As the CBD craze sweeps the world over, we hear more stories of people who are using it with positive results. CBD has become a popular supplement, taken by people for certain aspects of their health or just to boost general well-being. One group of people who are certainly seeing the benefits of CBD for their bodies and minds is athletes.
Whether they are endurance training, looking to help their body to recover faster or deal with some of the mental stresses and strains of being an athlete, it seems like more and more sports people are turning to CBD.
Life as an athlete requires daily training, pushing the body to its limits. Professional athletes put themselves into high-pressure situations, so they need to be mentally and physically ready to train successfully day after day. Although CBD can be very useful particularly to top-level athletes, it can benefit anyone who plays sport or trains physically.
What Is CBD? How Is It Useful To Athletes?
CBD – or cannabidiol is one of the major compounds which is naturally present in the cannabis plant. It is what’s known as a ‘phytocannabinoid’ – or a cannabinoid which is made by a plant, meaning that it is completely natural.
When CBD is consumed by humans, it can affect certain parts of the body which are connected to the Endocannabinoid system. This is a system which can affect aspects of the body such as your pain threshold, inflammation, sleep and anxiety. The body naturally makes endocannabinoids (cannabinoids made naturally by the body) and when phytocannabinoids like CBD are taken, they work in a similar way to the endocannabinoids.
Although we are still waiting for more scientific research into exactly how and why CBD can be very useful to athletes, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Both athletes and non-athletes agree that it can be very useful for joint and muscular pain relief and reducing general inflammation in the body.
CBD also seems to have an effect on the brain, although it won’t make you high. More and more people are using it to help them to improve their sleep. People report CBD can make it easier getting to sleep, and improve their quality of sleep. Many consumers of CBD also claim it is great for reducing anxiety. Problems sleeping and anxiety relating to competitions and training can be common amongst athletes of all levels, and this is another reason why increasing numbers of athletes are looking towards CBD.
What Evidence Is There?
The legal status of cannabis across the world has hindered research until recently. This has meant that research into CBD is still in its infancy. As stated above, there is limited research into why exactly why CBD can be so effective, but as scientists gain more insight into CBD, peer-reviewed scientific studies are starting to reveal its secrets.
There is research which shows that CBD can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. For athletes, inflammation is usually the cause of pain in joints and muscles. Often athletes turn to anti-inflammatory pain killers like Ibuprofen which can be harmful with long term use. CBD is natural, non-addictive and there are no detrimental long term effects.
When we exercise, our body can create too many free radicals which can go on to cause oxidative stress. This can cause damage to tissue in the body. Research shows that CBD can work as an anti-oxidant – which can neutralise some of these free radicals, protecting the body.
There are many people who suggest that CBD can help them to sleep – for whatever reason it is that they are having problems. There has been research to suggest that cannabidiol can help with sleep, and this is an area that researchers are looking into more. Professional athletes can have sleep problems, linked to the pressure that they are under to perform well.
One big issue that athletes struggle with is anxiety – whether it comes from their general lifestyle, anxiety over performance or hectic living. There is plenty of evidence which shows that CBD can be effective in helping to deal with anxiety.
What Is The Best Way To Take CBD For Sport?
There are a number of different ways that CBD can be taken by athletes of all levels. The best way for you depends on the outcome that you are looking for.
Many athletes use topical creams, oils and gels which can be rubbed into joints or muscles. These can be used frequently, and many sportspeople say topicals are a great way to relieve the pain of sore joints and muscles post exercise.
For people who are looking for a general background dose of CBD – who, for example, are struggling with anxiety, edibles or capsules are a good idea. You would take them like any other food or food supplement and, due to the fact that they are absorbed through the digestive system, they stay in your system for a few hours.
If you are looking for short term effects – for sleeping, for example, many people either use a CBD vaporiser or sub-lingual oil. Vaping is certainly the quickest way to get CBD into you – but the effect doesn’t last for long. CBD oil can be dropped under the tongue where it is held for one to two minutes. It gets absorbed quickly into the blood vessels near to the lining of the mouth and also comes into effect quickly – within about 15 minutes.
Will CBD Show Up On Drug Testing?
One thing that professional competing athletes must be very careful about is drug testing. Although CBD was taken off the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency, there may be potential risks with other ingredients in CBD products.
As well as CBD, there is also a compound called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in the cannabis plant. THC is the cannabinoid which gives you the high that is commonly associated with cannabis. When you get a CBD product, it is usually made from industrial hemp – a variety of cannabis which has been especially bred to contain very low levels of THC. In the UK and EU, this hemp is grown from strains authorised by the EU, and the resulting products will under 0.2% THC content, which is the maximum permitted under UK law.
However, sometimes CBD products can contain small amounts of THC and it is THC that the drug tests are looking for. While highly unlikely, a drug test could show a positive for THC if standards aren’t met. So it’s important that athletes considering supplementing with CBD are aware of what they are buying.
There are three kinds of CBD products that can be bought:
Full-spectrum CBD – which includes all of the other compounds in the plant (including low, permitted levels of THC) and is generally deemed to be the most effective.
Broad-spectrum CBD – which includes most of the other compounds – but should have no THC – although this cannot be completely guaranteed.
CBD Isolate – which is as close to ‘pure’ CBD as you can find. It doesn’t give the benefits of the other compounds as well but will guarantee athletes that there is no THC there.
To avoid any issues with drug testing, always buy CBD products that provide a lab report of their ingredients. Check the THC level on the third-party lab test certificate. Reputable companies should already have this on their website or provide it on request. For extra peace of mind, ensure the supplier is registered with a recognised trade body, and tests for cross-contamination.
Drug tested athletes should be aware of everything that they put in their body and CBD is no different. However, there are more and more athletes and sportspeople, both at the top level and recreational who are using CBD for a number of different reasons, and they are all finding that it works wonders for them.