CBD and Sports
Sunday, October 31, 2021 • 13 minute read
What Effect does CBD have on athletes?
Competitive sports are all about marginal gains. Top athletes will stop at nothing to get the edge over their competition, increase performance, and smash their personal bests.
Calorie counting, tailored training, mental preparation - every opportunity is exploited. Yet in recent years there has been a new trend - athletes at all levels are including CBD as part of their training, recovery, and preparation routines.
CBD is now a household name and is being used by millions of people across the world to help relieve chronic pain, anxiety, and a whole range of other ailments. But it’s also being touted by top sports stars such as women’s soccer legend Megan Rapinoe, boxer Mike Tyson, and UFC fighter Nate Diaz as a key part of their performance.
Is CBD legal in sports?
In 2021 US sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson was infamously banned from competing in the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for cannabis just weeks before the event. At the same time, other athletes in Tokyo were openly using CBD products.
This is because in 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances.
However, the rules are very tight. There are over 140 known cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and WADA only allows the use of CBD. THC, the cannabinoid that causes the psychoactive effects or “high” of marijuana is still prohibited, as are other commonly known compounds such as CBG and CBN.
Competitive athletes should be aware that some CBD tinctures and oils may contain other prohibited cannabinoids. Always check the labels and only use CBD isolate products to be sure.
CBD Sports Benefits
First of all, the difference between CBD and marijuana should be noted. In 2018 the World Health Organisation released a report indicating that CBD has no mind-altering properties and that it does not have the potential for misuse or dependency, unlike other performance-enhancing substances and many over-the-counter drugs.
The truth that not many people know about CBD is that it is produced naturally in our bodies. In fact, CBD is present in the bodies of nearly every animal on planet earth.
It interacts with a network called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system acts to bring various functions in our bodies into balance, such as our mood, sleep, appetite, fertility, focus, and pain reception. Whenever we take CBD products we are supplementing or increasing the activity of our bodies’ existing ECS.
Because of the legal status of cannabis in many countries, research into CBD is not as advanced as it should be. But as Canada, the US, and many other nations have changed their stance on the plant, research has been coming thick and fast and the results are already very positive.
The most prominent use for CBD amongst athletes is for pain reduction. Research into the pain-relieving properties of CBD is promising, with a 2018 study revealing it is effective at reducing various types of chronic pain.
CBD is also a fantastic anti-inflammatory compound. A study found that CBD reduced inflammation in rats with osteoarthritis and a separate 2009 review showed CBD can reduce acute inflammation.
And it’s not just physical symptoms that CBD may help to relieve. Along with pain reduction, the top reason that CBD is used outside of the sports world is to help reduce symptoms of mental illness.
Anxiety, stress, and depression are more prevalent than ever in today’s society, and while many drugs can alleviate these illnesses they often come with profound side effects. This is one reason that so many people suffering from anxiety, stress, and related secondary problems are turning to CBD for treatment.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse published a report that says that CBD is effective for reducing generalized anxiety in animals such as rats. Other studies have suggested that CBD can help fight social anxiety disorder, PTSD, and anxiety-induced insomnia.
CBD is still very much in its early days, but the research so far shows great signs and is constantly growing. Every year more clinical evidence comes to light which backs up what millions of CBD users around the world are already saying.
CBD for Sports Recovery
Feeling sore after the gym or your morning run? We’ve all felt that burn the day after a hard training session where it feels like our whole body is ready to fall apart. Well, CBD can offer a helping hand!
Studies show CBD may assist with muscle recovery, so you can get back in the gym quickly, spending less time hobbling up the stairs or struggling to put your socks on.
Recovery, or to be specific - fast recovery, is key to maintaining peak performance week after week for top athletes and sportspeople. Whether it's recovering quickly from intense training sessions - meaning you can get right straight back into the gym, or being able to recover between events, bouncing back faster and stronger is the name of the game.
The technical name for fatigue and achiness after exercise is ‘delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. During a workout, you force your muscles to work harder than normal and this added stress causes microscopic damage or tears within your muscle fibres.
DOMS is thought to be a culmination of several causes - including lactic acid build-up, muscle spasm, connective tissue damage, muscle damage, inflammation, and enzyme efflux.
The combination of the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD make it a must-have in your kit bag or bathroom. Many athletes use the traditional tincture drops of oil under the tongue, but gels and muscle rubs are increasingly being used to target the painful and aching areas directly.
By reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow, it is thought that CBD can decrease the time it takes to repair itself after strenuous workouts. Additionally, the pain-reducing effects can make the day after the gym a lot less painful. As a result, many athletes find they can return to training faster and harder than before, and also push themselves that little bit extra with the knowledge that CBD can aid their recovery.
CBD for Sports Injuries
In the world of sports and athletics, injuries large and small are to be expected. Sports like football, UFC, and rugby all come with their fair share of injuries, but even non-contact sports can take their toll on the body when you’re pushing it to the limit.
These small injuries can be enough to massively reduce top-level performance ability and even put athletes on the sidelines completely. Even for amateur runners, cyclists, or yoga practitioners, injuries and recovery are often part of the process. And when it comes to making this process as smooth and pain-free as possible, CBD can be an amazing tool.
As we’ve already noted, CBD can play a massive role in helping the body recover. The compound is also linked to an increase in sleep quality, which can aid recovery from injury and training.
Another reason why CBD has become so popular in sports recovery is because of its benign properties. It’s non-addictive, non-damaging, and the side effects are extremely mild and short-lasting.
When compared to other pain-relieving drugs such as opioids, CBD offers a much safer alternative. Even commonly used over-the-counter drugs such as Ibuprofen are more damaging than once thought. While CBD may not pack the same punch as stronger prescription drugs, many people are turning to the cannabis extract to bring relief from smaller injuries.
CBD for Sports Anxiety
Mental health in sport is a topic that has seen a lot of light in recent years. For a long while, nobody talked about the toll that performing at high levels can take on the minds of athletes. Even at an amateur level, there is often a lot of pressure involved.
Once we get into the frame of mind of training and competing, we place so much importance on our physical performance and our bodies - and when our performance lags or our bodies let us down, it can be a crushing blow.
The flip side to this is peak performance is often reliant on strong mental health, focus, and confidence. We want to step out into the gym or pitch or ring feeling mentally strong and primed for action.
A lot of athletes are using CBD’s stress-busting properties to take the edge off their performance-related worries, putting them in the best frame of mind before big events. It can also be used to aid sleep to make sure you’re well-rested on the day of action.
We’ve all heard top sports talking about being in “the zone” and we’ve probably all been there in our own lives. Those moments where you’re so switched on, so dialled in, everything else fades into the background, you’re performing out of instinct and almost without thinking.
This hyper-focused mindset is crucial in many sports, and CBD might just help you get there.
A 2017 study found that CBD may help treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), improving alertness and calmness of the mind. Another study concluded that CBD may allow your mind to focus on the tasks that matter to you, rather than your attention being pulled away by other distractions you may face.
CBD for Sports Performance
When you add together all of the potential benefits of using CBD as a supplement to sports performance, it's easy to see why so many athletes from rugby players, mixed martial artists, cyclists, swimmers, and even snooker players are getting involved.
CBD can offer a whole package when it comes to increasing performance and training output. It can help you recover quicker in between workouts, increasing the time you can spend in the gym per week. It can decrease your pain perception, meaning you can overcome injuries quicker, and push your limits deeper into your pain threshold. It can help you handle the stress and pressure that comes with a demanding workout or sports regimen. You can focus quicker, concentrate deeper, and keep your mental health up to speed with your physical performance.
Of course, CBD won’t do the hard work for you - but it does have the potential to give your performance that extra edge you need to smash that 10k time, bench the weight you’ve been building towards, or put in a match-winning display on the pitch.
CBD Sport Supplements
As the CBD world grows, a few brands have emerged that produce CBD specifically tailored for supplementing sports performance.
One such brand is FourFive CBD. Founded by professional rugby-playing friends George Kruis and Dominic Day. With almost a quarter of a century playing at the top of the sport, these two have an inside perspective on the rigorous training regimens, injuries, and lengthy recoveries that are part and parcel of the sport.
While looking for a way to best manage the aches and bruises of the game, the pair came across CBD and were blown away by how effective it was. They made it their mission to create a CBD product made by athletes, for athletes (and anyone who lives an active lifestyle).
FourFive works with the finest CBD suppliers and has designed sports products that are a perfect natural alternative. You can learn more about FourFive CBD products here.
Another sports-focused CBD brand is Pure Sport CBD. Pure Sport CBD was founded by two professional athlete’s discovery of the benefits of CBD to optimise their physical performance and recovery. Clarity, Boost and Unwind CBD oils also combine CBD with adaptogens and vitamins to enhance the nootropic effects of CBD.