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CBD and the benefits for athletes

CBD and the benefits for athletes

In search of better sports recovery and safer pain relief, many people ask about cannabidiol or CBD for athletes.

Chronic use of over-the-counter pain relievers (i.e. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium) poses a greater health risk than previously known, and we are in the midst of an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses that They kill tens of thousands of Americans every year.

In such an environment, athletes are curious about the promises of cannabidiol (CBD) for relieving pain and reducing inflammation without the risks associated with NSAIDs or opioids.

Are CBD Products Right for You? ...

Is CBD legal for athletes or sportsmen?

Yes. As of early 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances, in or out of competition. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency followed suit. There is one important caveat: ONLY CBD was removed from the banned list.

The psychoactive component of marijuana, THC, is still banned in competition, as are synthetic cannabinoids. The specific wording is: "The following cannabinoids are prohibited: Natural cannabinoids, e.g. Cannabis, hashish and marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids, THC and other cannabimimetics."

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

  • Cannabinoids already exist in your body. Scientists have identified what they call the endocannibinoid system (ECS) that modulates the activity of neurons.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid that occurs naturally in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, which is also found in cannabis, CBD is not psychoactive.
  • Within your nervous system, two endocannabinoids (2-AG and EAE) are produced in postsynaptic (downstream) neurons and released into the synapse. They bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors on the presynaptic (upstream) neuron and act to inhibit the release of certain neurotransmitters. For example, 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 too, but more of them are found in the tissues of the immune system. CBD binding to CB1 receptors has a greater effect on the central nervous system, and CBD binding to CB2 receptors has a greater effect on reducing inflammation.
  • The main purpose of the ECS appears to be to maintain homeostasis (the tendency of living organisms and other systems to adapt to new conditions), which it does by keeping neurotransmitter levels under control. Consumption of CBD could be considered to complement or increase the activity of the existing endocannabinoid system in your body.
  • When you exercise, greater stress is placed on your body, leading to more pain and inflammation than your endocannabinoid system can handle. Adding CBD helps this overloaded system regain control of its neurotransmitters and helps maintain homeostasis (It is the tendency of living organisms and other systems to adapt to new conditions).
Benefits of CBD for athletes

Ease the pain

  • Studies have shown that cannabis (mainly THC and much less CBD) is effective in reducing pain, including musculoskeletal pain from exercise, as well as stiff joints.

Alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

  • Athletes have been taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) for decades, but they may not be as safe as we once thought.
  • It is recommended that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs be avoided during long training sessions and events due to the increased risk of kidney damage. But even if your workouts and events are short, long-term or frequent use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Some athletes have found that the pain-relieving effect of CBD can reduce or eliminate their use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for exercise-related pain, with minimal side effects. According to The Essentials of Pain Medicine, Fourth Edition, “There are no documented deaths from cannabis or cannabinoid-based products.”

Alternative to opioids

  • Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016. Opioid pain relievers (i.e., morphine, codeine, oxycontin) are highly effective for treating pain, but carry a significant risk of addiction and death. due to overdose.
  • Cannabinoids are not as rapid as opioids in relieving high-intensity acute pain, they may take a little longer to achieve analgesic release, but they can be effective for long-term pain management, either alone or in combination with other medications, with much less risk of dependence or accidental death.

Reduce inflammation

  • A little inflammation can be good for athletes and help stimulate positive training adaptations. Too much inflammation hinders recovery and impairs performance. There are CB2 receptors in both the brain and the periphery, but they are more concentrated in immune tissues.
  • The binding of cannabinoids to CB2 receptors can have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing the production of cytokines (cellular messengers). In other words, CBD bound to CB2 receptors helps reduce the response when your immune system sounds the alarm after hard workouts.

Solve your bowel problem

  • Inflammation in the small and large intestine causes a lot of discomfort, and gastrointestinal distress is one of the main reasons endurance athletes quit racing.
  • CBD won't fix stomach problems from dehydration and overheating (two leading causes for athletes), but if you have underlying inflammation issues that contribute to gut problems during or after exercise, CBD may be effective in reducing your symptoms. . There are CB1 and CB2 receptors in the colon. Colitis symptoms were inhibited when CB1 and CB2 receptors were activated.

Improve sleep quality

  • Getting more sleep and better sleep is one of the most effective ways an athlete can achieve greater training gains. Anecdotally, athletes who consume CBD report easier sleep and a more restful night's sleep. A possible reason for this could be CBD inhibiting adenosine reuptake.
  • Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is broken down as your brain burns carbohydrates for energy and adenosine gradually builds up in the brain. Greater binding of adenosine to neurons inhibits the release of neurotransmitters, slowing brain activity, helping you feel calmer and inducing sleep. Your body metabolizes adenosine while you sleep, and soon after, low concentrations of adenosine help you wake up and the process begins again.
  • By binding to the same receptors that adenosine attaches to, CBD can inhibit the reuptake of adenosine, helping it build up more quickly and making you feel sleepy sooner. CBD can also have a powerful anti-anxiety effect for some people, which can help them sleep and have more restful sleep.


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 CBD was derived from industrial hemp, the THC content of the original plant is legally assumed to be less than .3% (in Colorado). Products containing CBD isolate must only contain CBD. CBD isolate and CBD produced from hemp would be a better option, from an anti-doping standpoint, for anyone with zero-tolerance drug testing at work.

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, it has great potential to improve sports performance. And if you can get athletes to cut back on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, and prescription sleep aids, those are even bigger wins.

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