Your body compensates by excreting more water to decrease your total blood volume and lower your blood pressure. Sodium and potassium is also lost with the excreted water.
I recommend drinking gatorade or another beverage that is isotonic with blood.
Pure water is good, but if you drink a lot of pure water you still need to replenish electrolytes. Gatorade is good because it contains sodium, postassium, magnesium and other solutes in concentrations that are comparable to blood.
4. Take The Minimum Effective Dose
The risk with Adderall is that brain begins to adapt to the effects of the drug, and effectiveness is lost over time. This phenomena is called tachyphylaxis. This is not good, because it means that you’ll need to increase your dose to attain the same level appetite suppression. Avoid dose escalation at all costs!
You can do a lot to circumvent this issue by taking the minimum effective dose. Many physicians prescribe doses of Adderall that are far too high. The first time I was prescribed Adderall, a school nurse wrote me a script for 20mg of Adderall, 2 times per day. 40mg/day is just too high of a starting dose.
I recommend using 5mg Adderall as a starting dose. If you can find a dose that barely starts to suppress appetite, that’s ideal, because it leaves you leeway to escalate the dose a little bit later if efficacy is eroded.
5. Adderall is A Crutch, Not A Cure
Imagine you’re a pro tennis player. If you get an upgraded tennis racket with some new technology – it’s still no guarantee you’ll win Wimbledon. To invoke a silly analogy – Adderall is a tennis racket. It’s one of many tools that you’ll deploy to defeat weight gain and restore a normal body weight. If you’re attitude is that Adderall is a cure – that’s the wrong mentality.
What’s the right mentality?
Think of Adderall a crutch. It works very well in conjunction with exercise and a concerted effort to make better dietary choices. The idea behind Adderall for weight loss is that sometimes you’re in over your head. You’ve fallen into bad habits and can’t break the cycle.
The best thing you can do is develop a holistic attitude toward weight loss. It’s not just a question of diet and exercise. There’s also a large psychological component. For example, some studies indicate that if you’re experiencing an intense bout of food cravings – that if you can distract yourself for 15 minutes – the intensity of the craving will tend to diminish. This is just an example of one trick.
6. Go All In!
If you were taking a notoriously difficult class and the final was imminent, you’d pull yourself together and study that final into the ground, right?
Weight loss is no different. Arm yourself with knowledge and deploy everything at your disposal. Read some books. Go beyond diet, exercise, and Adderall. Everyone knows what it feels like to not want to go to the gym. So you’ll need to prepare yourself to be able to respond in the right way when the going gets rough. Develop that rock solid commitment to your goals even when your motivational reserves are sucked dry.
I’ve noticed many people neglect the psychological tricks that you can use to get an edge. What am I talking about? What I mean is that the psychological aspect of weight loss is extremely important. There are different ways to trick yourself to behave the way that you want to.
For example, here’s what I do when I really don’t want to go to the gym. Instead of imagining a grueling exercise session, I focus on the immediate next step on my path to the gym. It might be putting on athletic shoes. Or finding your keys. Whatever it is, don’t anticipate the pain of the workout – focus on what’s right in front of you. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a gym working out.