Cannabidiol (also called CBD) is becoming a worldwide trend, and there is exciting research focused on the use of CBD by athletes for maintaining healthy muscles and sport-related fatigue. After recognizing the benefits of CBD oil for physical performance, the World Anti-Doping Agency¹ removed CBD from the list of banned substance for professional athletes in 2018. Why would an international athletic organization change its mind on a substance? Because there’s evidence to show CBD oil is beneficial for athletes without the harmful side effects of other options.
CBD is a naturally-occurring substance found in hemp plants. Different from the other popular cannabinoid: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD provides beneficial effects to the human body without getting the user high. That is why this CBD is seeing its popularity rise in the field of sports medicine.
The benefits of CBD Oil for athletes and exercise recovery
When you read about pre-workout or post-workout supplements, CBD may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, many athletes are now using CBD to help maintain proper muscle function, physical performance, and to speed up recovery. That is because there are many benefits associated with CBD oil. Here are the most important benefits of CBD for athletes:
Inflammation is part of the natural response to injury and is closely linked to your body’s immune system responses. When your body detects damage, specialized cells send blood and other fluids to the area to help heal the damaged area. But this inflammatory response can also cause swelling and pain in the area.
The results of a 2009 study² concluded that CBD suppresses the body’s inflammatory response and symptoms by acting on multiple anti-inflammatory pathways. This is great news for athletes, who are always at risk of suffering injuries and minor muscle strains from intense exercise. Instead of using anti-inflammatory medications that increase your risk of stomach problems, using CBD for inflammation is a helpful choice to combat inflammation associated with exercise.
Soreness is the result of inflammation and micro-tears of the muscle tissue. It can also be caused by an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles. Your muscles can experience over-exertion and release a series of inflammatory mediators and something called Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. This can become irritating even in the normal muscle tearing process that contributes to building muscle. However, a 2015 scientific review³ found that CBD helps to reduce post-workout muscle soreness as well, by making the pain more manageable and speeding up muscle recovery.
So, athletes undergoing long and intense workout sessions and those who are starting to increase their physical activity levels and don’t want to feel muscle pain the day after could benefit from taking CBD for muscle soreness.
Muscle spasms and tightness
One of the main reasons that you feel tightness in your muscles or muscle spasms is inflammation. An irritated muscle activates a signal for muscle contraction as a defense mechanism against continued tissue damage. Research⁴ shows that by controlling and moderating the signals sent through the body CBD Oil reduces muscle spasms, muscle tightness, and muscle cramps. This is another useful application for athletes, especially in resistance sports, when there’s a high chance of muscle spasms.
Pain and injuries
One of the most useful applications of CBD oils has to do with pain. Sports might become a source of pain when you work out too hard and after enduring trauma. We all know sports-related injuries, and how they can impact athletes and their careers. Thankfully, CBD has been found in multiple studies⁴ to speed up recovery time, and increase pain threshold in athletes, which means that they reduce pain perception while their injury is addressed by medical professionals. A recent review of the scientific literature⁵ shows CBD oil is also a powerful vascular relaxant as well. Research⁶ has demonstrated that it helps manage muscle pain and reduces muscle spasms by calming your mind and body at the same time.
Stress & Focus
During an intense workout session, it is possible to experience inflammation. Muscles start to swell and significantly reduce their performance. Ultimately, athletes start feeling fatigued until they are no longer capable of sustaining exercise. As this happens, the body starts perceiving muscle strains and activates the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone tries to keep up with the stressful situation by reducing protein synthesis. As a result, you can experience muscle soreness and also a reduction of proteins available for muscle recovery as a result of intense and very long exercise sessions. Thankfully CBD also works to moderate the body’s reaction to stress and helps to moderate the flow of chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, according to a 2016 study⁷.
The simplified science of CBD oil for athletes
With an increasing number of mainstream athletes consuming CBD and the World Anti-Doping Agency’s greenlight, it is important to understand some of the other ways CBD works in the body.
Well, it works by activating the body’s endocannabinoid receptors. Because the endocannabinoid system naturally produces chemicals similar to the CBD you get from plants, CBD is able to moderate and act on the receptors. These endocannabinoid receptors are spread throughout the whole body and brain. Scientific reviews show that these widespread receptors help control many functions including, reduce stress, modulate the immune function, and reduce pain perception. According to a study⁸ appearing in the Journal of Pharmacological Reviews, scientists have also identified that the endocannabinoid system helps modulate the activities of neurons and promotes homeostasis (tendency to keep body functions in equilibrium).
As an athlete, you can experience greater stress on your muscles and body, leading to inflammation and pain outside of the normal range of ECS moderation. In this case, external cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) such as hemp-derived CBD interact with the body’s normal receptors to boost the activities of ECS for increased anti-inflammatory effects² and improving sleep quality⁹.
That is why the beneficial effects of CBD oil are so multipurpose and can help athletes relax their mind, reduce inflammation, modulating pain perception, and help muscles recover more effectively.
Combining CBD with other muscle relief options
As we have reviewed, CBD is a useful tool if you are an athlete undergoing intense exercise or long endurance sessions. It is far better to take CBD than using painkillers which have potentially harmful side effects with long term use.
However, it is still possible to use CBD oil for muscles and pain along with over-the-counter pain medications like Aleve or Aspirin if your symptoms are severe.
- CBD Oil Tinctures: Tinctures are consumed sublingually under the tongue. They are popular among athletes due to their relatively fast absorption into the body. CBD oil for golfers is especially popular!
- CBD Creams & Lotions: Do you want relief for a specific body part such as the calf muscles or biceps after a workout routine? CBD can be applied topically to provide long-lasting effects on the region.
- Pre-made CBD Edibles: For discrete consumption, a delightful taste, and long-lasting effects, CBD edibles such as chocolates or gummies are a favorite among some athletes.
Taking CBD oil for muscles and physical performance is an excellent choice for athletes as a way to reduce muscle-related pain and soreness. It is useful for athletes, especially those undergoing strenuous physical activity and long exercise sessions. It works by activating the endocannabinoid system without getting you high, and sending a series of messages to your brain and tissues to reduce inflammation, inducing muscle relaxation, and controlling stress levels.