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Cbd oil for athletes

CBD and Sports: Can Cannabidiol Improve Athletic Performance?

For most athletes and sports enthusiasts, the search for performance enhancing additions to add to your routine can be undying and often challenging. Because supplements and substances used by athletes – especially professional ones – must conform to anti-doping laws, be safe while effective, and these days are preferably natural, there is a new player in the field. Enter CBD, or cannabidiol.

CBD is making waves among athletes and sports enthusiast who claim the benefits can vary from accelerated recovery, to better sleep, to less stress of upcoming events. Though many organizations still consider THC, the often-better known cousin of CBD, to be an illicit substance the World Anti-Doping Agency does permit the use of CBD for athletes. It’s always best to check with your particular sports and leagues rules, but overall, CBD is gaining more and more popularity among athletes since being removed from the WAD’s list of controlled substances. Let’s take a closer look at why, and how CBD could benefit your athletic routine:

What Is Cannabidiol?

CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that has shown to have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-anxiety and analgesic properties. CBD, along with other cannabinoids have been thought to help with an abundance of health and wellness related issues, from acting as a sleep aid, to stress reduction and pain management. CBD is vastly different than THC and offers different therapeutic properties that can benefit athletes without causing issues in the direction of drug testing or an altered mindset known as the “high” that comes from THC.

CBD interacts directly with the human body’s endocannabinoid system, or the ECS. This bodily system is known for controlling and contributing to things like appetite, mood, pain and inflammation. By interacting with the receptors within the ECS, cannabidiol is able to impact the body and brain’s response to a number of things. This interaction has proven beneficial for people from all walks of life, including athletes.

CBD for Athletes

In a 2020 review published by Sports Medicine, preclinical animal studies and clinical trials with non-athletes, researchers found that CBD could help promote both physiological and psychological as well as biochemical benefits that could help athletes. A key factor in this was found directly linked to CBD’s ability to alleviate inflammatory pain linked with tissue damage, and neuropathic pain due to nerve irritation or damage. This could be a gamechanger for action and endurance sport athletes who are subject to high-intensity and impact movements as well as repetitive and long-distance workouts that can lead to inflammation and irritation or injury.

For athletes in any sport, CBD could be a beneficial addition to your training regimen for a few reasons. By interacting specifically with the CB1 and CB2 receptors within the endocannabinoid system, CBD can aid in reducing the pain and inflammation associated with athletic injury or irritation. For athletes this can lead a shorter recovery period with increased comfort. CBD for athletes is commonly consumed through sublingual methods, like an oil or tincture, as well as applied topically with a cream or lotion. Topical application can target specific areas, while sublingual consumption can bring a sense of overall body and mind wellness.

Many athletes may find themselves getting stressed out before a game or event. As stress can impact performance adversely, CBD could be an option for mitigation. To manage game day stress as well as preparation, CBD is a great natural alternative.

Similarly, after an athletic session, game, or heavy workout, it’s important for athletes and active people to get adequate sleep, so the body has time to heal on its own. A tiring day should normally put an athlete to sleep easily but pre-existing sleep issues or heightened stress levels may lead to a struggle getting to sleep at night. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to regulate mood and even behavior similarly to pain, helping you stay active during the day and get good sleep at night.

CBD for Athletes: Up Your Performance Naturally

CBD use for athletes is on the rise, and one major influencer is the ability to pass a drug test. As an athlete turning to CBD, always be sure to double check label claims for accuracy so you are in compliance with your team or league’s substance rules. Most companies are transparent in their claims but airing on the side of caution and relying on brands backed by third party -lab-test results is your best way to ensure safety.

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If you are curious to learn more about CBD products created specifically with athletes in mind, check out Tribe CBD. Crafted with care from seed to sale, Tribe offers a variety of great products that are perfect for athletes. From their Hemp CBD Energy Shots to their Hemp CBD Cold Therapy Cream, all label claims are backed by third-party test results and are completely THC free unless stated otherwise.

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.

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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)

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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.