Have you ever gone so hard in the gym that even the most simple tasks are painful the next day two? I am thinking especially about leg day here. The days afterwards where it hurts to literally do anything. Up the stairs, down the stairs, standing up, sitting down. Doesn’t matter what you are doing, because it all feels like your legs are a combination of jelly, stiffness, and agony rolled into one.
The simple act getting out of bed or using the bathroom sends pain shooting through your body. If you work out, you KNOW the effects of an intense training session. You might love the burn, but it gets old.
Cannabidiol, or what is commonly referred to as CBD is gaining enormous popularity recently due to legislation allowing broader use of the chemical. In fact, many athletes are turning to CBD, to reduce soreness and inflammation due to it’s perceived benefits, so they can move on with their training.
Here are some things you should know if you’re considering CBD as a recovery hack, too:
What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is one of the 85+ chemical compounds found in Cannabis. Yes, THAT plant. The one that has caused constant back and forth for generations.
Don’t worry, though. Regardless of if you are a fan of marijuana or not, CBD alone won’t get you high. CBD isn’t the same as Tetrahydrocannabinol. Called THC for short, Tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive compound in the plant. THC is what causes people to feel euphoric. CBD on the other hand has many of the benefits without the associated euphoria and mind altering compounds, and some people are using those benefits to combine CBD and fitness for better performance.
You Were Born with an Endocannabinoid System
CBD is a phytocannabinoid. It interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the body’s complex regulatory system.
To keep it simple, the ECS’s goal is to keep our bodies in homeostasis, or balance, in response to stressors in our environment.
The endocannabinoid system is a network of cellular receptors which pick up stress signals within our bodies. When the ECS picks up a stress signal, the body sends endocannabinoids out to balance the situation and return our body to homeostasis.
Endocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids. What’s the Difference? Why Does it Matter?
ENDOcannabinoids are found and produced within your body (‘Endo’ = Within). Phyto means plant, which implies that PHYTOcannabinoids are sourced from a plant, namely cannabis (‘Phyto’ = Plant, ‘cannabinoids’ = cannabis). Seems simple, right.
Although they are sourced differently, our endocannabinoid system responds to both, phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids, in a similar fashion. Both stimulate some of the same receptors in your body’s cells to perform various functions.
This is important because studies suggest that phytocannabinoids can kickstart our regulatory system and suppress inflammation.
When you have an intense leg day, you are causing microdamage to your muscles. Tiny tears appear all over those muscles, which now have to be repaired by your body. That’s a stressor.
The damage from leg day causes your body to create a repair response, which in turn causes inflammation. As a result, the number of endocannabinoids in your body increase in an effort to control the inflammation and bring balance back to the body.
Studies have found that many chronic diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis, can happen due to out of control stress and inflammation. A balanced endocannabinoid system is KEY to maintaining your overall health.
Endocannabinoids don’t just regulate inflammation, however. They also balance temperature, PH levels, coordination, and pain control.
You were BORN with this system. The process is going on inside of you right now. Especially if you just got back from the gym.
CBD Fitness Recovery Benefits
If you train 4-5 times a week, you’re putting your body under intense stress. Thanks to the healing process, your muscles get bigger and stronger. However, too much inflammation can lead to strains, sprains, and overall poor results in and out of the gym.
Your body needs to recover in order to maintain balance. Rest days, nutrition, and sleep are a few ways you might be approaching recovery.
However, adding CBD to your fitness recovery routine might speed up that process thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation.
Not only that, studies suggest that CBD can reduce tons of other negative affects of a serious exercise regimen; anxiety, pain, and acne to name a few.
These are all amazing properties that can really ramp up our progress in the gym.
CBD as a Pre-Workout
CBD might possibly be a recovery hack, but it could also be beneficial as a pre-workout.
Studies suggest that CBD can reduce heart rate and blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain and heart. These effects mirror those found in traditional pre-workouts, where increased blood flow leads to greater levels of energy.
There is an old saying about the free market providing, and with the fairly recent legalization of hemp products there are already a few CBD based pre-workouts out there, with more along the way.
OK. Sounds Awesome, But Is it LEGAL?
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp in all 50 states as long as it is produced in a lawful manner, follows state and federal regulations, is cultivated by a licensed grower, and contains less than 0.3% THC (the compounds that gets you high).
One thing to keep in mind here is this: like other supplements, CBD isn’t completely approved of by the FDA. The agency has cleared specific products for medical use, while individual supplements are not nearly as regulated or sanctioned.
Since regulation is still a fairly gray area, you might not be getting what you think based on the label, regardless of safe handling procedures and regulatory requirements, especially if purchased online from over seas manufacturers. Packages aren’t always accurate; some products are labeled with a certain percentage of CBD, but have more or less than advertised.
Additionally, this bill is somewhat new, and hemp regulations still vary state to state. Obviously, check before you purchase online just to be sure.
Cannabis plants can absorb heavy metals and pesticides. Be cautious of the product you are buying and do some research to make sure it was cultivated in the safest, cleanest way.
Could CBD Reduce Opioid Use?
Dependence, liver damage, and increased tolerance over time are just a few of the side effects of opiates. Extreme athletes, like UFC fighters, put their bodies through extreme stress and injury. More often than not, they turn to prescription painkillers to get through.
Thanks to products like CBD, they are moving away from opioids in favor of less addictive and damaging options to manage their pain and recovery. To them, CBD and fitness are a no brainer.
With an opiod crisis looming in America, could CBD help with pain management and recovery?
Will I Pass a Drug Test if I Use Cannabidiol (CBD)?
If you are 100% certain that the CBD you are taking has no THC, you will not test positive for THC. But due to quality concerns and inconsistent packaging labels, there might be varying degrees of THC that could affect a drug test. Do your due diligence research on state laws and the manufacturer you are buying CBD from before you consume any.
The same cautions apply if you’re a competitive athlete. The World Anti-Doping Agency has lifted its ban on cannabidiol, but THC continues to be prohibited.
Know what you are consuming before you do. Taking some time to research is better than losing your ability to compete or hold a job for something as foolish as indifference.
How Do I Consume CBD?
Just like any cannabis product, the ways to take CBD are nearly endless. Here are a few examples:
- Oils and Tinctures:
- Dosage control
- Easy to use
- Using a dropper, these are placed under the tongue, and the effect will begin 20-30 minutes later.
- Vaporizing: Inhaling CBD oil, concentrates, or flower
- Healthiest way to inhale CBD
- Fast acting
- Immediate effects
- Edibles: Gummies, brownies, and CBD-infused cookies are a few ways to ingest CBD.
- Lasts longest
- Many options
- Healthiest for people with sensitivities
- Expect effects after 2 hours.
- Lotions: topical application to the skin
- Targeting specific areas
- Expect effects after 1 hour
Ultimately, if you decide to try it out you can experiment and decide what is best for you. With tons of ways to try it out, there is bound to be something that works for you.
Should CBD Be a Part of Your Fitness Recovery Routine?
If you think CBD is worth a shot, experiment with different methods of consumption. Document how you feel afterward so you can have a record of what does and doesn’t work for you. Do your research before you buy.
There’s still a lot to learn about CBD and all of the effects. However, if you find yourself reaching for pills to reduce inflammation after your workout, CBD could be for you.
If you have a reliable, clean, and safe source for CBD then it’s worth at least a shot at adding to your fitness routine.