Since the legalization of Cannabidiol (CBD) in 2018, various professions have been researching the benefits and uses of this natural compound, specifically with regards to athletic performance. Before diving into how CBD may affect athletic performance, let’s start with the basics.
And remember, this article doesn’t just apply to professional athletes. It speaks to any high-functioning, fitness-conscious individual with a work hard, play hard mentality, who wants to be sharp and firing on all cylinders whether that’s in the boardroom or at the gym.
What is CBD?
It turns out, cannabinoids actually already exist in our human bodies. In fact, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex system of endocannabinoids that regulate sleep, mood, appetite, memory, immune system, and more. The naturally produced cannabinoids in our bodies interact with the ECS to control how we feel. When we take CBD, we are essentially supplementing or increasing the activity of the ECS by blocking the breakdown of our own endocannabinoids. In other words, CBD helps to balance out the deficiencies that may arise due to high mental and physical stress.
Is CBD legal for athletes?
Yes, but do be sure to understand the testing standards of your particular sport or workplace. At the beginning of 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances, both in and out of competition, and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) did the same. With that said, if you are subject to collegiate or professional sports rules make sure to check with the appropriate governing body as some organizations do not use WADA/USADA guidelines.
What are the benefits of CBD for athletes?
As an athlete, you’re pushing your body beyond its limits - soreness and discomfort after an intense exercise is the norm. This is your body’s signal of muscle inflammation, and it is this pain that precedes muscle growth and strength. You want to push past that, but definitely not at the risk of hindering recovery and hurting performance. This pain and inflammation can be greater than what your ECS can handle on its own, and that’s where the exogenous CBD comes in to get your neurotransmitters back under control and help maintain homeostasis. With the help of a quality CBD supplement, you’re on the way to building strength, endurance, and ensuring an effective recovery. Athletes benefit from CBD use across the following domains:
1) Prevent/ Reduce Inflammation
Cannabinoids binding to CB2 receptors may have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing cytokine (cell messenger) production, and effectively dialing down the response of the immune system after a difficult workout. This anti-inflammatory effect can ensure that less injury or muscle strain occurs.
2) Speed Up Recovery
Along the lines of its anti-inflammatory effect, CBD is associated with relieving pain and, therefore, speeding up the recovery process.
3) Increase Muscle Gain
Enhanced recovery processes and chronic inflammation mitigation allow for athletes to build muscle mass more quickly and efficiently.
4) Improve Sleep Quality
Getting not only more sleep but also more quality sleep is key to better performance. CBD may help reduce stress and anxiety, helping you to feel calmer and to achieve a more restful night’s sleep. This may be the result of CBD inhibiting the reuptake of adenosine, which when bound to neurons, inhibits the release of neurotransmitters that slow down brain activity and induce sleep.
Cutting edge CBD research shows CBD to possess promising benefits for athletes with few downsides. It can be a game-changer in how athletes perform and recover while reducing dependency on over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids.