We live in a world where it is becoming harder to fully trust modern medicine, especially the pharma industry giant behind it. Each year more documentaries and research carried out by curious individuals emerge with cold showering truths about health organizations propagating messages to the crowds through dishonest campaigns that encourage the consumption of a certain aliment or pill. Or, even worse, being completely silent about recent discoveries on the influence of certain drugs or foods on the overall health, for the sake of not discouraging their massive consumption. This is what the functional fitness organization, CrossFit, is calling “The Mess”. In order to declutter the mess around a trending topic nowadays, in this article we aim to answer some of the most burning questions about the use of CBD for athletes and athletic performance.
This is what the functional fitness organization, CrossFit, is calling “The Mess”.
The fact that one’s health is not just a state of being, but the result of that person’s lifestyle, is an undeniable truth. Our bodies have their own internal balance that keeps us healthy. There are plenty of ways to cater to our balance through food, fitness, mindfulness, but keeping up with all these elements each day, every day can be a really hard job. Stress, pollution, the scarcity of time, poor quality sleep and lack of proper food or over-availability of highly processed food, are only some of the few causes that can produce imbalances in our bodies.
Luckily, fitness comes along with an entire set of healthy habits, from moving through eating to sleeping, and more importantly, having an open mind to search for ways that can continuously improve our health and wellbeing.
Let us dive into the recently discovered facts about CBD for athletes and performance in sports. We’re going to tell you what CBD is, what benefits it can bring to your life, and how to use it.
What is CBD?
Starting with the ‘90s, scientists have identified and researched what they call the endocannibinoid system (ECS). This is a system that modulates the activity of neurons. It exists in each and every one of us, ever since we are born. Contrary to what some might believe, this system exists without a person having to be exposed to cannabis.
According to scientists, the primary objective of the ECS is maintaining homeostasis, or the internal balance between physical and chemical conditions in our bodies. This happens by keeping neurotransmitter levels in check.
THC vs. CBD, what’s the difference?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid found naturally in the cannabis plant, among other approximately 100 cannabinoids. Unlike THC, which is also found in the cannabis plant, CBD is not psychoactive.
What research observed is that by consuming CBD, you are actually increasing the activity of your body’s existing endocannabinoid system, basically meaning reinstating or fortifying the balance in your body.
Active people apply greater stress on their bodies. This normally leads to pain and inflammation greater than what your endocannabinoid system can handle. Consuming CBD from an external source helps your overloaded system get your neurotransmitters back under control. Thus, CBD helps athletes maintain homeostasis.
Can athletes take CBD oil?
The answer is yes. CBD is legal for normal consumption in all 50 states of the US, as long as the content of THC is less than 0.3%. Similarly, in the European Union, in most states, the consumption of CBD is legal, as long as the product contains less than 0.3% THC.
The same is valid for competing athletes. In the beginning of the year 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances – in or out of competition. The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) did the same.
What does CBD oil do for athletes?
CBD oil has been adopted by athletes all around the world, so perhaps you’ve heard about its effects in reducing exercise-induced inflammation or achieving better quality sleep. If you’re still skeptical about the things you’ve heard, then the explanations below should help you understand how CBD is actually working for athletes and what effects you can expect from taking it. We’ve identified 6 benefits that CBD has for athletes and we’ve broken down the science to make it easily digestible and crystal clear.
6 proven benefits of CBD for athletes
1. Pain relief
Throughout time, studies have repeatedly shown cannabis as an effective method of reducing pain, including musculoskeletal pain from exercise, as well as stiff joints. More recently, isolated CBD has been proven to have the same effect. Many athletes already confirmed feeling a major pain relief after using high-quality CBD oil.
In case of a sports related injury, you can use CBD to relieve pain. Many CB1 and CB2 receptors (part of the endocannabinoid system) are located in nociceptive (pain-regulating) areas of the central nervous system. When pain strikes, they are increasingly activated and contribute to relief. Like this you’ll be fit for your next training or competition more quickly.
2. Reduced anxiety and stress
CBD is known to be rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown successful usage in treating a variety of medical conditions such as anxiety, psychosis, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and seizures. The best part of it all: CBD does not lead to addiction.
Already in 2015 a preclinical study highlighted CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, OCD (obsessive–compulsive disorder) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Scott Keatley, a registered dietitian and track and field coach in New York City says: “Those who are on long-term pain management regimens or long-term antidepressant therapy can attest to the fact medications lose potency after time. CBD oil has been found to reduce this loss in potency.”
3. Reduced inflammation
To a certain extent, inflammation is good for athletes because it helps stimulate positive training adaptations. However, too much inflammation makes it difficult to recover fast and hurts performance. CBD’s anti-inflammatory effect is reducing cytokine (cell messengers) production. In other words, CBD helps tone down the response when your immune system sounds the alarm after a hard training.
When taken regularly, CBD can provide a systemic relief of inflammation. There are studies that have shown that CBD can be up to twenty times more potent in reducing inflammation, compared to ibuprofen. Which leads us to the next idea…
4. An alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs
A few decades ago, consuming ibuprofen, like Advil or naproxen sodium, like Aleve, was seen as a perfectly fine way to get rid of inflammation, as long as the pills were non-steroidal and bought in licensed drug stores and pharmacies. However, recent studies have shown that these pills are not as safe as they have been considered thus far. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are considered to increase the risk of renal damage for athletes that are exposed to long training sessions or intense events. Moreover, frequent and long term use of such drugs may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Recently, more and more athletes that have been using CBD are saying that they’ve reduced or eliminated altogether their use of NSAIDs, without any notable side effects.
5. Eases your gut pain and discomfort
Endurance athletes often report pain discomfort in the small and large intestines. Often times this leads to dropping out of competitions or events. While CBD will not attenuate problems related to dehydration and overheating, it will calm down your gut inflammation issues during or after exercise, due to the CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the colon.
6. Improve the quality of your sleep
One major factor in improving athletic results and the general wellbeing is your quality of sleep. So far, athletes who consume CBD have reported much more ease in going to sleep and waking up feeling more well rested and with a higher level of energy.
The reason for this could be CBD inhibiting the reuptake of adenosine. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) breaks down as your brain burns carbohydrates for energy, and adenosine gradually accumulates in the brain. More adenosine binding to neurons inhibits the release of neurotransmitters, slowing down brain activity. Because of this, you start feeling calmer, and the sensation of sleep appears. Your body metabolizes adenosine as you sleep, and a little later, low concentrations of adenosine help you wake up and the process starts again.
By binding to the same receptors adenosine would bind to, CBD may inhibit adenosine reuptake, which helps it accumulate more quickly and makes you feel sleepy sooner.
Iconic athletes and personalities using and supporting CBD
Mike Tyson has been perhaps one of the most voiced athletes about the benefits CBD products, and openly admitted using CBD regularly. MMA fighter Nate Diaz is another high level athlete that has actively shown his support for CBD, declaring he uses CBD for training, before and after fights, and stating that “it will make your life a better place”. The NFL player Derrick Morgan is another example of a high profile athlete that openly supports the use of CBD products among his teammates and the general population.
Artists taking CBD
Perhaps one of the biggest CBD advocates is the actor and producer Morgan Freeman. He openly admits using CBD daily to fight his chronic pain caused by Fibromyalgia. World acclaimed singer Rihanna has been actively lobbying for better laws and regulations for CBD products. Michael J Fox, Seth Rogan and Melissa Etheridge are only a few of the other celebrities actively supporting using CBD for improving the quality of life.
CrossFitters using CBD
As the word spreads around the globe about the effects of CBD on athletes and the general population, plenty of functional fitness athletes are embracing the trend. Worth mentioning are elite athlete Brooke Ence, who has been taking CBD for almost a year now. Known for not shying away from voicing her opinions, Brooke has been praising the effects of CBD on her training routine and life ever since. 5 times Games athlete Noah Ohlsen and 4 times Games athlete Alex Anderson are two other examples of pro athletes who are constantly sharing the effects they’re noticing after using CBD for training and recovery.
How to use CBD?
The market is getting populated with new CBD products every week. From oils to topical creams or capsules, you can find them all. Moreover, big brands are incorporating CBD into their mass market products – such as infused drinks or desserts. The way you choose to consume CBD will affect how quickly you experience the effects.
The reality is that the best and fastest way for your body to absorb CBD is “full spectrum” or “isolate” drops that can be placed under your tongue. This way CBD is absorbed in the mouth through the mucous membranes and can unfold its effects more efficiently.
Full spectrum CBD products contain CBD and other compounds found in the original plant, which could include very small amounts of THC, neither dangerous nor psychoactive. Products that contain CBD isolate should only contain CBD.
CBD dosing for athletes
When it comes to dosing, there is no standard dose that delivers exact effects to all the people in the same way. The entire CBD industry is only now getting regulated, so many products might claim CBD on the label for marketing purposes, but actually, contain an insignificant amount in reality.
What we recommend is looking for products that will show you how many milligrams of CBD are contained in one dose or serving. Once you decided on your CBD oil, you should start with a small amount, such as 1 millilitre or 10 milligrams of CBD and increase the dose gradually over the course of a few days until you reach your desired effects.
The amount will depend on your body weight, your metabolism and the area you need help with. Once you achieve your desired effect you no longer need to increase the dose. We recommend using regularly the dose that proved to be efficient for you, and enjoying all the effects and benefits your body will absorb from this extract.
To conclude this article, we want to answer two of the most frequently asked questions by athletes who want to start using CBD:
Does CBD help with muscle recovery?
CBD is known to reduce inflammation and muscle spasms, relieve pain and anxiety. Thus, there is no question that it can be a great supplement for people who like training and exercising intensively.
CBD oil is considered one of the best anti-inflammatory supplements on the market today, as it allows muscles to heal and get stronger than traditional products. As mentioned above, CBD also helps people improve their sleep at night, which is the time for muscles to recover.
Does CBD affect athletic performance?
If inflammation, pain or anxiety are limiting your performance, then CBD will very likely help you overcome them. It is becoming clearer that there are benefits from the anti-inflammatory properties in CBD for athletes training for long periods of time. Recovering better means training more. Training more means getting stronger, leaner, faster and closer to reaching your exercising goals.
In case you have suffered from an injury, recent discoveries show that there is a big probability you will experience a faster recovery with the proper CBD dosage.