Health and wellness supplements are continuously improving to help athletes achieve higher peak performance while also aiding in faster recovery. Since athletes are constantly stressing their bodies this can create a high risk for injuries, pain, and inflammation. Many modern medications like hydrocodone and fentanyl can help with pain management but also come with a variety of harmful side effects. A few of the most common side effects associated with pharmaceutical drugs include headaches, insomnia, diarrhea, and nausea. On the other hand, CBD has proven to neither be an abusive nor dependent substance and has shown to work very well with human physiology. This is one of the main reasons why countless athletes are moving away from traditional pharmaceuticals and are switching to CBD in the hopes of finding relief for their medical conditions. If athletes are searching for pain relief, a reduction in inflammation or faster recovery, CBD just might be the supplement they are looking for.
CBD, otherwise known as Cannabidiol, is used by people all around the world due to its therapeutic effects on the human body and mind. “In preclinical studies, CBD shows potential therapeutic efficacy against a diverse assortment of medical conditions. These include seizure disorders, psychotic symptoms, anxiety, depression, inflammation, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegeneration, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain, either used alone or when co-administered with THC” (Corroon, J., & Phillips, J. A. (2018). CBD has proven in numerous studies that it can treat a multitude of medical conditions and aid in quicker recovery time. Due to these new discoveries, CBD has become a mainstream topic in the medical and fitness industry.
The Connection Between CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
To get a full understanding of why CBD works so well within the human body, we must first shift our focus onto the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is an exceptional communication system with cannabinoid receptors located throughout the brain and body. The two primary cannabinoid receptors that researchers have discovered are cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2). These receptors play a major part in human function in a variety of different ways. The main purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate our mood, physiology, pain response, and the way we handle our day to day experiences. In other words, the goal of the endocannabinoid system is to keep all bodily systems in balance or in biological terms, “in homeostasis”. Homeostasis can be understood as the process our body uses to constantly maintain a balanced internal environment. By understanding homeostasis, you begin to see why the endocannabinoid system plays a key role in human performance.
The natural chemicals produced by the body are called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are produced by all mammals and bind with cannabinoid receptors to help regulate blood glucose, blood pressure, gene expression and much more. Recent scientific studies have found that the endocannabinoid system also interacts with other external cannabinoids called phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids such as CBD are naturally occurring cannabinoids and are found in the cannabis plant. When CBD is consumed it acts upon both the CB1 and CB2 receptors around the body to produce a therapeutic effect. However, CBD does not directly bind with either of the cannabinoid receptors but instead influences them indirectly. These indirect interactions send molecular-messages throughout the body, cells, organs, and bodily tissues. This then activates TRPV1 Receptors which specifically control functions like inflammation, pain response, and body temperature. A great way to picture this process is by imagining cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids like a lock and key. After a phytocannabinoid physically interacts with a cannabinoid receptor it “unlocks” the receptor. When unlocked this initiates changes in the cells which in turn allows for a vast amount of therapeutic potential for the body and brain.
CBD for Athletic Injuries
Inflammation is the hallmark of almost every sports injury out there and CBD may be the remedy. Athletes from all types of sports are consuming CBD to either improve their athletic performance or to aid in a faster recovery. Most rigorous workouts that athletes push themselves through cause microscopic damage to the body’s tissues and muscles. This microscopic damage causes inflammation in the body which then triggers the body’s repair response. The repair process allows the body’s muscles to grow back stronger and healthier over time. However, if there is too much inflammation left in the body this can cause muscle damage or poor athletic performance. Taking CBD when there is a high amount of inflammation in the body can be beneficial to the athlete. A recent study on CBD investigated its anti-inflammatory effects on rats with inflammation and pain-related behaviors. The study used 54 rats split into groups and examined them for 7 days to see how effective CBD gel was on the reduction of inflammation and pain. “CBD gels (0.6, 3.1, 6.2 or 62.3 mg/day) were applied for 4 consecutive days after arthritis induction. Joint circumference and immune cell invasion in histological sections were measured to indicate the level of inflammation present. Paw withdrawal latency (PWL) in response to noxious heat stimulation determined nociceptive sensitization, and exploratory behavior ascertained animal’s activity level” Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Blood samples were collected from the rats on the last day of gel application to determine the results. The outcome of the study indicated that the topical application of CBD gel was effective in reducing pain, inflammation, and hypersensitivity. The transdermal application of CBD had long-lasting therapeutic effects without any psychoactive side-effects at specific doses. With that being said, CBD proved to reduce inflammation and pain which shows that CBD can aid athletes in faster recovery from their sports-related injuries.
Final Thoughts on CBD and Athletics
When considering the many ways in which CBD can help athletics, it is clear that further research is necessary to discover the full benefits of CBD on human physiology. Consuming CBD can help a majority of athletes with recovering faster by managing pain and reducing inflammation in the body. By athletes taking CBD to recover faster this then creates an opportunity for better athletic performance. Additionally, the endocannabinoid system facilitates many of the bodily systems by maintaining homeostasis which plays an influential role in the body’s response to exercise. To conclude, this article is intended to provide an overview of how combining CBD with exercise can improve all-around human performance.
Austin is a writer for Baked Bros and has been working in the cannabis industry since 2017. He received a B.S. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Arizona State University but has been studying cannabis on and off since 2013. On his spare time, he enjoys creating cannabis content, studying strain specificities, and examining healthy ways to incorporate cannabis into everyday lifestyles. Follow him on Instagram: @Imaustinransom or @arizonacannabiscommunity.
SourcesCorroon, J., & Phillips, J. A. (2018). A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 3(1), 152–161. doi:10.1089/can.2018.0006
L., S., J., C., Mueller, Bidwell, Cinnamon, L., Hutchison, . . . D., A. (2019, April 08). The New Runner's High? Examining Relationships Between Cannabis Use and Exercise Behavior in States With Legalized Cannabis. Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00099/full
Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European journal of pain (London, England), 20(6), 936–948. doi:10.1002/ejp.818