Despite past concern over combining the two, we now know that cannabinoids and sport are intrinsically intertwined.
When we exercise, be that at an amateur or professional level, our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids to help boost performance, endurance and recovery. In fact, many experts now believe that the famous ‘runners high’ we experience when pushing ourselves to the limit (in a good way!) is actually more to do with these than other chemicals like endorphins.
So, it makes sense that CBD can be used as an exceptional sports supplement.
Thankfully, this has now been so widely recognised that CBD is officially legal to use in accordance with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulations, particularly products certified by the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG) – a program which checks for 276 drugs on the WADA Prohibited List and 220 over-the-counter, illicit, or prescription drugs, as well as heavy metals, pesticides, solvents and microbiological agents.
If you’re thinking about adding CBD to your fitness routine or sport of choice, you’re probably wondering what this supplement has to give. After all, how can something used as a sleep aid also serve as an energy stimulus? And is the muscle recovery potential all it’s cracked up to be? We’re here to explain all.
Using CBD to Support Muscle Recovery
You know those savage muscle aches you can get after an intense workout? That’s something called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, which occurs when your muscles are healing, strengthening and growing. It’s to be expected, and through the pain many even find it strangely enjoyable to some degree. But, past a certain point, it can be somewhat debilitating and even prevent you from making gains and reaching goals during your next session.
However, CBD oil (or transdermal CBD products) may help take that pain down from unbearable, to satisfying. This occurs via multiple mechanisms:
The Endocannabinoid System
As you’ll have already learned by reading our deep dive into the endocannabinoid system (ECS), this complex network that spans the entire body is our homeostatic regulator. Its receptors can be found just about everywhere, from every skin cell, into our muscles, throughout our other physiological systems and right down into our mitochondrial cell walls.
This system plays a vital role in not only getting the most out of your sports performance, but recovery too – in a variety of ways. And its function is supported by CBD oil.
ECS receptors can be found throughout the immune system, which controls the inflammation response. Because of this, the activation and workings of the ECS plays a big role in reducing the inevitable inflammation caused by intense physical exercise (resulting in muscle pain).
Our ECS can be activated by both our endocannabinoids (Anandamide & 2-AG), and phytocannabinoids from the hemp plant CBD oil is derived from.
When you exercise, you produce endocannabinoids to help bring your body back into balance – this is actually now thought to be the main thing behind the euphoric ‘runners high’ sensation. When you take CBD, you also support the natural synthesis and release of both endocannabinoids. By using a full spectrum product, which contains a range of cannabinoids including CBG and sometimes even THC at a very low level, you also directly the ECS with phytocannabinoids for an extra helping hand.
By reducing inflammation and supporting the healing process, you will still reap the benefits but in less discomfort.
Anti-Oxidants for Sports Recovery
As well as producing anti-inflammatory effects, the widespread distribution of our ECS receptors with endocannabinoids or phytocannabinoids may also regulate oxidative stress, therefore producing anti-oxidant effects. Some experts believe taking anti-oxidant supplements or enjoying an anti-oxidant rich diet can help relieve muscle soreness and restore muscle function.
Encourage Muscle Growth
Taking a regular dose of CBD oil could also assist with building muscle - something most of us are striving for when working out to achieve a strong, healthy body, not just body builders! Research has indicated that when the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is activated, it produces an anti-catabolic response which prevents the body losing muscle mass.
Transdermal CBD Products
Many athletes like to use transdermal CBD product on their muscles and joints both before and after exercising, for localised relief and rebalancing. As our ECS receptors can be found throughout all muscles, skin cells and bones, applying a CBD product is a good way to target specific receptors.
Some studies have shown that CBD can reduce muscle spasticity and accelerate muscle recovery via transdermal products.
An Unexpected Energy Boost
Although CBD is perhaps best known for it’s relaxing capabilities, this molecule can be used to boost energy – particularly when combined with stimulating terpenes and other adaptogens. In fact, Canabidiol (CBD) was dubbed a potential ‘wake-promoting agent’ in a 2014 study published in Current Neuropharmacology.
Further research needs to be conducted to fully understand why this is, but experts believe it’s likely to be down the way CBD directly activates serotonin and dopamine receptors, the support of a bliss-inducing flow of endocannabinoid anandamide, while the activation of the ECS helps to regulate of blood sugar levels and cortisol release.
Incredibly, this is really just touching on the ways that CBD oil can support a better workout and balanced body overall! It’s no wonder that so many professional athletes all over the world are making this supplement a mainstay in their gym bag.