Why More Athletes Are Adding CBD to Their Supplement Regimens
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a substance found naturally within the cannabis plant. It is the most plentiful cannabinoid in industrial hemp, a plant that until recently was grown primarily for its tough fibers and nutritious seeds. Although all forms of cannabis contain CBD, industrial hemp is special in that it doesn’t contain a significant amount of the better-known cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A distillate of industrial hemp, therefore, contains a large amount of CBD but has no intoxicating effects.
In the past decade or so, researchers have begun to study CBD more closely in an attempt to learn more about what its potential benefits might be. Ongoing research into the benefits of CBD has resulted in the creation of two prescription medications – and in the meantime, CBD oils from brands such as New Orleans-based Crescent Canna have become some of the world’s fastest-selling supplements.
Survey data suggests that people are using CBD for an enormous variety of purposes ranging from chronic pain and migraines to anxiety and insomnia – and increasingly, people are even beginning to use CBD without a specific health purpose; they’re simply using it to support overall wellness.
One of the biggest trends over the past couple of years is that many athletes have begun adding CBD to their supplement regimens to improve results and recovery times – and that’s what this article will explore. If you search the web, you’ll find no shortage of anecdotal evidence suggesting that athletes are getting great results with CBD – but does the science actually support that? Let’s see if we can get closer to the answer.
Why Are Athletes Using CBD as a Training Supplement?
We’ll begin by exploring the theoretical basis for using CBD as a training supplement. Why are so many athletes adding CBD to their supplement regimens?
Inflammation is the root of the answer to that question. Inflammation is a key part of the muscle building process. When you exercise, you’re breaking down muscle fibers. The tiny tears trigger your body’s inflammatory response, and your body uses the inflammation as a signal indicating that it needs to produce more muscle. After the recovery period, therefore, your muscles become larger and stronger.
Inflammation is necessary for building new muscle. The question, however, is this: How much inflammation is too much? Many athletes love strenuous workout regimens. The harder you work, after all, the more quickly you’ll see gains. The problem is that, if you’re perpetually sore, you’ll have to cut your workout sessions short. You may also have difficulty reaching your full potential because you’ll constantly do more damage to your muscles while they’re still busy trying to recover from previous workouts.
One of the benefits of CBD that researchers have determined fairly conclusively is that it reduces inflammation. We’ll discuss that in greater detail shortly. Therefore, one of the biggest reasons why so many athletes have begun using CBD is because they hope that the anti-inflammatory effect will allow them to work out more often and more strenuously by shortening their recovery times. Many people have turned to CBD as an alternative for over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen.
The other primary reason why so many athletes have begun taking CBD is simply for pain relief. Working out is a great deal less fun when you’re constantly sore – and when you have an injury, it’s even worse. Injuries aren’t just bad for athletes because they hurt. Being injured is also terrible for your workout routine because, if you’re hurt, you’ll have to pause your regimen – and that means you’re no longer gaining. Anything that gets you back in action more quickly can be enormously helpful.
So, that’s the anecdotal evidence supporting CBD as a supplement for athletes. What does the science say?
What Studies Support the Use of CBD for Athletic Recovery?
One of the most important things to know about CBD for athletes is that, while there have been many scientific studies focusing on CBD, those studies have so far centered around the cannabinoid’s potential medical benefits. You won’t find a study, in other words, suggesting that you should add CBD to your workout supplement regimen. So, you’ll have to look at the studies that do exist and read between the lines a little. These studies can potentially provide some clues.
- One of the largest medical reviews to date examining CBD’s potential as a treatment for chronic pain was published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2020. The review concluded that CBD shows promise as a pain treatment but noted that further research is required to determine the situations in which CBD is most likely to be an effective pain treatment.
- In 2019, the journal Antioxidants published a review of CBD as a compound for reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The review concluded that CBD may be useful for combating inflammation and helping the body initiate tissue repair.
- In 2016, the European Journal of Pain published the results of a study in which the joints of arthritic rats were treated with a transdermal CBD gel. The treatment reduced the circumference of the rats’ joints, providing clear physical evidence of anti-inflammatory action.
How to Use CBD as a Training Supplement
CBD does have a drawback as a supplement for athletes. Since it isn’t approved as a nutritional supplement by the FDA and can’t be marketed as an over-the-counter remedy for any purpose, you’re essentially on your own when it comes to deciding how to take CBD and how often to take it. You can, however, look at what other people are doing and decide whether it might be possible to adapt those methods to suit your purposes.
The most popular way to use CBD is by taking an oil-based tincture that’s held under the tongue for several seconds and then swallowed. If you want to use CBD as a workout supplement, you’ll almost definitely want to try oral CBD oil because sublingual administration promotes fast absorption and allows the CBD to circulate throughout your body.
You may also want to add a topical CBD product to your regimen as a way of applying CBD to specific muscles and muscle groups. As the arthritis study cited above suggests, topical CBD does seem to have the ability to reduce inflammation in targeted areas.