CBD for Athletic Recovery


I have been wanting to talk about this topic for a while so I am very grateful for the words and research done by my friends over at Color Up Therapeutics to talk all about CBD and how it can be used for athletes. 

What is CBD and how can it be used in athletic recovery?

You may be thinking - I just had a great workout, my head is clear, my body feels pumped - I don’t want to get high or feel tired right now. The good news is that you no longer have to feel those psychoactive effects, or fall asleep on the couch to reap the powerful therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant. How, you ask? CBD! 

Let’s start with the basics. 

Many people believe that all names - hemp, marijuana, Cannabidiol (CBD), Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), etc., refer to the same thing. While all of these are related in some way, it’s important to note that although Marijuana and Hemp are both members of the cannabis family and share a lot of the same characteristics, a crucial difference between them is the amount of psychoactive THC each plant produces. While marijuana can currently contain up to 35% THC, hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC, the compound that gets you high. Typical weed, pot, hash, and other substances containing above 0.3% THC, come from the Marijuana plant that is most often bred for high THC. While Marijuana can also be bred for high CBD, the Hemp plant contains maximum CBD with much lower concentrations of THC, and that is what is legal to be sold outside of dispensaries, and nationwide.  

There are over 80 active cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant, but a few primary cannabinoids that have been discovered, and provide most of the effects, are THC, THCa, CBD, CBN, CBG, and CBC. These compounds can be found in both marijuana and hemp plants at different levels and are a class of diverse chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors within the body. With the exception of THC, the other aforementioned cannabinoids are non-psychoactive, providing relief without the high. Due to the fact that there are no psychoactive effects, and many powerful medicinal benefits, CBD is ideal for treating athletes, children, and those who want to remain clear headed. 


If you’re an athlete that’s been waiting to try it, here’s your green light!   

Due to its therapeutic properties, and laundry list of benefits, it is not uncommon for athletes to use CBD pre-and post-workout. CBD is becoming more well-known for its ability to reduce stress. Typically, standard marijuana with a high proportion of THC can induce anxiety, mania, and increase the action of the body’s adrenal system, causing a large influx of cortisol into the bloodstream. However, CBD is found to interfere with the secretion of cortisol, reducing blood levels significantly. From what we know, it helps the body adapt to stress by reducing elevated cortisol. When used pre-workout, those reduced cortisol levels can help you go harder, and longer. CBD also has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and appetite-regulating effects that can support post-workout recovery. 

The Olympic Committee set a new precedent when they decided to remove CBD from their list of banned substances, and The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) implemented its new regulations on January 1, 2018 which completely removed CBD from the list and allows athletes to use CBD. 

Whether you’re trying to gain muscle, or just get healthy, CBD may play a helpful role in your exercise routine. 

Everyone from weekend warriors to professional athletes eventually suffer from some sort of soreness, tiredness and even feelings of nausea at some point during training. An athlete’s body is subjected to high impact, wear and tear, injury, and fatigue. At the end of a long event, or a full day of training, you will surely feel some of these side effects. If left unattended, even the slightest injury may impact your performance thereafter, and can eventually have long-term effects on the body. CBD may help speed up the body’s natural recovery time, improve recovery of tissues, nerves, and bones, reduce pain, and minimize any negative effects on the body after working out. One of its most powerful benefits is reducing chronic inflammation, one of the biggest issues an athlete (and most everyone) faces on a daily basis. The anti-inflammatory properties also help to prevent joint injury, as well as reducing pain from swelling. CBD may also help with the stressors involved in high level training and competition. It can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress that comes along with starting a new workout routine, training for an event, or just maintaining a daily regimen. 

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of CBD is that it’s a natural aid in workout recovery that not only treats symptoms, but also works at the root cause. 

Years of scientific research has revealed that phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant) such as CBD, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex system that works within the body, creating its own endogenous cannabinoids and controls a variety of biological processes like appetite, immune responses, mood, and sleep. The ECS also contains a network of cannabinoid receptors found in the brains, immune systems, and digestive systems of all mammals (so our pets can benefit from CBD as well!). By connecting with the two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are found on cells throughout the body, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, helping it in striving to achieve homeostasis - the body’s natural state of balance. 


CBD may decrease your downtime.

If you are looking for sustained relief of your pain from post workout injuries, your best option would be a daily sublingual. Sublingual administration is one of the most potent, bioavailable, and quickest ways for CBD to enter your blood stream – around 10-15 minutes – just a few minutes longer than vaping/smoking which is almost immediate. Edibles are another great option but they typically take 1-2 hours to kick in and lose a bit of potency as they are digested in the body. Whichever route you choose, you should begin with a small dose of CBD to test how the body will respond. Continue to increase the does according to how much you need, but keep in mind that your body does not need a large amount of CBD to activate the ECS. It’s best to stick with a lower dose and up your frequency if you’re feeling like you need more throughout the day. For more localized relief, a topical salve or lotion would be your best bet. When applied topically, CBD works to reduce inflammation and pain in a more specific area and does not enter your blood stream like internal administration does. You can apply them topically whenever you experience symptoms and you should feel some relief within the first 30 minutes. Ingesting CBD is definitely the way to go for more long-term effects, but applying it topically can provide more immediate relief. There are lots of other ways to consume, but these are the most studied and understood.

Let’s break it down. 

Inflammation: CBD may be extremely effective in managing inflammation pre-and post-exercise. This may prevent joint injury during physical activity, as well as reducing any pain from swelling that may prevent you from training properly. 

Pain: Cannabis is an analgesic, helping to alleviate pain both during and after exercise. Many athletes use CBD following their workouts to continue managing pain from achy muscles, joints and injuries.

Decreasing Nausea: Exercising at a heavy rate causes blood flow to be taken away from the stomach which may cause nausea. Cannabis has anti-emetic effects, helping athletes reduce nausea during and after exercise.

Sleep and Relaxation: CBD is known to regulate the sleep cycle without causing drowsiness. Getting the required sleep each night is one of the most important aspect of being a healthy athlete as muscles recover best during sleep. As a matter of fact, sleep is one of the most important aspects of being healthy overall.  

Reduction of Muscle Spasms: Cannabinoids are known to have antispasmodic properties. Some causes of muscle spasms in athletes include straining of a muscle, dehydration, trauma, and damage to nerves or to the spinal cord.

Increasing Appetite: CBD may be a safe way to stimulate the appetite in a healthy way. Anyone working out hard should be taking in a higher number of calories than they normally would and CBD may help to regulate that 

Protection of Heart, Lung, and Brain: CBD has been shown to offer protection for the heart, lungs, and brain during and after injury. In fact, the short-term neuroprotective effects of CBD in the brain continue to be researched for purposes of treating sports concussions. 

Promote Insulin Sensitivity: If your diet is on point and you have a top-quality workout program underway, yet you can’t seem to drop a pound or build muscle, this may have something to do with low insulin sensitivity.  High sensitivity to insulin promotes storage of excess glucose as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Low insulin sensitivity, on the other hand, leads to the storage of glucose as fat, creating difficulties in shifting glucose into muscle. Optimally, our insulin should be low the majority of the time and CBD use has been found to be associated with lower levels of insulin. 

Have you tried CBD before? What do you think and how did it help your muscles or recovery after a workout? All data above from my friends at Color Up Therapeutics!