Why Athletes Should Use CBD
Whether professional or otherwise, life as an athlete does not just come with rewards and pride, but it also comes with a lot of physical and mental stressors. The pressure to constantly push themselves past their limits in order to achieve personal and/or team bests can take a tremendous toll on an athlete’s body and psyche.
CBD in Sports
Cue in cannabidiol, or as most of us know it, CBD. In recent years, CBD has been propped up by people of all walks of life, who claim the substance has positive effects for the mind, body, and spirit. Athletes have also begun to chime in with their praise of CBD— saying that it seems like it assists them in the easing of muscle aches, injury recovery, and more restful sleep.
Despite the fact that many organizations still consider cannabis’ other key cannabinoid, THC, a taboo and illegal substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency allows the use of pure CBD isolate. Considering that CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid; it truly represents a potentially significant game-changer in the world of competitive sports.
What Clinical Studies Say About CBD for Athletes
Recent studies released in 2020 indicate that CBD may support athletes in a variety of ways.
Can Contribute To Reduction of Inflammation
The scientific journal Sports Medicine published a review that contained an analysis of clinical CBD trials in non-athlete groups and preclinical animal studies. The researchers found that CBD may contribute toward positive biochemical, physiological, and psychological effects— effects that could potentially be beneficial for athletes.
A significant finding of this review illustrates that CBD could contribute to the alleviation of inflammation resulting from tissue damage and neuropathic pain resulting from nerve irritation or damage. What does this ultimately mean for athletes? It means that CBD could become a silver lining especially amongst endurance athletes— since much of their routine conditioning and general participation in sport involves repetitive workouts that can cause irritation and inflammation in their peripheral nervous system.1
May Help With Bone Health Support
The same study also provides related evidence that CBD may contribute to healthy bone formation and structure, assisting in the healing of fractures and minor breaks. Athletes rely heavily on the health of their bones, which is especially evident in their inability to perform when the bone structure of their body is compromised by both minor and traumatic injuries.
Gastrointestinal (GI) Health
These findings also indicated that CBD may be helpful in protecting the GI tract from damage. This is relevant to athletes because of how often they engage in strenuous activity that inhibits proper oxygen delivery to their GI tract.
Stress to the GI tract typically causes nausea, vomiting, and decreased nutrient delivery to the body. This negatively affects overall sports and exercise performance and recovery.
Sports Performance Stress Management
The Sports Medicine review also suggests that CBD may aid athletes in the management of sports performance stressors. Many athletes are plagued by anxiety the days and nights leading up to a competition, which can take away from a restful night’s sleep and interfere with the performance itself.
According to the study, non-athlete human groups have pointed toward CBD’s effectiveness in potentially alleviating apprehension in high-stress situations. There’s also an indication that its effectiveness could be augmented in tandem with psychological treatment methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Protection Against Brain Injury
In another study published in 2020 in Pharmacological Research, very similar conclusions were drawn regarding the benefits of CBD in the lives of athletes. However, their conclusions had an emphasis that slightly differed from that of the study in Sports Medicine.
They singled out the neuroprotective properties associated with CBD and the possible role they may play in fighting against harm to the brain after a sports-related concussion. These types of concussions are categorized as a form of mild traumatic brain injury, which can ultimately result in long-term complications.
The researchers of this study pointed to a recent test involving animals that showed a correlation between CBD oil use and its ability to effectively treat behavior or mood changes associated with mild brain trauma. There is also a suggestion that it can help fight back against damage to neurons in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.
The findings of this study are promising, considering that currently, there are no effective drugs— pharmaceutical or otherwise— available to aid in the management of mild traumatic brain injury. Repetitive injury to the brain— even mildly— may eventually lead to irreversible, chronic neurodegenerative diseases.2
The Athlete’s Sleep Cycle
This same study also emphasized the potential of CBD for effective sleep support. The research in the animal models found that CBD may very well be simultaneously an agent of restful sleep and alert wakefulness. Apparently, the respective effect one achieves with CBD use depends on the dose, while working most successfully when the natural circadian (sleep-wake) rhythm has been interfered with.
It seems that lower doses of CBD stimulate wakefulness, whereas higher doses typically sedate the subject into sleep. Both these effects of CBD can be promising for athletes who rely on a consistent schedule of sleep and conditioning to perform their best throughout the season.
A Promising Future in Sports Medicine
While the findings of both the Sports Medicine and Pharmacological Research studies represent preliminary research in the field of CBD and athletic well-being as a whole, they do offer a promising outlook for the future of CBD in the sports world.
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- McCartney, D., Benson, M.J., Desbrow, B. et al. Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research. Sports Med – Open 6, 27 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-020-00251-0
- Gamelin, François-Xavier, et al. “Cannabidiol in Sport: Ergogenic or Else?” Pharmacological Research, vol. 156, 2020, p. 104764., doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2020.104764.