Is there a scientifically proven connection between Modafinil and weight loss?
Is Modafinil a “miracle diet pill” that will instantly lead to effortless fat loss?
You may have asked yourself these questions after reading numerous anecdotal reports from Modafinil users on the Internet .
Modafinil is reported to provide numerous cognitive effects such as increased focus, heightened energy levels, and sustained concentration for several hours on end.
The smart drug has consistently proven itself to be effective for all three purposes. However, there is little information on the topic of using Modafinil for weight loss.
Furthermore, no clear distinction is made between “weight loss” and “fat loss”, as it is entirely possible to lose weight without seeing a desirable change in body composition — for most people, such a goal would entail the loss of body fat.
We wrote this comprehensive guide to help everyone who types “Modafinil weight loss” into Google but cannot seem to find a satisfactory answer.
What is Modafinil?
For the readers who are not familiar with Modafinil or how it exerts its cognition-boosting effects, here is some preliminary background information.
Modafinil is known as a “eugeroic”, which is another way of describing it as a wakefulness-promoting agent. Better known by its brand name “Provigil”, it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 1998 for treating the excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy.
What scientists and researchers later discovered was that Modafinil could treat the sleepiness seen in other medical conditions such as sleep apnea, shift work sleep disorder, and insomnia . It was heralded as a powerful medication due to its ability to suppress the human body's natural need for sleep.
Although originally indicated for people with sleep disorders, a few healthy individuals started experimenting with Modafinil on an off-label basis to see if it could provide any cognitive enhancements. To their surprise, the prescription drug was a potent smart drug for enhancing mental traits associated with productivity.
Some of the claimed benefits by long-time Modafinil users include:
- Greater ability to process and retain information
- A higher level of focus that can be maintained over several hours
- Significant reduction of fatigue
- Inexplicable rises in self-sustained motivation
Naturally, this caught the attention of individuals in careers and industries where extreme levels of productivity are the norm. Ivy League students, surgeons, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and even military soldiers were regularly using Modafinil for a much-needed boost in personal productivity.
A recent survey conducted in 2020 of 404 anonymous smart drug users reveals that off-label use of Modafinil continues to increase amongst young men :
“This study has found that, as the reported frequency of modafinil use increased, the number of perceived benefits increased, whilst the number of negative effects remained stable and unchanged.
Respondents also reported significantly more benefits than risks and more immediate benefits than longer-lasting benefits.
…This study has provided insight into the profile of modafinil users who are, in this English language study at least, mostly male, American or British, educated, employed and in their mid-20s.”
Modafinil was clearly not intended to be used as a weight loss medication. Yet this has not stopped nootropic users from observing that their bodyweight went down with regular use of Modafinil .
But before we can examine whether the “Provigil weight loss” trend has any legitimacy behind it, you should be informed of Modafinil's safety profile and potential side effects .
Modafinil For Weight Loss | The Basics
For those of you who are unaware of how the body loses fat tissue, we will oversimplify the science and provide you with a bare-bones explanation.
How Do We Lose Weight?
Weight loss fundamentally comes down to your caloric consumption.
When you consume more calories than your body burns, you gain weight because your body stores the excess energy as fat tissue. But when you consume fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight because your body uses fat tissue to compensate for the deficit in energy. And when your caloric consumption is equivalent to your body's caloric burn, your weight stays the same .
As for how your body disposes of fat tissue, the Cleveland Clinic does a job of describing the pathways for fat loss in a nutshell :
“Your body must dispose of fat deposits through a series of complicated metabolic pathways.”
“…As water, through your skin (when you sweat) and your kidneys (when you urinate).
As carbon dioxide, through your lungs (when you breathe out)”
“…fat breakdown liberates energy for biological functions and physical activity…It also generates heat, which keeps body temperatures normal.”
There are indeed many other factors that come into play, such as the various ways in which your body burns calories, the type of exercise you do, and the quality & quantity of food you consume. But this simplified model of weight loss will be sufficient enough to explain why nootropic users take Modafinil for weight loss.
Do Any Studies Demonstrate a Link between Modafinil and Weight Loss?
A few research papers published over the past 15 years have attempted to examine a connection between Modafinil and weight loss in very specific clinical circumstances.
In 2004, researchers attempted to examine how Modafinil and Adderall affected the food intake of 11 healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 35.
While both drugs directly led to a decrease in the total amount of calories consumed per day, the outcomes were completely different :
“Like amphetamine, modafinil reduced the amount of food consumed and decreased energy intake, without altering the proportion of macronutrients consumed.
Although both medications significantly increase heart rate and blood pressure at higher doses, the dose of modafinil that was efficacious in decreasing food intake did not significantly increase heart rate.”
The researchers conducted this study then hypothesized that Modafinil may be used as a treatment for obesity, warranting further investigative trials into individuals who are overweight and/or obese.
A 2008 study confirmed these results in shift workers, where a daily 400 mg dose decreased the average daily caloric intake by 38% and led to a significant decrease in the perception of hunger. The most interesting finding was how the porportion of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins consumed did not change .
And in a randomized controlled trial published in 2016, Modafinil led to dramatic decreases in impulsivity amongst adults at normal body weight.
The lead researcher went on to make some notable comments about the implications of this study for people who have developed an unhealthy addiction to food :
“Modafinil was found to have an effect on impulsivity in healthy individuals and so would be able to have an even bigger effect on food addicts, who are lacking in certain types of dopamine”
“This drug could be a real help to those people struggling to control their desire for food even though they know they should lose weight.”
“The drug improves self-control, which is a key factor in determining obesity, so our hypothesis is that this drug should help in treating the disease.”
However, since the initial finding in 2004, Modafinil became a subject of interest as it could theoretically overcome the weight gain associated with certain drugs used to treat mental health issues:
- Modafinil led to significant weight loss when administered alongside Clozapine, an antipsychotic medication prescribed to patients with schizophrenia 
- When used alongside the antipsychotic medication Olanzapine, Modafinil led to reduced weight gain in comparison to a combination of Olanzapine and a placebo drug 
- In patients with atypical depression, where increased appetite and weight gain are common outcomes, Modafinil led to notable weight loss and an improvement of depression symptoms 
There are disagreements amongst scientists with regards to the reality of “Modafinil weight loss” as there are studies in the medical literature that did not reach the same conclusion.
One study examining the use of Modafinil in narcolepsy patients observed an increase in body mass index regardless of the dose used .
Another study conducted in 2008 produced some questionable results. Even though Modafinil demonstrated notable weight loss in patients taking atypical antipsychotic medications, the difference between the patients' baseline weight and their weight after 12 weeks was not too different from the difference observed in patients taking a placebo .
The authors attributed this bizarre finding to weight gain that may have possibly taken place at an earlier time in the placebo group:
“These findings require further evaluation as it was possible that at baseline itself maximum weight gain already occurred in the placebo group.
This particular aspect could not be verified from the existing data, as there was a possibility that placebo group used atypicals for longer periods than modafinil group.”
With these results in mind, let's examine some possible reasons that may explain why people who use Modafinil for weight loss report a loss in body weight.
Why Does Modafinil “Work” For Weight Loss?
To be clear, Modafinil is not officially approved for weight loss. This is made clear in explicit terms on the corresponding product monograph published by the FDA :
“There were no clinically significant differences in body weight change in patients treated with PROVIGIL compared to placebo-treated patients in the placebo-controlled clinical trials.”
This has not stopped test subjects from anonymously commenting on the indirect weight loss they experienced when using Modafinil :
“I've lost maybe 2-3 pounds in two weeks, but my guess would be that was caused by going to the gym every day and eating healthier. Provigil reduced my appetite and helps get me to the gym and gives me some endurance. I have appetite issues already, but provigil decreased my appetite even further”
One possible reason for the loss of appetite could be attributable to Modafinil's ability to increase the production of several neurotransmitters :
- Orexin and histamine regulate appetite, and elevated levels of both neurotransmitters lead to appetite suppression
- Modafinil's ability to increase dopamine secretion leads to heightened motivation, which may help individuals stick to their diet and exercise routine more consistently.
Another explanation for appetite inhibition could be traced to Modafinil's cognitive benefits. Research subjects are often quick to comment on the 8-12 hours of focus provided by the drug.
With an intense level of concentration applied to a single task, there are two natural outcomes in relation to caloric burn and dietary intake…
First, should one forget to eat their meals at the usual allotted times, a caloric deficit is naturally created. In a sense, Modafinil users are “fasting” until the effects of the drug wear down and the hunger response kicks in.
Second, due to the massive increase in energy levels, Modafinil users are more likely to have a greater amount of activity and movement throughout the day. The body burns more calories and thus contributes to an overall caloric deficit.
Considering that Modafinil's cognitive benefits typically last between 8-12 hours, it is reasonable to assume that the conditions for consuming fewer calories while burning more calories are automatically set in place.
To summarize this discussion in a few take-away sentences:
Modafinil DOES NOT directly induce fat/weight loss via increased metabolism or a unique mechanism of action targeting the body's storage of fat.
Modafinil makes it more likely for a user to consistently take certain actions that are known to lead to fat/weight loss.
Is Modafinil Weight Loss a Good Idea?
The concept of “Modafinil weight loss” is not inherently wrong . Modafinil may be effective in assisting in the usual lifestyle habits leading to weight loss — a controlled diet, frequent physical exercise, uninterrupted sleep, and more.
However, taking Modafinil for weight loss on its own without following the lifestyle habits mentioned will not lead to the desired outcome.
If one wishes to maximize the appetite-suppressant effects associated with Modafinil, we would like to present some recommendations from experienced test subjects for using the drug in a safe and appropriate manner:
- It is advisable to eat a decent-sized breakfast before using Modafinil, as your appetite may be blunted to the point where you will not consume any amount of food for the majority of the day.
- The bullet point above may be disregarded for individuals who are intentionally following an intermittent fasting diet.
- Due to Modafinil's ability to dehydrate the body, it is recommended to drink at least 2 liters of cold water on the days you take Modafinil.
Please note that several factors will affect the weight loss associated with Modafinil's cognitive-boosting properties.
These include but are not limited to: dosage, drugs that counteract Modafinil or work synergistically with it, your genetics, and the time span over which you are using Modafinil.
Modafinil should be considered as a supplementary addition to a healthy lifestyle that leads to weight loss, rather than a replacement for it.
Modafinil Weight Loss | The Verdict
Modafinil and weight loss are indirectly tied to each other as a result of several behavioral outcomes that are connected to regular Modafinil use.
Suppression of appetite — in combination with stricter adherence to science-backed weight loss principles — may lead to weight loss, and possibly fat loss.
Any weight loss experienced while using Modafinil is merely a side effect of using the smart drug to increase productivity, enhance cognition, and heighten one's focus.
Anybody who wishes to lose weight and keep it off would be much better off with a proven exercise routine, proper nutrition and other lifestyle habits conducive to weight loss.
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