CBD (cannabidiol) is an extract from cannabis and hemp plants and is gaining interest in the world of sports for its potential recovery benefits. Many professional athletes – American footballers, boxers, jiu-jitsu practitioners and MMA fighters past and present (Nate Diaz, Yair Rodriguez, Cub Swanson, Quinton Jackson, Bas Rutten) in particular – are turning to CBD as a healthier, non-addictive and side-effect-free alternative to opioids and ibuprofen.
Athletes have discovered that taking a CBD supplement can aid wellbeing and recovery time and WADA has removed CBD oil from its list of banned substances in recognition of its many legitimate health benefits. (It should be noted that THC – even in the trace amounts found in many full-spectrum oils – remains prohibited).
Before we look at the health benefits of CBD, let us clear up some misconceptions.
- CBD is not cannabis. Cannabis is a plant; CBD is just one of over 100 compounds found in that plant (and hemp). (In fact, all legal CBD oil in the UK comes from industrial hemp, not cannabis).
- CBD does not get you “high” – the psychoactive part of cannabis is THC, not CBD. THC is primarily recreational (with health effects), CBD is primarily medicinal.
- CBD is non-addictive and safe. You cannot overdose from CBD (what your body doesn’t use it excretes) and no one has ever died from cannabis. The same cannot be said for alcohol, for example.
How can a simple oil do so much? Good question. The fact is, CBD is not “doing” anything except supporting the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS). It’s the ECS that produces all the remarkable health benefits.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
There are many systems in the body – immune, respiratory, immunity, reproductive etc. One lesser known system is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is responsible for maintaining optimal balance (“homeostasis“) throughout your body and it uses cannabinoids like CBD to do this. The ECS helps balance mood, sleep, immunity, pain response and many other systems. In other words, CBD helps your body help itself.
When the ECS runs low on CBD, the body’s systems become unbalanced. The result can be disease, chronic health problems and illness.
Keep the ECS supplied with CBD and it will do its job of bringing your body back into balance. The result? Many users report feeling better and “getting their life back”. A balanced body means better health.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of CBD for exercise.
CBD aids faster, natural recovery
Many athletes take CBD as part of a pain management protocol, including reducing concussion-related symptoms and inflammation. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6116792/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6043845/)
CBD can reduce recovery time and help athletes get back to peak performance levels quicker. Researchers believe CBD interacts with receptors in your brain and immune system. Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells that receive chemical signals from different stimuli and help your cells respond. This creates anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects that help with pain management. This means that CBD oil may benefit people with chronic pain.
One review assessed how good CBD works to relieve chronic pain. The review looked at studies conducted between the late 1980s and 2007. Based on these reviews, researchers concluded CBD was effective in overall pain management without adverse side effects. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2503660/)
CBD helps improve sleep
CBD can help athletes to get better sleep which is essential for strong recovery and general wellbeing. CBD has been shown to be an anxiolytic (anti-stress, anti-anxiety) compound and can reduce cortisol levels to help athletes achieve a stress-free mental state before, during and after competitions and workouts. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28349316)
During sleep, your body produces human growth hormone. Human growth hormone plays an essential role in building muscles, burning fat, and increasing energy. When you do not get enough sleep, you produce less of this essential hormone. Less human growth hormone results in poorer results from your workouts, less muscle growth and less fat burning. So, lack of sleep results in a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in the chance of injuries and other problems associated with muscle atrophy.
CBD also help people that were having trouble falling asleep to stay asleep longer throughout the night. This is extremely useful as many athletes have trouble remaining asleep after an intense workout.
If you are feeling excited and revved up after a visit to the gym, CBD may be the perfect natural supplement to incorporate into your routine to experience a healthy improvement in sleep and, with that, an increase in muscle recovery and growth.
CBD’s powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties speed recovery
Do your muscles ache after a hard roll? CBD aids in the recovery process by regulating various vanilloid receptors (molecular gateways to the pain response) throughout the body. The vanilloid receptors impact the inflammation response with less inflammation and soreness. With reduced pain and inflammation, recovery is faster allowing the athlete to return to strenuous exercise without a decrease in performance. (Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319475.php)
CBD helps you increase workout duration and intensity
CBD can also help athletes work out longer. CBD slows the uptake of anandamide – the so-called bliss molecule – in your body. Anandamide is responsible for producing the feeling of runner’s high or elevated feelings of well-being after exercise. It (together with serotonin) makes us feel good and happy. The body naturally begins producing and releasing anandamide when you start exercising.
CBD helps prolong the effects of anandamide by blocking receptors that recycle anandamide after it has been produced. So, through this action, CBD allows more anandamide to be present longer in the body and resulting in longer-lasting feelings of contentment, happiness and calm. (Source: https://bebrainfit.com/anandamide/)
The exercise euphoria that comes in the middle of your workout, allows you to workout longer because you feel good as the result of additional anandamide. You will be able to keep going in the gym when in the past you may have stopped. This will help you reach your fitness goals and get in better shape.
Do you suffer from competition nerves? CBD can help
CBD can reduce stress and nervousness on the day of a competition. All these nervous feelings come from the release of cortisol and adrenaline in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that is produced in the adrenal Gland and is released during periods of high stress like an intense argument, extreme exercise or any sort of traumatic event.
Elevated cortisol levels also have an impact on your quality of life: reduced learning ability; reduced immune function; weight gain; increased risk for depression; risk of increased blood pressure. All of these issues can have a detrimental impact on performance in any type of competition as well as your general wellbeing.
In a study, published by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, scientists discovered that subjects that took CBD experienced a reduction in cortisol levels. (Source: https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8257923)
Because of the many negative health effects of cortisol, by taking CBD to reduce its levels, you can achieve a mental state that is more equipped to handle the stressors of competition.
Conclusion: Benefits of CBD
The overall benefits of CBD for athletes include:
- Pain and inflammation management
- Better sleep
- Faster recovery
- Better mental performance and clarity
- Non-addictive, side-effect-free and safe
Try incorporating CBD into your training regimen and experience for yourself the wonderful benefits it has to offer.