When it comes to exercise, some advocate sticking to a punishing regime no matter what, in order to get results. No one’s arguing that exercise doesn’t take discipline, but a backlash is growing against the workout-at-all-costs culture. Even the founders of intense (and competitive) workout fad CrossFit have warned athletes against pushing past their limits, responding to a surge in CrossFit-related injuries.
Exercise can be challenging without being dangerous. To find this healthy middle ground, athletes (whether they’re professionals or weekend warriors) should pay attention to their body and their limits, eat right, and take workout recovery seriously. Taking care of your body after exercise can maximize your workout’s benefits and minimize the risk of pain or injury.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid derivative of the cannabis plant that doesn’t generate the intense psychoactive high created by its more famous cannabinoid cousin, THC. Athletes can take CBD before, during, or after their workout and remain high-performing and alert. A growing number of professional athletes are taking their CBD use into the open: NFL linebacker Derrick Morgan, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, and MMA fighter Nate Diaz are just a few of the sports world’s active and open CBD users.
Athletes of all experience levels now use CBD in their workout recoveries. Does this plant-based supplement actually help? Athletes claim it offers the following benefits.
1. Lessens Inflammation
A good workout will stress your muscles, creating microscopic damage even when you’re not overtraining. Your body responds by activating inflammation, an immune system response meant to help your body heal damage and fight off threats such as germs. The precise tradeoff of benefits and drawbacks to the inflammatory response after exercise still isn’t fully understood, but most experts agree inflammation is a “double-edged sword.”
Some amount of inflammation is healthy and can help the body recover and grow stronger, but runaway inflammation can cause more harm than good. Athletes who use ice baths and pharmaceuticals (which can have dangerous consequences when taken excessively) are now adding CBD to their inflammation-fighting toolkit. Multiple studies have shown that CBD can reduce and regulate inflammation.
2. Reduces Stress
There are few better coping mechanisms for stress than exercise. Experts agree that physical exertion can boost endorphin levels, regulate blood pressure, and even tackle anxiety and depression. But evidence also suggests that people experiencing mental stress may struggle more than their less-stressed counterparts to recover from workouts. Studies show that the stressed out take longer to recover physical strength after workouts, recover from exercise-related injuries, or adapt to new weightlifting practices. CBD could play a vital role in stress-reducing regimens that help athletes recover more effectively from exercise. Numerous studies have indicated that CBD has anti-anxiety and stress-fighting properties in rodent and human subjects.
3. Tackles Pain
Most athletes have to live with occasional pain or discomfort. Muscle soreness is a normal, albeit uncomfortable, consequence of a good workout. Sports injuries can cause significant pain while they heal, and many lead to flare-ups years later. Sharp or prolonged pain is an important message from your body, telling you to stop pushing through overuse or injury and take a proper recovery period.
Painkillers such as NSAIDs or acetaminophen have become common among athletes, but the consequences of overusing these pharmaceuticals are more severe than you’d think: NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, stroke, and other dangerous conditions, while acetaminophen increases the risk of liver damage. CBD could be a safer pain reliever for athletes and anyone else who needs it: CBD has proven an effective analgesic in several studies on rats, and the drug Sativex (which combines CBD and THC) is a government-approved pain medication in dozens of countries.
4. Aids Sleep
You don’t just feel bad when you don’t get enough sleep; you also have a harder time getting in shape. Adequate sleep helps athletes maintain the energy and motivation they need for a regular exercise regimen. During sleep, the body lowers its energy consumption levels and increases growth hormones, creating an ideal environment for muscle and brain repair.
Studies show that sleep deprivation is correlated with reduced muscle mass, even when subjects are consuming the same amount of calories. CBD is proving increasingly popular as a sleep aid, and research indicates that high doses of pure CBD can help fight insomnia.
5. Regulates Cortisol
Have you ever tried to build muscle with an intensive exercise routine and been frustrated by a lack of results? Cortisol may be to blame. Cortisol, a hormone released by the body in response to stress, encourages muscle breakdown and fat storage–the opposite of what exercise is trying to achieve.
Like inflammation, cortisol can be a double-edged sword. While it activates important processes that help the body withstand stress, perpetually high levels of cortisol (whether from stressful events, overtraining, or another factor) can inhibit muscle development and cause other adverse effects. CBD won’t singlehandedly regulate cortisol when factors such as excessive training are creating an imbalance, but it could play a role in a cortisol-aware lifestyle: at least one study has linked CBD use to lower cortisol secretion.
6. Contributes to Runner’s High
The famous “runner’s high” is known more as a phenomenon athletes experience during exercise than as an element of the recovery period, but its potential relationship with CBD is too interesting not to mention. The runner’s high is a sense of well-being or even euphoria that runners sometimes experience during medium-intensity runs. It’s a “groove” where positive feelings propel them forward, overriding exertion and fatigue.
The runner’s high likely gave early humans an evolutionary edge, and scientists believe it’s connected to the body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD’s link to runner’s high is still being studied, but many runners use CBD to encourage the sensation without triggering the intense psychoactivity of THC.
7. Fights Oxidative Stress
Studies show that CBD has antioxidant properties. As a potent antioxidant, CBD could play a significant role in helping the body fight oxidative stress–an imbalance of reactive oxygen that has been shown to cause protein and lipid damage in muscles during intense exercise. The role of oxidative stress in helping the body recover from workouts is a topic of ongoing scientific debate, but studies suggest that CBD can help fight the oxidative stress contributing to disorders such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
There are few better things for your overall health than getting enough exercise, but being smart about your exercise regimen is still essential. CBD could play a vital role in a healthy workout-recovery routine.