Professional sportspeople and fitness fanatics have been some of the biggest proponents of CBD for athletes for years. Now, the hard science is finally shedding light on just how CBD can help athletes train harder, recover more quickly, and stay focused in the heat of the moment.
Athletes around the globe have always been forced to walk a fine line between natural training regimens and over-supplementation. On the one hand, your health is essential to your ability to perform. But on the other hand, your success depends on going harder, faster, and stronger as quickly as possible.
CBD for athletes can help those training hard to reach their goals without the risks of over-supplementation or the need for expensive powders, shakes, pills, and other performance enhancers.
Not only that, but CBD is also an excellent way for athletes to deal with the physical soreness and mental stress that go hand in hand with a competitive lifestyle.
But can CBD really do all this? And is it actually better than other workout supplements?
The science is not conclusive yet, but there are multiple studies that have made some amazing findings on CBD’s benefits for athletes.
In this article, we’re going to tell you the benefits of CBD for athletes according to the hard science. Then, we’ll let you know some of the best types of CBD products that athletes are using today.
READ FIRST: What Athletes Must Know about CBD Supplementation
If you are a professional athlete or are subject to testing for doping or illicit drug use, you need to check with your regulatory organization before using CBD.
It is also extremely important to know that MOST CBD PRODUCTS CONTAIN TRACES OF THC. THC is an illegal substance found in cannabis that gets you high.
CBD products sourced from hemp do not contain enough THC to result in a psychoactive effect, but the levels of THC can cause you to fail a drug test.
If you want to use CBD but are afraid of the THC content, you can try CBD isolate. These products contain CBD and nothing else (meaning 0% THC).
Currently, the PGA and pro tennis allow their athletes to supplement with CBD. Many other sports organizations do not.
The Benefits of CBD for Athletes
CBD is a great way for athletes to improve their performance and recovery in an all-natural way. Here’s how.
Healthy muscle growth and recovery depend on a proper balance of hormones in the body, and CBD has been shown to have a positive effect on hormonal imbalances that can inhibit muscle growth. But let’s slow down for a minute.
Here’s a quick breakdown of basic hormonal function.
In the evening, our bodies release the hormone melatonin to help us sleep while reducing the hormone cortisol to help our bodies rest and repair.
In the morning, our bodies boost cortisol to wake us up and deliver energy. This hormone decreases throughout the day.
Problems occur when this cycle goes awry, and when it comes to muscle growth, the fault belongs to cortisol.
Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone, and too much of it can make our bodies and minds feel terrible. Not only that, but too much cortisol actually makes it harder to build muscle. This is because cortisol inhibits protein synthesis, preventing muscles from building at the rate in which they should.
Studies have shown that CBD can dramatically lower levels of cortisol. This has big implications for stressed athletes who are having trouble meeting their goals. By regulating hormone levels, your body will be able to do what it was meant to do and build muscle.
Recovery is vital to proper muscle growth and performance over time, but athletes who need to compete and train every day often find that they’re pushing the limits of recovery.
Years of training can lead to myositis and chronic inflammation that can cause muscle loss.
CBD has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. Studies on both humans and animals have shown that CBD is effective at reducing inflammation in muscles, joints, the brain, and the internal organs.
When your body’s inflammatory response is mitigated, it allows the healing process to begin faster and reduces the likelihood of chronic inflammation.
CBD helps your body recover more quickly so you can get back to training in a way that’s both safe and effective.
Most workout supplements have caffeine added to give you that extra push at the gym. And it’s true, caffeine is an easy, legal, and cheap stimulant to help you push a few extra pounds.
But for athletes who train like they mean it, studies have actually shown that caffeine worsens performance. This is because, despite it’s legality and overall safety, caffeine is an addictive drug. Taking too much of it can nullify its effects unless you take more and more.
If you’re already a coffee drinker, taking a caffeine-laden pre-workout might be doing more harm than good.
In small doses, CBD has been shown to boost energy and focus. Not only can it give you the kick you need in the gym or on the track, but CBD is non-dependency forming, so you’ll be able to supplement in low doses every day without worry.
All you need to light a fire under your workout is a few drops of CBD under your tongue. Finally, you can say goodbye to those disgusting pre-workout shakes.
A number of studies have shown CBD to be an effective weight loss supplement.
First, CBD helps to regulate hormonal processes in the body via the endocannabinoid system. This system, much like the nervous system, skeletal system, and muscular system, is an essential part of the body and helps us to maintain balance throughout the day.
If this balance gets thrown off, then our bodies don’t work the way they should. According to research, the consequences of an overactive endocannabinoid system are heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
CBD (a cannabinoid) interacts with the endocannabinoid system to keep it on course. This can help your body to maintain a natural and healthy weight and avoid putting on excess pounds.
Additional studies have shown that CBD can help you burn more fat, meaning it may prove to be an effective weight loss supplement.
This has to do with white fat and brown fat.
Here’s a quick health science lesson:
CBD has been observed to be a fat-browning agent. Basically, this means that CBD turns white fat into brown fat.
And it doesn’t do this in just one way. CBD induces fat browning in three different ways:
Scientists admitted that they had only seen this kind of fat-browning occur in those who underwent frequent fasting—but CBD was having this effect in normal people.
The best time for muscle repair and growth is when you sleep. This is when your cortisol levels are at their lowest and your body switches to recovery mode.
We won’t get into all the benefits of sleep for athletes, but any athlete will tell you that their quality of sleep has a direct impact on performance.
We already talked about how CBD in low doses can boost energy. Well, CBD taken in higher doses has been shown to have a slight sedative effect, helping you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.
In fact, CBD was shown in a separate study to positively impact sleep duration. This lends more credibility to the athletes who claim CBD allows them to recharge at night and wake up ready for a new day of training.
If you aren’t interested in taking CBD in high doses (it can be a bit expensive), CBD can still improve your sleep. One study showed that 66% of participants reported getting better sleep after taking just 25mg of CBD per day. While you may not feel the sedative effects with this dose, the cumulative effects of taking CBD daily seem to have a positive impact on sleep quality.
As hard-hitting sports become mired in controversy, scientists are looking for ways to reduce the damage caused by concussions and CTE. And they may have found an answer in CBD.
Concussions and subconcussions can cause degeneration of neuronal activity in the brain and lead to dementia and other serious conditions. In a study of 111 NFL players, 100 showed signs of this degeneration.
Studies on CBD for athletes who suffer from concussion symptoms is not available, but a promising study was done on mice a few years ago. It showed that CBD promoted proneurogenic action and increased neurogenesis in the brain.
No one can say for sure as of yet, but CBD could have the potential to halt the effects of concussions and CTE and allow athletes to avoid suffering associated with neurodegeneration.
Enter your Anxiety
CBD has been studied extensively for its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and stress-relieving effects, and athletes undergo some of the most intense stress of anyone.
Nights before a big game, the pressure to perform, the mental strain of a huge win or a crushing defeat—it can be hard to stay focused and not let anxiety take over completely.
Many studies have focused on the effects CBD has on anxiety, depression, panic, and PTSD. One of the ways it works is by modulating GABA receptors in the brain. Low GABA activity is associated with increased anxiety and depression. And unfortunately, a decrease in GABA activity is associated with brain trauma and affects athletes in high-contact sports.
CBD can help to boost GABA levels and give you that “deep-breath” feeling of your mental state coming back into balance.
To be clear, CBD is not a cure for anxiety and certainly not for brain trauma. But evidence suggests that CBD can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety in a safe and natural way.
Pain management is one of the most popular reasons that athletes love CBD. Whether for injury-related pain or soreness from a tough workout, CBD has been shown to reduce pain effectively and naturally.
This has been a godsend for athletes and who would rather seek out natural remedies as opposed to pharmaceutical options that are banned from competitions or may be dependency-forming, such as opioids.
CBD can help reduce pain in a number of ways.
As we already know, CBD helps to reduce inflammation. This goes hand-in-hand with pain reduction, as inflammation is a cause of pain for athletes. By reducing inflammation, CBD reduces joint, muscle, and headache pain.
Apart from that, CBD also activates serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a hormone that plays a large role in pain perception. This means that CBD can tell your body to feel less pain without the use of painkillers.
A convenient way for athletes to take CBD is by applying a cream or balm directly to pain points on the body. Studies have shown that applying CBD directly to the skin can decrease pain and inflammation, making it a great product to keep in a gym bag.
To make things better, these pain-reducing transdermal products often include moisturizers or cooling agents like mint or menthol to assist in pain relief.
The Best CBD Products for Athletes
Looking for some CBD to boost your workout or competitive performance? Here are top picks that are athlete-friendly and easy to incorporate into your training.
Topical CBD is CBD that you put directly onto your skin. The scientific community refers to these products as “transdermal,” which refers to a substance absorbed into the bloodstream via the skin.
Topical products include lotions, balms, creams, ointments, patches, and rubs. Unlike greasy cooling creams, CBD topical products absorb quickly into the skin and provide fast relief at the point of application.
CBD creams and balms are popular with athletes for post-workout recovery and joint pain. Some topical products have even been endorsed by professional athletes.
An easy way to get the energizing and inflammation-fighting benefits of CBD is to include it in your pre-workout protein supplementation. A number of companies are beginning to produce CBD-enhanced protein powder, protein bars, and shakes.
This is great option for lifters and athletes who are looking to save some money. Neither CBD nor protein supplements are particularly cheap. By combining both together, you can get double the benefit from just one product.
It’s important to hydrate during a workout, and now you can boost focus and energy levels while you do it.
CBD-infused water made by reputable brands is not just CBD dropped into water. CBD is added using nanoemulsion technology which makes CBD water-soluble. Not only does this cutting-edge tech make CBD easier to take, but it also makes CBD much easier for your body to absorb. This means you can feel the effects when you need them—now.
CBD oil is one of the most popular ways to take CBD, so we had to include it on this list of CBD for athletes.
CBD oil is taken sublingually, which means you drop it under your tongue. This allows the CBD to be absorbed into the bloodstream directly. Because it does not need to be metabolized, you can feel the effects more quickly and enjoy a greater bioavailability (your body can absorb more of it).
CBD oil is one of the most versatile CBD products, which is why it’s so popular. It can deliver fast relief from pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and in larger doses can also help you sleep better.
Another benefit of CBD oil is that its easy to add to anything. Put a few drops in a smoothie, shake, or even on a salad to add the benefits of CBD to your diet.
If you supplement with daily vitamins, tossing a CBD softgel into the mix is an easy way to incorporate CBD into your regimen.
These CBD capsules won’t deliver immediate relief as they must first be metabolized, but they will help anxiety, inflammation, and focus if taken daily. A great way to supplement with CBD is to take a softgel every day and to keep another product on-hand for immediate relief, such as a cream, CBD oil, or CBD water.
CBD tablets and powder capsules are also popular, but we recommend softgels for their greater bioavailability.
Are You Ready to Train with CBD?
CBD can help you push the limits of your workout and achieve your performance goals in a safe and natural way. CBD is part of a sustainable and healthy training regimen and can allow you to build muscle and recover naturally without the use of substances like caffeine, painkillers, or performance-enhancing drugs.
If you’re ready to incorporate CBD into your training, here’s how to do it:
If you’re looking to gain an edge over the competition or just make your workout more natural and sustainable, it’s time to try CBD for athletes.