Boxers. MMA and UFC Fighters. NHL players. Pro golfers. These athletes have all been in the news recently for the same reason: they’re taking CBD.
Playing sports, especially at the professional level, takes a toll on the body. With aches and pains competing with the drive to perform, athletes routinely seek ways to keep them in the game. While that often means special exercise routines, gear, and health regimens, it can also mean the search for a so-called “miracle drug.” Because of this, sports associations have had to set standards about what substances athletes can consume, and at what levels they can do so.
In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed cannabidiol (CBD) from the list of banned substances. While certain sports leagues can set their own rules about what substances players can consume, CBD has been increasing in popularity among athletes across the sports world. Buy why is it such a draw for athletes?
CBD is a cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are organic compounds that are produced by plants (phytocannabinoids) and by our bodies (endocannabinoids). Those produced by our bodies and the bodies of all mammals, including cats and dogs, are a part of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
Our endocannabinoids react with CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are found throughout the body, including in the brain, nervous, and immune systems. The main function of the ECS is to maintain a level of balance, or homeostasis, throughout all parts of the body.
When we experience issues like pain, our ECS has become imbalanced. This can occur when our bodies aren’t producing enough endocannabinoids to meet the demand of the ECS. That’s where CBD comes in: as a plant-based cannabinoid, it can be used to supplement the ECS and return our bodies to a balanced state.
Leading an active lifestyle can help to improve the overall health, well-being, and functionality of our bodies. However, increased physical activity also puts added stress on the body. Athletes, who are regularly training and pushing the limits of their bodies, tend to stress their systems even further. This can lead to pain and inflammation that limits an athlete’s ability to train and play.
Many professional athletes are reporting that consuming CBD is improving their performance. In a May interview with CNN, pro golfer Bubba Watson said taking CBD is “a no brainer” for him. Other golfers are following suit, reporting improved benefits not just to their performance on the course, but to their overall health and wellness, too.
Rigorous physical activity can lead to inflamed muscles and joints. Sometimes, inflammation leads to injury and illness. And chronic inflammation throughout the body is associated with long term damage. Studies show that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties.
Pain often goes along with inflammation. Persistent pain can be distracting and make it uncomfortable or impossible for an athlete to perform. Several cannabinoid receptors are located on parts of the nervous system. Both anecdotal and scientific reports support the effectiveness of CBD as a pain reliever. CBD also has limited side effects compared to many other medications commonly used to relieve pain.
Whether playing in a high school state championship or the world stage of The Masters, athletes sometimes experience anxiety before a tournament or deciding game. Too much anxiety can keep them from performing at their best.
Studies focused on anxiety and CBD, though limited, have found that CBD is effective at reducing anxiety. One study determined that CBD interacts with CB1 receptors in the brain, specifically on the amygdala, which helps us to experience emotion. During the interaction, activity of brain cells was lowered. Stress often leads to hyperactivity in the brain, so minimizing that response is ideal for anxiety sufferers.
A restful night’s sleep is essential for us all. Poor sleep has been shown to affect our ability to concentrate, negatively affect mood, increase errors, and inhibit motivation. Athletes train the mind as well as the body, and it they’re not in the right mindset, their performance is likely to suffer. CBD has been shown to help reduce symptoms of the two major causes of poor sleep: stress and pain. And its associated with an overall feeling of relaxation, which can help you to fall asleep.
There are many CBD products on the market today. If you’re an athlete looking to try CBD, here are some options:
Salves: CBD salves are popular as a topical application. The CBD is usually combined with other plant extracts and essential oils known for their healing properties. A CBD topical is designed to reduce pain and inflammation—the topical is applied directly to the affected area for targeted relief. Topicals are also a choice for athletes who may be drug tested. CBD products often contain trace amounts of THC. While the small amounts don’t cause any psychoactive effects, the THC can appear on a drug test. With a topical, the CBD can penetrate into the skin without entering the bloodstream.
Tinctures and Concentrates: Both hemp extract concentrates and CBD tinctures are designed to be consumed sublingually, held under the tongue and absorbed through the capillaries into the bloodstream. This allows them to work faster than an edible CBD product, which must pass through all parts of the digestive system before beginning to work. Concentrates contain just the oils extracted from industrial hemp plants with no added ingredients. Tinctures are formulated with additional ingredients to give the hemp oil a pleasant, tasty flavor, making it more enjoyable to consume.
Capsules and Gummies: If you would like to consume CBD in a discreet way, a softgel capsule or gummy is ideal. These products appear more generic than other supplements like concentrates and are taken in a familiar form. An edible product also makes it easy to determine serving sizes, since each capsule, gummy, or chocolate contains a premeasured amount of CBD.