Cbd oil for athletes dosage

CBD for Athletes: What You Need to Know About Cannabidiol

Athletes put a lot of stress on our bodies, to positive and negative effect. Training stress stimulates adaptation and increased performance, but physical trauma and prolonged wear and tear also lead to injuries and pain. Current methods of pain management are effective, but they’re also killing people. In search of improved sports recovery and safer pain relief, many people are asking about cannabidiol or CBD for athletes. Should you?

Chronic use of over-the-counter pain relievers (i.e. NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium) poses greater health risk than previously known, and we are in the midst of an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses that kill tens of thousands of Americans annually. In such a landscape, athletes are rightly curious about and eager for cannabidiols’ (CBD) promises of pain relief and reduced inflammation without the risks associated with NSAIDs or opioids.

Are CBD products right for you? There’s a lot here to unpack and consider, so get comfortable and read on.

Is CBD legal for athletes?

Yes. Starting at the beginning of 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances – in or out of competition. (Here is the 2020 WADA Prohibited List.) The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) did the same, and they provide a “Marijuana FAQ” page to clarify the rules. There is an important caveat: ONLY CBD was removed from the prohibited list. The psychoactive component of marijuana, THC, is still prohibited in competition, as are synthetic cannabinoids. The specific wording is: “All natural and synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited, e.g.: In cannabis (hashish, marijuana) and cannabis products. Natural and synthetic tetrahydrocannabinols (THCs). Synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC. Except: Cannabidiol.”

Interestingly, WADA set a urinary threshold of 150 nanograms per milliliter for THC, which is substantially more lenient than the previous limit of 15 nanograms per milliliter. The higher threshold is designed to lower the risk of an athlete testing positive due to casual use outside of competition. A USA Today article in 2016 quoted Ben Nichols, a spokesperson for WADA as saying, “Our information suggests that many cases do not involve game or event-day consumption. The new threshold level is an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before competition.”

As for legality outside of sports, that’s a whole different matter. The federal, state, and local legality of cannabis and related products is constantly evolving. Check the laws in your area.

CBD Basics

Athletes can legally consume cannabidiol, but what is it, what does it do, and why would you use it?

To begin with, cannabinoids already exist in your body. Scientists have identified what they call the endocannibinoid system (ECS) that modulates the activity of neurons. (9) Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid found naturally in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, which is also found in cannabis, CBD is not psychoactive.

Beyond that, scientists understanding of how the ECS works and how CBD influences it is still evolving. For a long time, research in this area was hard to complete due to the legal status of marijuana. However, based on recent studies and 2018’s The Essentials of Pain Medicine, Fourth Ed., here are the basics (5).

Within your nervous system, two endocannabinoids (2-AG and EAE) are produced in postsynaptic neurons (downstream) and released into the synapse. They bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors on the presynaptic neuron (upstream) and act to inhibit the release of certain neurotransmitters. For instance when CBD is used to treat epilepsy, it may reduce seizure activity by – in part – reducing the buildup of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter.

CB1 receptors are found throughout the brain, spinal cord, and other tissues. CB2 receptors are as well, but more of them are found in immune system tissues. CBD binding to CB1 receptors has a greater effect the central nervous system, and CBD binding to CB2 receptors has a greater effect on reducing inflammation.

The primary purpose of the ECS appears to be maintaining homeostasis, which it does by keeping neurotransmitter levels in check. Consuming CBD could be thought of as supplementing or increasing 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.

6 Benefits of CBD for Athletes

Relieve Pain

Studies have shown cannabis (mostly THC and far less CBD) is effective for reducing pain, including musculoskeletal pain from exercise, as well as stiff joints. (5) There is little research on CBD alone or a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. This is an area where anecdotal evidence and biological plausibility are the best we have until research catches up. Despite the lack of hard evidence, CBD does appear to relieve pain effectively for many athletes.

Alternative to NSAIDs

Athletes have been consuming over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) for decades, but they may not be as safe as we once thought. Ultradistance athletes, in particular, are typically advised to avoid NSAIDs during long training sessions and events, due to increased risk of renal damage. But even if your workouts and events are short, long-term or frequent use of NSAIDs may increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Some athletes have found the pain relieving effect of CBD can reduce or eliminate their use of NSAIDS for exercise-related pain, with minimal side effects. According to The Essentials of Pain Medicine, Fourth Ed., “There are no documented deaths from cannabis or cannabinoid-based products. In a systemic review of studies of oral and oral-mucosal cannabis for various medical conditions, the majority of adverse events reports were considered non-serious (96.6%).”

Alternative to Opioids

According to the CDC, in 2016 opioids were involved in more than 42,000 deaths in the US. Opioid pain medications (i.e. morphine, codeine, oxycontin) are highly effective for pain management, but carry a significant risk of addiction and death by overdose. Cannabinoids are not as effective as opioids for relieving acute, high-intensity pain (5), but may be effective for long-term pain management – either alone or in conjunction with other medications – with far less risk of dependence or accidental death.

Reduce inflammation

A little bit of inflammation can be good for athletes and help stimulate positive training adaptations. Too much inflammation hinders recovery and hurts performance. There are CB2 receptors in both the brain and periphery, but they are more concentrated in immune tissues. Cannabinoids binding to CB2 receptors may have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing cytokine (cell messengers) production. (8) In other words, CBD bound to CB2 receptors help dial down the response when your immune system sounds the alarm after hard workouts.

Settle your gut

Inflammation in the small and large intestines causes a lot of discomfort, and GI distress 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. There are CB1 and CB2 receptors in the colon. Colitis symptoms were inhibited (in mice) when CB1 and CB2 receptors were activated. (8)

Improve Sleep Quality

Getting more and better sleep is one of the most effective ways an athlete can achieve greater training gains. Anecdotally, athletes who consume CBD report greater ease going to sleep and a more restful night’s sleep. One potential reason for this could be CBD inhibiting the reuptake of adenosine. (7)

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) breaks down as your brain burns carbohydrate for energy, and adenosine gradually accumulates in the brain. More adenosine binding to neurons inhibits the release of neurotransmitters, slowing down brain activity, helping you feel calmer, and inducing sleep. Your body metabolizes adenosine as you sleep, and some time later, low concentrations of adenosine help you wake up and the process starts again.

By binding to same receptors adenosine would bind to, 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.

How to use CBD

New CBD-containing products hit the market every week. You can get ingest CBD through capsules, pills, or as an oil. You can inhale it as a vapor. It has been infused into sports drinks, recovery drinks, and all manner of edibles. There are also topical creams and lotions that contain CBD oil, as well as tinctures/drops that can be placed under your tongue.

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. Topical creams are said to be quicker than edibles, and sublingual drops/tinctures are said to be the most rapid (besides inhalation via vaping).

CBD is available as “full spectrum” or “isolate”. Full spectrum CBD products contain CBD and other compounds found in the original plant, which could include small amounts of THC. If the CBD was derived from industrial hemp, the THC content of the original plant is legally supposed to be less than .3% (in Colorado). Products that contain CBD isolate should only contain CBD. CBD isolate and CBD produced from hemp would be a better choice, from an anti-doping standpoint, for anyone with zero-tolerance drug testing at work (i.e. pilots).

How much CBD to use

Here’s where things get tricky. There is no standard dose that delivers a consistent effect for all people. CBD products are not well regulated, so there can be inconsistencies in how much CBD is in a product. And depending on how you consume CBD (oil, gummy bear, cookie, recovery drink, tincture, vapor), it can be difficult to be precise. The most precise way to consume CBD is probably through capsules, or by calculating how many milligrams of CBD are in a given volume (i.e. 1 milliliter) of a tincture.

Companies that produce and sell CBD products recommend starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it based on the effects you experience.

Conclusion and Caveat

The emergence of cannabidiol could mark a major turning point in how athletes recover from training stress and manage both occasional and chronic pain. The giant, glaring caveat is that right now the use of CBD and the ways it’s being delivered are ahead of the science. There is a lot still to learn about how CBD works and how to best utilize it with athletes. That is not unusual, though. Back when carbohydrate-rich sports drinks first came out, it was clear they were helping improve performance even if the formulas weren’t perfect and the mechanisms weren’t all known.

Although it is not a banned substance for athletes in or out of competition, the potential risk for athletes is if the product you buy doesn’t contain what it says on the label. If it actually contains a significant amount of THC or other prohibited substance, you are at risk for a doping violation. As with anything else, it will be up to you to research and find a reputable brand.

With what we know at this point, CBD offers good potential benefits and few risks. If it improves recovery as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and sleep aid, then it has great potential to improve athletic performance. And if it gets athletes to reduce consumption of NSAIDS, opioids, and prescription sleep aids, those are even bigger victories.

CBD for Athletes: Does Hemp Oil Help with Athletic Performance?

The hype on CBD is at an all-time high, and nothing indicates that it will change any time soon. On the contrary, people are actually more into cannabis than ever thanks to the versatile health benefits of CBD oil. From reducing inflammation to relieving pain and anxiety, there are plenty of areas where modern people can find answers to their health concerns using plant-based cannabinoids.

For many folks out there, cannabis and sports may not be a relevant combo, but they don’t yet realize their perception is driven by an almost hundred-year-old stigma resulting from, let’s say, a combination of bad luck, racism, and conflict of interests.

But let’s say you’ve never heard any myths related to cannabis. You both have a clean slate. Tabula rasa, as they would say in Latin.

Would you believe that CBD, one of the major cannabis compounds, can be a worthy addition to one’s fitness routine?

How can CBD affect your achievements in sports?

Is there a point in using CBD as a sportsperson if you’re not a professional athlete?

Come and get your answers.

How Does CBD Work for Athletes?

If you want to get a better grasp of how CBD works for athletes, we can’t avoid a short stop by the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its relationship with cannabinoids.

In simple terms, the ECS is a network of cannabinoid receptors, neurotransmitters, and enzymes that occur throughout your body. They are present in every organ system and control a wide range of biological functions, such as:

  • Immune response
  • Sensations of fear and pleasure
  • Body temperature
  • Sleep-wake cycle
  • Appetite
  • Cell energy regulation
  • Pain perception
  • Reproduction

The role of the ECS is to keep the body in a state of internal balance (homeostasis), which provides harmony between the above processes and ensures that a person stays healthy.

Whenever the ECS suffers from deficiencies due to persistent disturbance of the said balance, this can contribute to a wide range of chronic diseases, from persistent pain to insomnia, autoimmune conditions, depression, and neurodegenerative disorders.

This is where CBD steps in.

CBD is a phytocannabinoid found in cannabis plants — both hemp and marijuana. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD won’t get you high because it lacks intoxicating properties. While THC binds directly to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain — causing the signature high — CBD indirectly modulates their activity, ensuring optimal functioning.

CBD does it through the signaling of the ECS. When CBD interacts with our master regulatory network, it signals it to produce more of its endogenous cannabinoids while slowing down their breakdown (1). As a result, the ECS can use endocannabinoids more effectively thanks to their longer duration in the bloodstream.

Benefits of CBD for Athletes

The discovery of the ECS has provided researchers with the necessary tools to explore the health benefits of cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. CBD has three major effects on the body: it reduces inflammation, improves stress management, and mitigates pain signaling to the brain.

All of the above create ripe opportunities for athletes to boost their performance and improve regeneration.

Here’s how you can benefit from CBD oil if you’re a sportsperson.

CBD for Athletic Recovery

Sleep is an essential part of our lives, but when it comes to athletes, it becomes of paramount importance. Athletes are exposed to sleep deficiencies due to the extreme stress they put themselves into during competition and while preparing themselves for the season. Those trying to relieve their sleep issues often turn to OTC or prescription sleeping pills, which can have a devastating effect on their sleep cycle in the long run.

CBD has the ability to regulate the body’s sleep cycle by reducing stress, anxiety, and pain. These three factors contribute to sleep deprivation, so the next time you have trouble falling asleep before an upcoming game or you’re crippled by back pain, consider adding CBD to your routine.

CBD can also reduce the release of cortisol through physical activity. The adrenal system, which produces the stress hormone, regulates the body’s response to physical stressors, such as exercises. Whenever a person engages in physical activity, the adrenal glands begin to produce more cortisol into the bloodstream (2).

As reported by a small study conducted by the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Medical Psychology at the University of Brazil, CBD can lower the secretion of cortisol, thereby reducing its concentration in the blood. This can have a positive effect on athletic recovery and make CBD the holy grail of post-workout supplements.

CBD for Inflammation

Acute inflammation is a natural physical response to stress or injuries; it’s also an essential part of recovery. However, chronic inflammation is anything but good for your health and can significantly compromise your ability to engage in exercises. A study conducted by the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience at the National Institute of Health (NIH) showed that CBD has potent anti-inflammatory effects on the body and can suppress inflammatory responses by interacting with cannabinoid receptors located in the immune cells.

On top of that, the study reported that CBD along with its modified derivatives significantly reduces neuropathic pain without causing any kind of dependent or signs of building tolerance in rodent models (3).

A study conducted on arthritic inflammation discovered that the topical application of CBD provides therapeutic effects without apparent side effects. The study was conducted on mice, but it has a high degree of relevance, as all animals have the same endocannabinoid system (4).

These are promising news for athletes looking for a natural and safe alternative to OTC painkillers.

CBD for Pain Management

Working out and pain go hand in hand, but if you push yourself too hard, the pain may arise to the point it will prevent you from performing simple activities, let alone making progress in your niche.

Athletes are plagued by muscle soreness and injuries and hence they often turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. In severe cases, doctors may prescribe opioid-based pain killers, but these medications are highly addictive and can further deteriorate the condition, not to mention high risk for abuse and addiction.

CBD, on the other hand, offers a much safer way to fight pain. Not only does it reduce inflammation, but it also acts on vanilloid TRPV1 receptors and opioid receptors to alter pain signaling in the brain (5). As a result, the pain becomes manageable. Another receptor involved in pain control is the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, whose activity also happens to be modulated by CBD (6).

The risk of addiction is nonexistent when it comes to using CBD for pain relief. In fact, some studies have shown that CBD should not be taken with alcohol but it may help treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms as well as with heroin and opioids with their compulsive behaviors.

CBD for Pre-workout

Aside from its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, CBD is also capable of boosting the user’s energy, focus, and performance. In essence, people who take CBD before workouts describe this sensation as being able to focus on here-and-now. Whether you run long distances, lift weights, or engage in activities that require endurance, CBD may prove useful.

This is just one of the many reasons why CBD for athletes has made big headlines in the fitness industry. When CBD is taken prior to workout, CBD can reduce the burning in the muscles and fatigue. Imagine that you’re trying to break your personal records, but your muscles are hot as hell. Yet, you can still push through it for a bit more time, and eventually, you succeed. In the end, the discomfort and muscle stress go away — that’s how CBD is supposed to work.

CBD for Appetite Control

CBD can help athletes control their appetite by regulating the activity of the ECS. If you want to lose body fat more efficiently, CBD will provide feelings of calm and relaxation without causing munchies. Unlike THC, CBD is actually considered a mild appetite suppressant. If you have problems with compulsive eating, CBD can modulate that behavior by acting on your GABA-A receptor, which is sort of a handbrake for the brain when it gets overexcited

For those with low insulin sensitivity, CBD oil can improve that marker, providing additional space for glucose and glycogen storage in the liver and muscle (7). Studies also suggest that cannabinoids contribute to smaller waist circumferences and lower rates of abdominal obesity in regular cannabis users in comparison with the general population.

CBD for Anxiety

There is a large body of research, including human clinical trials, suggesting CBD’s efficacy for anxiety-related disorders. Athletes, just like other people put under regular stress, suffer from recurring periods of anxiety, perhaps caused by peer pressure, pre-game concerns, and injuries.

The scientific literature shows how CBD oil can help reduce anxiety in patients with a social anxiety disorder (8). Furthermore, CBD can reduce the severity of traumatic memories, a signature symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (9).

Last but not least, research has found that oral administration of CBD leads to a reduction in anxiety levels in subjects before giving a public speech (10).

Considering the above, we can revel in CBD’s ability to reduce anxiety and fear, especially when it comes to professional sports.

Is CBD Legal for Athletes?

The increasing popularity of CBD among athletes has forced regulatory bodies to reconsider their classification of CBD. Until recently, athletes had to choose dangerous prescription drugs over CBD oil due to potential sanctions from their sports associations.

The tides began to change when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) updated their schedule of prohibited substances by removing CBD from the list. CBD oil is now legal for athletes, including those participating in the Olympics, as long as it contains 0.3% THC or less.

The scope of athletes using CBD oil reaches further than the extreme level. Dancers, runners, MMA fighters, and many other professionals and amateur sportspeople also fall under the supervision of WADA.

As cannabis legalization is rolling across the United States, we can expect more research into the efficacy and safety of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids. This may cause major sports leagues and organizations to open their eyes to new opportunities on a broad scale.

Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?

No, CBD won’t show up on a drug test. Drug screenings are designed to look for THC and its metabolites.

Full-spectrum CBD oils contain 0.3% THC or less, so it’s virtually impossible to get a false-positive result for THC on a drug test if you take this type of CBD oil. You would need to take 1,900 mg CBD daily to get such a score. Should that happen, you can tell your coach about it and request another screening.

Those who want to avoid the risk of testing false positive for THC should look for broad-spectrum CBD or isolates; the first type contains all the compounds found in hemp but with THC removed during the later stage of extraction, while CBD isolate refers to pure, separated CBD that has no odor, no flavor, and contains 99% of cannabidiol.

Best Type of CBD for Athletes

There’s a debate over the efficacy of full-spectrum CBD extracts and isolates. Here’s how to distinguish between these two products — and which is better in certain scenarios.

Full Spectrum CBD vs Isolate for Athletes

As mentioned, full-spectrum CBD is a product made from the whole hemp plant. As such, it contains not only CBD but also other cannabinoids (including traces of THC) and terpenes. Researchers believe these compounds enhance the effectiveness of CBD; this phenomenon is known as the entourage effect and refers to synergistic effects between the said molecules.

Preliminary studies and many cannabis geneticists have suggested that cannabinoids and terpenes work better together than in isolation. When you take a look at the market, most companies start with full-spectrum CBD oils, steadily expanding their product selection with other formats and spectra.

CBD isolate, on the other hand, contains pure cannabidiol. The product is devoid of other cannabinoids and terpenes. Researchers argue that isolates are inferior to full-spectrum products in terms of their therapeutic potential, but at the same time, they may be the last resort for people whose leagues restrict the use of full-spectrum or broad-spectrum products. Isolates also come in handy if you are allergic to certain compounds in hemp.

Athletes often add some CBD isolate to full-spectrum oils to boost the amount of CBD they get in each serving.

Different Forms of CBD for Athletes

After digesting all the information we’ve presented so far, you may ask “what form of CBD will be the best in my case?” Choosing the right product type boils down to figuring out what works best for your lifestyle — and whether you value potency over convenience, or the other way round.

Here’s a brief overview of the popular choices among athletes who decide to try CBD.

CBD Oil for Athletes

CBD oil is the most common form of ingestion. It comes in different sizes and concentrations, so figuring the right dosage will require you to go through some trial and error. CBD oil is made from industrial hemp, so it won’t make you high. To take CBD in the form of oil, you need to apply the desired amount under your tongue using a dropper attached to your product. After holding the oil in the mouth for up to 60 seconds, the CBD will absorb through sublingual capillaries, avoiding the liver and the first-pass effect.

CBD oral drops usually take effect within 15–30 minutes after administration. Their bioavailability has been measured at around 35%, which is higher than with oral products such as capsules and gummies. Bioavailability is a figure expressing the amount of CBD that ends up in the user’s bloodstream.

The effects of CBD oil last up to 6 hours.

Alternative forms of CBD for those who are apprehensive about the hempy taste of full-spectrum CBD oil:

  • CBD capsules: like most supplements out there, CBD is available in a convenient soft gel form. CBD capsules contain a predetermined amount of CBD per serving, so you don’t need to calculate the dosage. Capsules are also more discreet than CBD oil and can be taken anywhere on the go without the fear of leaking out in the bag. However, since capsules need to be processed in the digestive system, they have a slower onset than CBD oil, kicking in after anywhere between 40–90 minutes.
  • CBD gummies: gummies are the most popular type of CBD edibles. They look just like regular gummy bears but with added CBD. Similar to capsules, gummies must be metabolized in the digestive tract, so their effects may come with a little ‘lag.’ On the other hand, they last longer than sublingual or vaporized CBD, up to 10 hours.
  • CBD vape pen: CBD vape pens contain CBD vape oil, which is a mixture of CBD extract and thinners like vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol. Vaporized CBD absorbs into the bloodstream through the lung tissues, providing the fastest effects of all consumption methods. When you inhale CBD through a vape pen, it starts to act within 5–10 minutes after inhalation, lasting 3–4 hours.

CBD Cream for Athletes

The use of CBD cream and other topicals has skyrocketed among athletes. CBD creams, balms, skin lotions, and patches are widely available online and in local health stores. Athletes use them for muscle strains, inflammation, and injuries. CBD topicals have been highlighted in multiple studies for their ability to regulate inflammation and pain through their interaction with cannabinoid receptors in the skin. That’s why athletes are switching from OTC or opioid-based painkillers to natural solutions like CBD creams.

Whenever you’re shopping for a CBD topical, make sure it’s made of organic ingredients, without GMO and synthetic additives that could negatively affect its quality. But most importantly, look for third-party lab reports to confirm the product’s potency and purity.

You can use CBD topicals to the affected area as many times as you need, reapplying it whenever you feel the effects are starting to disappear.

Final Verdict: Is CBD A Viable Health Supplement for Athletes?

The CBD boom has created many opportunities for athletes that seek natural alternatives for sports-related ailments, such as pain, inflammation, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. While CBD isn’t a miracle cure for all your health problems, it can surely contribute to a healthy fitness regimen, balancing the master regulatory network known as the endocannabinoid system.

Once you ditch the stigma-driven presumptions that cannabis and sports can’t fit together in one sentence, you’ll start seeing windows of opportunities to grow as a sports person both physically and mentally. As scientists are fueling more resources into the studies on the health benefits of CBD, we may soon discover new options in which CBD oil can aid those living active lifestyles. Whether you want to reduce pain, boost regeneration in a natural way, or push yourself beyond the limits, cannabidiol will make for a fine addition to your arsenal of supplements.


  1. Fine, Perry G, and Mark J Rosenfeld. “The endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids, and pain.” Rambam Maimonides medical journal vol. 4,4 e0022. 29 Oct. 2013, doi:10.5041/RMMJ.10129
  2. Hiller-Sturmhöfel, S, and A Bartke. “The endocrine system: an overview.” Alcohol health and research world vol. 22,3 (1998): 153-64.
  3. Hammell, DC et al. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduce inflammation and pain-related behaviors in a rat model of arthritis.” European journal of pain (London, England) vol. 20,6 (2016): 936-48. doi:10.1002/ejp.818
  4. Xiong, Wei et al. “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors.” The Journal of experimental medicine vol. 209,6 (2012): 1121-34. doi:10.1084/jem.20120242
  5. Russo, Ethan B. “Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain.” Therapeutics and clinical risk management vol. 4,1 (2008): 245-59. doi:10.2147/term.s1928
  6. Russo, Ethan B et al. “Agonistic properties of cannabidiol at 5-HT1a receptors.” Neurochemical research vol. 30,8 (2005): 1037-43. doi:10.1007/s11064-005-6978-1
  7. Ignatowska-Jankowska, Bogna et al. “Cannabidiol decrease body weight gain in rats: involvement of CB2 receptors.” Neuroscience letters vol. 490,1 (2011): 82-4. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2010.12.031
  8. Crippa, José Alexandre S et al. “Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report.” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England) vol. 25,1 (2011): 121-30. doi:10.1177/0269881110379283
  9. Stern, Cristina A J, et al. “On disruption of fear memory by reconsolidation blockade: evidence from cannabidiol treatment.” Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology vol. 37,9 (2012): 2132-42. doi:10.1038/npp.2012.63
  10. Zuardi, A W et al. “Effects of ipsapirone and cannabidiol on human experimental anxiety.” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England) vol. 7,1 Suppl (1993): 82-8. doi:10.1177/026988119300700112
Livvy Ashton

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

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CBD & Sports: 7 Reasons Athletes Should Consider Cannabidiol

CBD’s health-boosting qualities may make it the perfect choice for athletes. Here’s a list of 7 reasons why athletes are choosing CBD.

Article By

CBD’s therapeutic value is already pretty well established. Research shows CBD can be an effective painkiller, sleep aid, and general anti-inflammatory.

But CBD’s benefits transcend mere disease-related usage. The same qualities that lead to renewed health make CBD an excellent choice for athletes!

Its ability to reduce stress may prevent burnout. As a sleep aid, CBD may improve recovery times. Even the mechanism behind cannabidiol’s ability to quiet anxiety may lead to athletic benefits.

Are you ready to discover how CBD could benefit you and your sports performance?

Table of Contents
  • The Relationship Between Sports & Stress
  • Using Adaptogens to Promote Faster Recovery

7 Reasons Why Athlete’s are Using CBD

  • CBD reduces stress
  • CBD is an adaptogen
  • CBD protects the central nervous system
  • CBD improves sleep
  • CBD promotes muscle relaxation
  • CBD reduces anxiety
  • CBD reduces oxidation and inflammation

Benefit # 1: CBD Reduces Stress

Perhaps the single biggest benefit of CBD for athletes is stress reduction.

That may sound great — and it is — but what does it really mean? To answer that, we should first take a closer look at what stress is.

We’ll spend more time addressing benefit #1 than the other benefits on this list because it’s from this quality that all others flow.

So what is stress?

“Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

In 1936, a forward-thinking endocrinologist named Hanse Selye did one better. He described physiological stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”.

In animal experiments, Selye noted that stress could cause gut health breakdown, enlarged adrenal glands, and other effects. The results of chronic stress were even worse: animals developed arthritis, had strokes, and succumbed to heart attacks during his research.

The Relationship Between Sports & Stress

What does stress have to do with athletes?

That’s because athletic activities themselves are a form of stress — one that needs to be overcome and adapted to just like anything else.

As an athlete, you’ve probably already experienced this battle. The best training plan carefully balances work and rest, carefully balancing your nervous system on the fine line between freshness and overtraining.

Finding that sweet spot isn’t easy — but CBD could make it easier. Consistent daily supplementation with 10-20 milligrams of the compound might allow athletes to break through previous stress-induced limitations… pushing themselves to new limits in the process.

Benefit # 2: CBD as an Adaptogen

Traditional adaptogens include reishi mushrooms and echinacea, but now CBD has joined this list of stress-reducing, performance-boosting plants. That’s because it fits the definition perfectly.

So what are adaptogens?

As Dr. Brenda Powell of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine told Time Magazine, adaptogens are non-toxic plants and herbs “meant to bring us back to the middle.”

Adaptogens also protect the nervous system and the neuroendocrine system from overreaching themselves. And according to a 1969 study adaptogens must be stimulatory in nature — without causing side effects.

Sound familiar? That’s exactly what CBD does! By activating our endocannabinoid system (ECS), a signaling network of internal cannabis-like substances, CBD helps promote balance. With ECS activation comes the type of health and vitality where homeostasis can be maintained.

Using Adaptogens to Promote Faster Recovery

For athletes, CBD and the rest of hemp’s most active ingredients may help them better adapt to their training. Think of the metabolic state that follows a tough workout: body temperature is high, and cortisol levels through the roof. Additionally, muscle proteins have broken down, and stored sugar in the form of glycogen is almost completely depleted.

It’s not exactly a picture of balance.

Sensing this stress, the body begins to produce greater amounts of endocannabinoids such as anandamide to deal with the recovery process. Add in additional plant cannabinoids like CBD, and such imbalances can be quickly corrected.

Interestingly enough, this renewal process was also described by Hans Selye, who called it the “resistance stage” of adaptation. Resistance against stressors that is, in order to recover fast and avoid burnout.

Thankfully, CBD helps! One study even went so far as to question whether cannabinoids were performance-enhancing drugs that should be prohibited in pro athletics. And things could get even better when one takes CBD alongside other adaptogens…

While research in this area is limited, we do know that most plant adaptogens work via activating enzymes like AMPK to regulate energy balance and upregulate fat burning. It could be that taking CBD and other adaptogens together lead to synergistic effects! In other words, the two types of substances could actually help each other work better.

Benefit # 3: CBD Protects The Central Nervous System

The central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of the brain and spinal cord, and it controls inner communication and perception by sending signals within its nerves and neurons.

It’s simple: when there’s more stimulus within the body the CNS is more active, and when less is going on the CNS is less active. Sports that involve movements against resistance (think weight training) are especially taxing to the CNS. Tax it for long enough, and eventually, the system’s initial ‘spark’ of excitatory input begins to ‘dim’. With this loss of firing power comes less effective muscle contraction and reduced strength.

Athletes with CNS burnout will feel slower and lift less at the same rate of exertion. If the recovery process continues to be ignored, these athletes’ muscles may become literally unresponsive to normal neuronal firing. Not good!

But now for some better news: CBD is neurotransmission’s best friend. CBD may help synchronize neural signaling and help balance pre-and postsynaptic neurotransmitters [2]. The compound may also help nerves retain their myelin sheaths.

Actually, it’s the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that directly promotes neuronal health. But it all happens downstream of CBD intake, which has been shown again and again to strengthen and vitalize the ECS.

Taken pre-workout, might CBD protect against overtaxing the CNS? While that’s not proven yet, many strength & power athletes have credited CBD with helping them avoid the ‘shakiness’ that sometimes comes with max-effort lifts.

CBD may even aid a tired nervous system in recovery and growing more flexible.

Why? Because CBD aids endocannabinoids in their role as key modulator of synaptic plasticity” within the nervous system.

Benefit # 4: CBD Improves Sleep

One of the first and most obvious effects new users notice is that CBD helps their sleep. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a single first dose of the compound to result in more restful sleep that very same night!

A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users backs these anecdotal reports up. The study concluded that “consumers are using CBD as a specific therapy for multiple diverse medical conditions— [including] sleep disorders.

According to the same study, it’s working: “almost 36% of respondents reported that CBD treats their medical condition(s) ‘very well by itself’”.

Considering that intense athletic routines aren’t always good for sleep, this particular benefit holds tremendous promise for athletes.

CBD may also lower stress hormones like cortisol that could otherwise interfere with normal sleep cycles.

There’s a reason many elite athletes sleep a lot. More sleep = more time for tired muscles to recover! Roger Federer has famously said, “if I don’t sleep 11 to 12 hours per day, it’s not right.

If you’re not sleeping enough, don’t worry — CBD may help get you there. Unlike conventional sleep aids, though, it doesn’t activate any one receptor system enough to induce drowsiness when you’re out and about during the day.

For example, 10 mg of CBD at night will likely make you much sleepier than that same 10 mg dose taken earlier would. We’ll look at why that is next…

CBD = Better Circadian Rhythm?

Another amazing fact: the endocannabinoid system is photoentrained. What does that mean? It means that the system’s functions vary with the rising and falling of the sun. Endocannabinoid production is generally higher during the morning hours, and lower later in the day.

In recent years the importance of having a healthy circadian rhythm has come to light. Disregard the cues of nature through things like night-shift work or excess blue-light exposure, and bad things happen.

But that’s probably beyond the scope of this article. More relevant is the fact that many athletes experience disturbances to their sleep-wake cycles. These athletes may feel lethargic when they should be energized (and vice versa) and turn to excessive use of coffee or other stimulants. Depending on such substances may lead to further adrenal stress or nervous system breakdown.

We’re thankful to say that there’s a more holistic option. Taking CBD regularly may promote a type of energy balance that works with one’s environment — not against it. Athletes can consider taking an additional 10-20 milligrams of CBD an hour or two prior to bed if sleep is a problem.

Benefit # 5: CBD Promotes Muscle Relaxation

Athletes know that post-workout feeling, after a grueling session is in the books. Muscles teeming with lactate succumb to cramps and soreness; even normal activities like walking down the stairs become difficult.

In these moments comes the truly hard part: recovery.

Thankfully CBD is a potent muscle relaxant. That’s because the cannabinoid seems to help GABA (the nervous system’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter) work better by influencing GABA-A receptors. In other words, CBD may promote muscle relaxation by influencing a system that stills, quiets, and calms the body down.

Conversely, low levels of GABA have been linked to muscle spasms, cramps, and even substance use disorders. All things to be avoided by the diligent athlete!

CBD may also help active users avoid problems with their muscle and joint health.

As Runner’s World reports: “‘CBD coupled with stretching, icing, and foam rolling is a common treatment plan for tendonitis injuries about the knee, such as iliotibial band syndrome’ says Charles Bush-Joseph, M.D.”

To take advantage of these benefits, try supplementing with moderate amounts (10-20 mg) of ingested CBD each day. A CBD-infused topical applied directly to problem areas should also help by reducing localized inflammation.

Just keep in mind that the strength of CBD topicals varies wildly — we’d recommend something that contains 100 mg of CBD per ounce or more.

Benefit # 6: CBD Alleviates Anxiety

It appears to be good for chronic anxiety, acute anxiety, and everything in between. Even those who need relief from the fear of public speaking may stand to benefit from CBD!

Athletes could benefit too. Anxiety from the pressure to perform in training and competition can present a huge challenge to competitive athletes. The same study that recommended outlawing THC as a performance-enhancing drug praised CBD for its “decreased anxiety and fear memories extinction after oral CBD”, which could “enhance sports performance” without any mental downsides.

Just make sure that your CBD product is of the full-spectrum variety, which is often more effective than CBD isolate for anxiety. That’s because full-spectrum hemp extracts contain valuable compounds like terpenes and flavonoids, which work together to enrich CBD’s already-impressive effects.

Not much CBD is needed to experience relief from anxiety, either. Many athletes have experienced great results from taking small but consistent microdoses of the plant compound.

When placed into a highly convenient form (like a vaporizer), CBD can even be used prior to intense workouts and competitions. Dosing in the 3-10 milligram range is usually enough to instill a sense of calm and peace.

Benefit # 7: CBD Reduces Inflammation and Oxidation

Inflammation is a potential barrier to optimal health for us all. While a little bit of inflammation is actually a good thing, chronic inflammation can lead to pain, sickness, and weight gain.

None of those things are good for athletes… and for them, inflammation is one of the biggest barriers to fast recovery, too. Some turn to conventional NSAIDs to reduce pain and inflammation, but that’s not really viable, either.

Something more holistic is needed, and that something is CBD. According to a 2010 study cannabinoids “are potent anti-inflammatory agents and they exert their effects through induction of apoptosis, inhibition of cell proliferation, suppression of cytokine production and induction of T-regulatory cells (Tregs).”

In simpler terms, CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are complex enough to ensure that one experiences only the small, adaptogenic amount of inflammation needed. Consistent use of even small amounts of the compound may be enough to make a difference.

There’s one more type of stress athletes may benefit from avoiding: oxidative stress. Everyone knows that sufficient antioxidant intake is important, but did you know that a better route is to avoid oxidative buildup in the first place?

For this, an internal antioxidant called glutathione is needed. Rodent studies indicate that CBD may boost levels of this amazing substance, in turn reducing oxidative stress even more effectively than vitamin C or E. Interestingly enough, other adaptogens (like milk thistle and ashwagandha) can promote glutathione production, too.

With less oxidation comes less muscle soreness, better immune function, regulation of cellular recycling, and more. Glutathione may also promote insulin sensitivity, which in turn could allow athletes to improve their body composition and more efficiently utilize carbs. All good things for sports enthusiasts!

The more challenging your workout routine, the more inflammation you may have…and the more CBD you may need. In general 10-20 mg of the compound is an ideal dose, but more might be needed to help get you through your most intense training.

It’s a good idea to slowly increase your CBD dose and avoid making any drastic changes, though. That’s because CBD’s pharmacological effect is biphasic — it begins to slightly diminish after a certain dose is reached.

Increasing your dosing amount and frequency slowly will help ensure you don’t overshoot the dosing range which is optimal for you. You can also consider diversifying your CBD intake.

If 20 mg/day of CBD oil isn’t quite enough to reduce inflammation, try adding in a CBD topical, nighttime pain patch, and/or CBD vape pen.