Athletes put a lot of stress on their bodies. Training stress stimulates adaptation and increased performance, but physical trauma and prolonged wear and tear also lead to injuries and pain. In search of improved sports recovery and safer pain relief, many athletes are turning to cannabidiol or CBD.
Recognizing the beneficial uses of CBD the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances in 2018. The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) soon followed.
An Intro to CBD
Cannabinoids already exist in your body and the system they are within is the endocannabinoid system, referred to as the ECS. (Check out our separate blog on the ECS.) Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 300 Phytocannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis or hemp plant. CBD is not psychoactive.
The primary purpose of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis by keeping our endogenous cannabinoids in check. Consuming CBD increases the activity of your body’s existing endocannabinoid system.
As an athlete you apply greater stress to your body, leading to pain and inflammation greater than what your endocannabinoid system can handle. Adding exogenous CBD may help this overloaded system get your neurotransmitters back under control and help athletes maintain homeostasis. Find out more at madrigalcreatives.com/resources where we have many resources that further explain the many facets of CBD including an intro to CBD.
Benefits of CBD for Athletes
Studies have shown cannabis is effective for reducing pain, including musculoskeletal pain from exercise as well as stiff joints. Anecdotal evidence is also plentiful that most athletes have positive experiences with CBD and know other athletes whose pain has been managed and reduced by using CBD. Often, they find the pain-relieving effect of CBD can reduce or eliminate their use of NSAIDS for exercise-related pain with minimal side effects.
Too much inflammation in the body hinders recovery and hurts performance. Cannabinoids binding to CB2 receptors of the ECS have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing cytokine (cell messengers) production. In other words, CBD bound to CB2 receptors help dial down the inflammatory response when your system calls on an inflammatory response after hard workouts.
Assist with Digestive Issues
Gastrointestinal distress from inflammation in the large and small intestine is one of the leading reasons endurance athletes drop out of races. CBD won’t solve stomach problems from dehydration and overheating (two major causes for athletes), but if you have underlying inflammation issues that contribute to gut problems during or after exercise, CBD may be effective for reducing your symptoms.
Improve Sleep Quality
Recovery primarily occurs during sleep. Getting more and better sleep is one of the most effective ways an athlete can achieve greater training gains. CBD has been shown to prepare our body for sleep and assist with a more restful night’s sleep. CBD may inhibit adenosine reuptake, which helps it accumulate more quickly and makes you feel sleepy sooner. CBD may also have a potent anti-anxiety effect for some people, which can help them get to sleep and have more restful sleep. (Check out our video on CBD and better sleep.)
To date there is little research on this except anecdotal: endurance athletes have noticed that ingesting CBD allows them to get in a frame of mind that their body soon follows to go farther and have greater staying power. Endurance athletes who have used Madrigal Creatives “Calm” CBD ingestible spray report they were better able to manage and had greater staying power to achieve throughout and to the end of the race.
How to use CBD
Due to its popularity and effectiveness, new CBD-containing products hit the market often. CBD can be ingested, inhaled as a vapor or applied topically in creams and lotions that contain CBD oil. (Check out our blogs on topicals with CBD.)
The type of CBD you consume and how you consume CBD may affect how quickly you experience its effects. Capsules, oil and edibles have to be digested, so they may take a bit longer. Whereas, water soluble CBD, like that found in our Calm CBD Spray, is virtually tasteless. Water soluble CBD ingestible spray is a readily available form of CBD that does not go through the first pass of the digestive system and is absorbed by the body. Topical creams are targeted and are typically applied at the exact area that needs to be addressed.
Full/Spectrum vs Isolate
Another distinguishing factor is whether or not the CBD you apply or ingest is “full spectrum” or “isolate.” The hemp plant has over 300 compounds that are known to work together like that of an orchestra – or a madrigal – they are better together than as each individual part. Full spectrum CBD hemp products contain CBD and other cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. Products that contain CBD isolate only contain CBD and no other cannabinoids, and as a result, are not as effective due to the lack of the well-established orchestra effect. Athletes should look for premium full spectrum CBD that is made by a reputable supplier, like Madrigal Creatives, so as to ensure that the THC levels do not exceed the allowable limit for competitions.
Dosing is a complex issue. Each person is very different, and to dial in the optimum dose one has to experiment. There is no standard dose that delivers a consistent effect for all people.
Further, you need to consider additional factors that could significantly affect how much CBD your body is absorbing. For instance, an oil or an edible will go through the digestive system and be absorbed by the liver, while a water-soluble product will not, and is expected to be over 10x more effective. With Calm CBD Spray, we recommend starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it based on how you experience its effects. As you learn about your individual needs, you can increase dosage until you find the balance that’s right for you.
In short . . .
CBD is already a major factor in how many athletes recover from training stress and manage both occasional and chronic pain. As with anything else, it’s important to find quality products in order to experience the essential benefits it has to offer.