Can CBD Help with Athlete Recovery?
Kirsten Thornhill |
CAN CBD AID IN ATHLETE RECOVERY?
For high-level athletes, and those of us who strive for excellence, the search for performance-boosting or post-performance-relaxing alternatives can be challenging. Supplements have to conform to anti-doping regulations, be safe, and preferably natural to be given the go-ahead in sport.
Enter: CBD. Cannabis and CBD have quickly become the center of attention in light of recent events with athletes and controversy - at the Olympic, collegiate, and professional levels.
With athletes claiming and suggesting benefits of using CBD as an accelerated recovery tool for injury, calmer and deeper sleep, mental clarity and relaxation, and reduced muscle pain, how can researchers, coaches, and medical professionals not be curious to learn more about this potentially therapeutic, natural, and organic alternative for athletes?
CBD products targeting both recreational and elite athletes, including Nanocraft CBD, have already been embraced by athletes across the world.
But here’s the kicker: is CBD the hype or the hustle here? Is there evidence-based research to support that CBD can help athletes or improve their recovery time? Or are these simply anecdotal claims that the media has put out?
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty, it’s go time.
WHAT IS CBD?
CBD is the medical short-term for cannabidiol, a non-pyschoactive compound derived from the cannabis plant.
CBD is just one of 100+ phytocannabinoids present in cannabis. Unlike the other well-known cannabinoid commonly referred to as THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD is non-psychotropic: it will not get users high. This is because CBD contains less than 0.3% THC.
To date, there have been consistent findings across studies, suggesting that cannabidiol has a safe profile, is well-tolerated, lacks toxicity, is non-addictive, and non-intoxicating with no reinforcing properties.
Not only is this natural, organic plant derivative making bold headlines in medical journals and articles, but it’s also popping up in just about any and every athlete’s performance routine.
So does CBD help athletes perform? Is it more so a mental relaxant? Does it help with sore muscles?
Let’s get to the bread and butter already, or should I say the topicals to the tightness?
DOES CBD GET USERS HIGH?
CBD does not get you high, if it is hemp-derived cannabidiol, with less than 0.3% THC.
We describe that very specifically because some CBD oils may contain levels of THC as well. THC may provide users with euphoric effects, thus, you may feel “high”.
Knowing what is in your CBD products and what part of the plant the oil is derived from is key! CBD that is taken from the hemp plant is considered legal in the US, again, only if it contains little to no THC (0.0-0.3%).
Again, CBD is the non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. It does not directly bind with cannabinoid receptors, thus, users don’t feel mind-altering effects.
IS CBD LEGAL?
CBD is legal just about everywhere, well almost. The reality of THC getting people high has created much legal controversy and skepticism around CBD.
Keep in mind - CBD can be derived from both marijuana and hemp plants. Not all CBD has created equal here, however. The main difference between marijuana-derived CBD and hemp-derived CBD comes down to the differences between the two plants.
According to current federal laws, CBD must be extracted from the hemp plant in order to be legally obtained. To legally access CBD extracted from marijuana, it would need to be obtained in a legal state, such as California, Oregon, Washington, or Colorado.
All NanoCraft products fit the bill of being THC-free or <0.3% THC. If you are unsure of the THC content, you can contact us for more information. We also readily have available our third-party laboratory testing results ready for each product on our website.
WHAT ABOUT THC? IS IT LEGAL?
THC may exert a high in users, yes. Since THC is psychoactive, it binds directly with cannabinoid receptors, which may be a plausible reason why users describe feeling euphoria.
Some “strains” of THC may provide effects that tend to be more uplifting, suggesting better usage of THC during daytime use.
Furthermore, THC is still illegal in most states. There are grey areas here though, as some states only allow medical usage of marijuana via a medical marijuana card (i.e. Utah, Montana), while others have legalized the use of THC recreationally and medically (i.e. California, Colorado).
CBD AND THE ATHLETE: HOW DOES IT WORK?
CBD for athletes can work in a multitude of ways, depending on the administration method (i.e. oils, topicals, edibles), athlete’s individual physiological characteristics (i.e. body weight, age, sex, metabolism), dosage (i.e. 25 mg - 600 mg), and frequency of use (i.e. 1 x week, 5 x week).
Interested in learning more, check out this related article: How Long Does CBD Stay in Your System?
4 WAYS CBD CAN HELP ATHLETE RECOVERY
Cognitive function and thermoregulation appear to be unaltered by CBD usage, while the effects on metabolic function, food intake, and cardiovascular function require further exploration.
CBD may exert physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects, with potential for benefit, in athletes. However, further research is warranted.
Here are 4 potential ways that CBD may help aid in athlete recovery.
1. REDUCE INFLAMMATION
Recently published as of last year, a 2020 research article discussed the research and benefits of endocannabinoids for athletes. Researchers pointed out that preclinical trials have shown CBD as having anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anxiolytic properties. Thus, they concluded that CBD can be considered a promising compound to help athletes manage injuries, stress, or anxiety.
This article suggests that CBD may be a promising compound for athletes, helping them manage stress, anxiety, and injury.
2. REDUCE SORENESS
A 2020 original investigation examined the influence of CBD oil on delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Twenty-three trained athletes completed a lower extremity exercise-induced muscle damaged (EIMD) protocol prior to taking either CBD, MCT, or null (none).
The CBD group reported significant differences in visual analog scale (VAS) scores post-EIMD: at 24-hours, 48-hours, and 72-hours post-EIMD. At 96-hours post-EIMD, the CBD group reported VAS scores closer to pre-EIMD levels than compared to the MCT or null groups.
Researchers suggested that CBD appeared to have a significant influence on muscle soreness when consumed immediately after strenuous exercise.
3. MENTAL CLARITY
Published in 2004, an endocannabinoid and exercise review was published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers discussed just how endurance exercise activated the endocannabinoid system, suggesting that there may be a new mechanism underlying exercise-induced alterations of an athlete’s mental status.
This 2004 research review discussed findings that exhibited that exercise increased concentrations of endocannabinoids, suggesting that cannabinoids produce psychological states that closely parallel the “runner’s high”.
4. ENHANCE OVERALL WELLNESS
A 2019 study investigated cannabis use in 1,161 active athletes. Athletes were given a survey asking about their cannabis use, including if they used cannabidiol (CBD) as well as how frequently or not frequently they used cannabis. Researchers reported that those athletes that used CBD exhibited the most benefit to improved calmness and well-being, with minimal adverse effects.
This study suggested that CBD may provide athletes the most benefit to well-being and calm.
CBD AND ATHLETE RECOVERY: FINAL THOUGHTS
As you’ve read, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, unknown effects, and unevidenced support about CBD and its impact/effect on athletes. However, initial research does indicate promise for improvement with muscle soreness and anti-inflammatory effects - definitely worth more investigating and exploration.
Whether or not athletes use CBD for physical or mental alleviation, the anecdotal support sending positive reviews and breaking the weed stigma in our culture are ones to not take lightly.
Until more studies come out, continue to do your research and talk with your physician about potential cannabis options fit for you. We’re well on our way athletes! Stay strong.
Dietrich, A. & McDaniel, W. F. (2004). Endocannabinoids and exercise. Br J Sports Med.
Gamelin, F. X., Cuvelier, G., Mendes, A., et al. (2020). Cannabidiol in sport: Ergogenic or else? Pharmacological Research.
Hatchett, A., Armstrong, K., Hughes, B., & Parr, B. (2020). The influence of cannabidiol on delayed onset of muscle soreness. International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health, 7(2), 89-94.
Zieger, J. S., Silvers, W. S., Fleegler, E. M., et al. (2019). Cannabis use in active athletes: Behaviors related to subjective effects. PLoS ONE.
*DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is for educational purposes only. It does not exploit or provide medical advice of any kind. Therefore, any reliance you place on the information below is strictly at your own risk. Please check with your medical provider before starting or changing a CBD routine.
Content Writer | Physiologist | ResearcherKirsten is currently a PhD student studying Health Sciences at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) in Provo, Utah, specializing in Human Physiology. She is a Research Assistant at RMUoHP in the Human Performance Lab as well as a Research and Development Writer for Nanocraft CBD. She is passionate about the influence of cannabis and CBD in sport as well as the benefits of lifetime movement on health and wellness.