Did you know many pro-athletes are now using CBD for recovery?
Whether you’re a pro-athlete, a retired athlete, or someone who spends their nights and weekends pushing their physical potential to the max, you’re intimately familiar with the variety of things that can throw off your game.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), injuries, pain, trouble sleeping, and illness are just a handful of the factors that can get in the way of you and what matters most: being able to recover and perform at your very best. This is why we all spend countless hours learning … How much protein should I get? Should I be intermittent fasting every day? What are the best supplements that I can take to expedite muscle synthesis?
Early research and plenty of stories around the internet suggest that CBD might be a sort of panacea for athletes. From mood regulation to fighting inflammation, this wonder-molecule is being used by some of the fittest people around in the hopes of supporting healing and optimal performance.
WHAT IS CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) is a type of phytonutrient (a compound found in plants that supports human health) found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Specifically, it’s one of around 100 cannabinoids in cannabis. These compounds, which include the well-known mind-altering compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), are unique when it comes to how they interact with the bodies of humans and other vertebrates.
Over the last many years, hundreds of studies have been published on cannabinoids, particularly THC and CBD. By interacting with a system in our bodies known as the endocannabinoid system, these phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids that come from plants) can reach cells throughout our bodies, including those in our brains and our immune systems.
Thanks to this interaction, CBD and THC are capable of impacting vertebrate health in many ways. These range from helping with pain and seizures to impacting cognitive function and mood.
THE UNIQUE PROPERTIES OF CBD
- Anti-inflammation: CBD might be able to reduce inflammation in the body, such as that from chronic inflammatory diseases or injuries.
- Analgesic: This means that CBD can reduce the sensation of pain.
- Antioxidant: Free radicals are molecules that can damage our cells, with damage leading to conditions like cancer. Antioxidants reduce free-radical induced harm.
- Anti-psychotic: This type of compound may be able to help those with mental health conditions.
- Anxiolytic: CBD has shown potential in reducing the subjective feelings and physiological manifestations of anxiety and stress.
- Antiseizure: For some types of seizure disorders, CBD can help to reduce the frequency of seizures.
- Neuroprotective: Neuroprotective compounds protect the health and function of our brains and the resulting cognitive abilities.
- Blood flow enhancer: CBD may be able to boost blood flow, therefore increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, including to the brain and muscles.
It’s important to understand, however, that most of the properties listed above have been found in preliminary animal studies, not human clinical trials. While these studies provide clues as to what CBD might do in the human body, more studies in humans themselves are needed to confirm if these benefits carry over.
As researchers continue to investigate CBD, we will learn which of these benefits apply to the human body, and exactly what kinds of effects it can have.
WHY ELITE ATHLETES ARE TURNING TO CBD FOR RECOVERY
CBD may help speed recovery
There are many times when our bodies need to recover. The most common is after a game or a hard workout, but we also have to recover physically from injuries like concussions or sprained ankles.
The one thing that our bodies need to do to expedite recovery is to slow down an overactive inflammatory response. This is why we do things like ice injuries, get sports massages, and use compression tape.
Because CBD has demonstrated an ability to combat inflammation, it might be able to help us heal faster. This can be particularly important if you are struggling with DOMS, an injury, or when you have back-to-back games that necessitate rapid recovery.
Additionally, the antioxidant and blood-flow enhancing effects of CBD could help to reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and deliver oxygen and nutrients to healing muscles.
CBD might reduce pain
If you’re an athlete, you understand the constant battle between performance and pain. Much of the pain that you experience is inflammatory pain, which is pain that occurs from microtears in your muscle or from an injury.
The most common way to treat inflammatory pain are a class of drugs known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). With long-term or excessive use of NSAIDs tied to a variety of health concerns, many athletes do without or try to limit their use.
In animal studies, CBD has demonstrated an ability to reduce inflammatory pain in rats. Because there have been no human clinical trials, it’s up to each of us to determine whether or not CBD helps to relieve pain. You will find many first-hand accounts of people using CBD oil for pain.
CBD may help some people sleep
Getting enough shut-eye is critical when it comes to optimal athletic recovery. It’s during deep sleep that our bodies are capable or diverting resources to allow the healing needed following a vigorous workout.
Anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders like insomnia can hinder sleep. When you’re unable to sleep for any reason, you won’t be able to recover as quickly. Some researchers have hypothesized that CBD might be able to help those with anxiety and sleep disorders sleep better.
A small human study found that CBD helped those with REM sleep behavior disorder, allowing them to sleep better throughout the night. Another study published this year found that CBD helped to reduce anxiety in those in a psychiatric clinic over three months, but the effect on sleep was not as definitive.
Even though there is no conclusive evidence supporting CBD’s role in human sleep, the research so far suggests that CBD doesn’t negatively impact sleep in the healthy population, and that some people might benefit from using CBD for sleep.
CBD might help those with chronic traumatic encephalopathy
Athletic recovery isn’t just about performing well in the next competition. For some, damage that adds up over the years can lead to chronic conditions. This is especially true for retired professional football players, as years of head injuries can take a toll long after they’ve stopped playing football.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a condition caused by repetitive head trauma. The chronic inflammation and neurodegeneration can lead to cognitive difficulties like memory troubles, mood disorders like depression, and eventually, to motor dysfunction similar to that in Parkinson’s disease patients.
In a study that examined the brains of deceases football players, it was discovered that 99% showed signs of CTE. And it’s not only football players, but boxer and those in the military, that are at risk of this disease.
Researchers have found that a combination of THC and CBD can help to treat CTE symptoms, such as psychosis, headache, nausea, and mood difficulties. And some believe that CBD itself might be helpful thanks to its neuroprotective effects.
Now that you know why CBD might offer benefits for athletic recovery, the question is, how do they use it?
The most common way to take CBD oil is orally by using a CBD oil tincture or a capsule. Oral CBD is particularly beneficial because it allows for distribution throughout your body, allowing a multitude of possible benefits.
This is contrary to topical CBD, which are products like salves and lotions that are applied directly to your skin. While this type of CBD might prove useful for things like an injury or arthritis, using it alongside oral CBD will allow additional effects of CBD for recovery in other areas of your body.
You can also find smokable CBD products like vape pens of hemp flower. These offer the highest bioavailability (meaning that more of the CBD is used by your body), however, its safety and dosage have not been researched as thoroughly as oral CBD.
More athletes are coming out of the woodwork, sharing their experiences with their dedicated fan base. Not long ago, CBD was banned by the World Doping Agency, and thus using it could have gotten professional athletes in trouble. This all changed in 2018.
You will now find elite athletes from all arenas who are supporters of CBD. Some have started their own companies, and many are hard at work furthering the legality and understanding of CBD. These include (among many others):
- Julie Anthony (pro tennis)
- Tatum Bell (NFL)
- Brita Schwerm Bolane (pro volleyball)
- Shannon Briggs (pro boxing)
- Steve Cantwell (mixed martial arts)
- Avery Collins (Ultramarathoner)
- Julian Davidson (pro skater)
- San Juanita Fetuuaho (Rugby)
- Greta Gaines (pro snowboarding)
- Al Harrington (NBA)
As you can see, professional sports players from many backgrounds are coming together to support the use of CBD for elite athletes.
If you would like to try CBD yourself, the first step is finding a high-quality CBD oil product. Look for a product that offers third party lab-results, also known as a certificate of analysis (COA), that show the quantity of CBD and THC as well as other phytonutrients. All CBD products should be clearly labelled, making it easy to find the full list of ingredients and amount of hemp extract in each product.
Next, you will want to decide between full-spectrum hemp oil (FSHO) and CBD isolate. The general rule is that FSHO likely offers the greatest benefits, but CBD isolates are more cost effective. Additionally, you might want to look for a CBD oil products that contains 0% THC if you do undergo any type of drug testing. Be sure to check with the company that does testing to ensure that a 0% THC CBD oil won’t show up as a false positive.
Remember, most athletes will try an oral product like a full spectrum oil or hemp extract capsules for optimal effect throughout the body. Try starting with a small amount once or twice per day, and slowly increase your dosage until you find what works best for you.
FINAL THOUGHTS: USING CBD FOR ATHLETIC RECOVERY
With elite athletes standing behind CBD and other cannabis or hemp products for recovery, many weekend warriors are beginning to learn about the potential benefits of this plant compound. CBD might help to speed recovery from exercise-induced stress and injuries, and might help to expedite recovery in other ways as well, such as encouraging restful sleep.