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Preventing Weight Loss While Taking Adderall

Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) remains among the most popular pharmaceutical ADHD medications on the market. In part, it is popular due to the fact that it is highly effective, and tends to be well-tolerated among individuals with ADHD. When used responsibly, many professionals consider it a safe and effective long-term treatment option for inattentiveness and hyperactivity.

In addition to using the drug for its intended purpose (to treat attentional deficits), some people find ways to obtain the drug for non-medically accepted uses. Adderall is frequently used recreationally and/or “off-label” for purposes such as: cognitive enhancement, for the treatment of depression, by partygoers to achieve (a dopaminergic) euphoria, and by obese individuals to lose weight. Although the effect of “weight loss” may be appealing to those who are overweight, indivdiuals who are already “fit,” skinny, or underweight may find Adderall-induced weight loss to be problematic.

Preventing Weight Loss Taking Adderall

Assuming you are underweight and don’t want to lose any weight while taking Adderall (or another stimulant), below are some strategies that you can implement to minimize the amount of weight loss you experience on the drug.  There are two primary methods to prevent weight loss: firstly – minimize the drug’s influence over your physiology, and secondly – take measures to offset the drug’s effects.

Minimizing the drug’s influence over your physiology…

The effect of Adderall is closely tied to the dosage you take as well as the frequency you take it. Someone who takes a relatively low dose on an infrequent basis is unlikely to experience significant weight loss. However, a person taking a high dose daily for a year is likely to end up losing weight. The goal is to take a minimalist approach in terms of dosage and frequency if you don’t want to lose weight.

1. Lower dosage

To minimize the amount of weight you lose while taking Adderall, you’ll want to make sure that you’re taking the “minimal effective dose.” In other words, take a dose that helps combat your inattentiveness, but make sure you aren’t taking excess. Higher dosages have a greater propensity to cause weight loss. This is due to the fact that high doses further elevate dopamine and increase CNS stimulation, which further reduces appetite and increases metabolism.

2. Take less frequently

Some people may need to take Adderall daily in order to function at work and/or school. However, if you want to make sure that you don’t lose a massive amount of weight from taking the drug, you should use it as infrequently as possible. Follow your doctor’s recommended guidelines for usage, but don’t assume that you need to have mixed amphetamine salts pumping through your body at all times in order to function.

  • “As needed” basis: Consider taking the short-acting “immediate-release” (IR) version “as needed” and avoiding the drug during times when you aren’t engaged in a cognitively demanding task. Many people take the drug just for stints in which they cannot function without it (e.g. school or work). As soon as you are away from an environment that demands intense focus, simply stop taking it and give your nervous system a break.
  • Adderall vacation: Some people take (what’s recreationally referred to as) an “Adderall vacation.” This vacation is considered a considerable chunk of time you’ve set aside for taking a break from the drug. An ideal time for taking a vacation would be when you’ve got a break from work and/or school. Some even consider the weekends to be a “mini” vacation. These vacations allow your physiological functioning to reestablish a varying degree of homeostasis. Homeostasis helps reset your metabolism, brings back appetite, and may help restore your sleeping pattern. During a vacation you’ll likely experience somewhat of an “Adderall crash” but the impairment won’t be nearly as severe as full-fledged Adderall withdrawal.

3. Consider the “immediate release” version

If you’re hoping to prevent weight loss while taking Adderall, you’ll probably want to take the “IR” (immediate release format). This will give your body the medication during times that you actually need it, and allow physiology to function normally for gaps without the drug. The “IR” version is favorable to the “XR” (extended release) version for individuals hoping to lose weight in that the effect isn’t sustained over a long period of time.

Therefore the appetite suppression, increased energy, and metabolism increase should subside when the drug wears off. The extended-release format delivers the drug over a prolonged period, therefore is more likely to cause weight loss. Taking low doses of the “IR” format on an “as-needed” basis is ideal for preventing weight loss.

Offsetting Adderall’s weight loss effects

There are some personal measures you can take to help offset side effects from Adderall associated with weight loss. Unless you are taking another medication that slows your metabolism and increases appetite, you may need to force yourself to eat extra food even when you’re not hungry.

1. Forced eating

Many people implement the practice of “forced eating” into their regimen with success. This involves eating the same number of meals and equal (or greater) portion sizes during Adderall treatment as they ate before taking the drug. In other words, if you were eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but find yourself struggling to remember to eat three square meals, force yourself to eat what you did before.

Taking Adderall increases dopamine in the brain, stimulating the reward center and decreasing appetite. In some cases you may literally forget to eat because you don’t feel hungry. In that case, set a timer at times you believe you should normally eat and/or give your body fuel. A timer will help you consciously remember to eat even though your appetite is suppressed.

2. Extra eating or “snacking”

In addition to appetite being suppressed by artificially elevated levels of dopamine, your metabolism will be higher than at its homeostatic baseline. This means that you’ll likely need to eat extra food in order to combat the significant increase in metabolism. Consider adding in a couple extra meals, protein shakes, or small “snacking” sessions throughout the day to get your body some extra calories.

3. Orexigenics (appetite stimulants)

Fortunately if weight loss is highly problematic for you on Adderall, you may be able to talk to your doctor about considering an orexigenic medication. These are drugs that stimulate appetite and should help offset any weight loss you experience on Adderall. If you are taking a medication for a condition like depression such as an SSRI or TCA, this should help counteract some of the weight loss caused by Adderall.

Have you considered alternatives to Adderall?

Everyone likes the easiest solution to treating psychiatric conditions like ADHD, but anything that requires consistent effort or long-term work is seldom pursued. There are very effective Adderall alternatives, many of which are free and can be used with significant efficacy over the long-term. Examples of alternatives include: various types of meditation, taking supplements, and/or consistent exercise. Although these may not be as potent as popping a psychostimulant, they aren’t going to cause unwanted weight loss.

Maintaining and/or gaining weight on Adderall

While many people still view weight loss on Adderall as an added perk, clearly not everyone shares this sentiment. If you have managed to avoid weight loss while taking Adderall, feel free to share some strategies that you implemented with success to combat potential weight loss. Be sure to share whether you maintained weight and/or were even able to gain weight or muscle mass while taking the drug.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Abigail May 10, 2015, 1:54 pm

    I’m a 17 year old female with a small and athletic build. I’m 5’0″ and about 85-95 lbs depending on the seasons. I’ve taken Adderall for quite some time. Unfortunately, I can’t take the dosage I need because I exhibit psychotic symptoms from bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. However, while I only take 20mg, I haven’t been able to keep on any weight. My solution has been; Eating small meals throughout the day, eating right before bed, light exercise, and consuming a lot of fish and other sea foods. Now, I can maintain a weight from about 90-95 no problem. While 100-110 would be ideal, I don’t think its gonna get to that point. Good luck to anyone struggling with weight loss on adderall!

    • Anna February 29, 2016, 1:39 pm

      Abigail, Thank you so much for replying. I’m under similar conditions- I’m 16 and I take a low dose because I’ve experienced similar psychotic symptoms a few times, particularly when taking instant release, and I’m afraid of an increase. Adderall has been really effective in treating my narcolepsy symptoms, but I’ve lost over 10lbs since I started it several months ago. I will try your suggestions.

  • Breanna April 9, 2016, 4:49 am

    I started Adderall I’m January I’m 5’8 and I used to be about 130-135 but I’m now 115 I can’t eat I feel like I’m gonna puke I take 20mg. It doesn’t help that I naturally have a high metabolism. I feel physically weak. While I would love to find a way to gain weight considering a little girl can wrap her arms all the way around me and my sister called me anorexic, I can’t because I have to be able to fit in my brides maid dress for my sister’s wedding. I’m also finding it hard to find clothes that fit I used to be a size 6 and now I’m a size 3 and I got rid of all my size 3 jeans a long time ago.

  • Amber June 17, 2016, 4:49 pm

    Hello, I am a 5′ 29 year old woman and currently weigh 94 lbs – I’ve only been on adderall about 3 weeks. About a year or so I was maintaining a weight of 125-130 and once in awhile I would jump to 135. With having hip problems though, and with that much weight to carry around, I was forced to make some diet and lifestyle changes. In about 5-7 months I was able to maintain a weight of 107-108 consistently.

    Then after a few months I was down to 95-100 pounds, fluctuating here and there. I am excited to see that I actually have a petite, womanly figure rather than the stalky build I was used to for most of my life, and I do prefer to be around 105 personally, but my doctor says that for my petite build and healthy diet I am not underweight… Yet. The other day, however, I stepped on the scale and am now 94 lbs, not significant I know, but also not what I consider healthy for myself personally.

    I have not changed my eating habits from what I am used to, and I actually feel hungrier while on the medication. I fear, however, that the hunger may be associated with an increased metabolism and that the weight loss will continue if I don’t make some changes. So I plan to increase the amount of food, include small protein shakes mixed with milk instead of water during meal times, and continue my before bed snack.

    Ideally I would add snacks in several times throughout the day as I did in the past, but my ADHD is so severe, to the point where brain injury was questioned and blood work was drawn for testing, that I need it all day, several times a day and there really isn’t room to squeeze anything else in without losing the effectiveness of the medication. I also plan to track my weight on a weekly basis and adjust with amounts of food accordingly.

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