If you are an athlete, especially of professional calibre, you know whole-heartedly the type of stress and strain that your body endures. Regular and continuous training certainly improves performance but prolonged wear and tear often leads to pain and injuries. Athletes commonly use over-the-counter pain relievers such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen, however, studies have shown that they pose greater health risks than previously known. It is understandable then that in their quest for better sports recovery, more and more athletes are enquiring about cannabidiol’s (CBD) purported power for pain relief and reduced inflammation. Meanwhile, research is increasingly finding evidence of CBD’s healing benefits without the risks associated with NSAIDs and opioids.
Is CBD legal for athletes?
Yes! Starting at the beginning of 2018, some news was released that shook the sporting world. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a foundation started by the International Olympic Committee to monitor drug use in sports, announced that it was removing CBD from its list of prohibited substances – both in and out of competition. The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) did the same, however, it is vital to know that only CBD was removed from the banned list. The psychoactive component of marijuana, known as THC, is still prohibited in competition.
What this means is that as an athlete, you can legally use cannabidiol. But what does it do, does it work and why would you use it? We are here to help you navigate and make sense of the complex world of cannabis so read on.
What is CBD and what does it do?
CBD is short for cannabidiol and it is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant and the cannabis plant includes marijuana AND hemp. THC is found in marijuana and is the psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant that produces the “high” feeling which cannabis is known for. This is the reason that there is a general stigma attached to using CBD. Therefore, it is vital to know that when CBD is extracted from hemp, CBD oil contains 0.3% to no traces of THC, making it impossible to get high off of CBD derived from hemp.
As the awareness of CBD’s benefits is steadily increasing, many people are seeking out CBD to treat various health conditions or ailments, from sore muscles and joints, to social anxiety, ADHD, workout recovery, insomnia and more. People are seeing significant benefits from using CBD for their needs.
How Does CBD Work?
To start with, the most important fact to know is that cannabinoids already exist in your body in your endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is essential to your health as it helps to regulate your appetite, sleep, mental health immunity response, pain and more. Within the ECS, your body produces natural cannabinoids and these cannabinoids facilitate the smooth running of those important functions just mentioned. The naturally produced cannabinoids in the ECS help your body maintain homeostasis by keeping neurotransmitter levels in check. Therefore, if you have issues with anxiety, sore muscles, or insomnia, it could mean that your ECS is struggling to produce cannabinoids on its own. This is why CBD has grown in popularity since the cannabinoids in CBD bind to receptors in the body and help the ECS regulate various bodily functions, like sleep, mental health, pain and more. Consuming CBD could be thought of as supplementing or increasing the activity of your body’s existing endocannabinoid system.
As an athlete, you apply more than average stress to your body, which leads to pain and inflammation greater than what your endocannabinoid system can handle. Consuming CBD may assist an overloaded system regain control of neurotransmitters and help athletes maintain homeostasis.
Benefits of CBD for Athletes
Studies have shown that cannabis is effective for reducing pain, including musculoskeletal pain from exercise, as well as stiff joints. It is a viable alternative to over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) which athletes have used for decades, but may not be as safe as once thought. Some athletes have found that the pain-relieving effect of CBD can reduce or eliminate their use of NSAIDS for exercise-related pain, with minimal side effects.
Although a bit of inflammation can be good for athletes, too much inflammation can hinder recovery and performance. There are CB2 receptors in both the brain and periphery and cannabinoids that bind to CB2 receptors may have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing cytokine (cell messengers) production. In other words, CBD that binds to CB2 receptors helps tone down the intensity when your immune system triggers alarm bells after hard workouts.
How to use CBD
There are various ways that you can ingest CBD, such as through capsules, pills, or as an oil. There are also topical creams and lotions that contain CBD oil, as well as tinctures that can be placed under your tongue.
The manner in which you choose to consume CBD usually depends on how quickly you experience the product’s effects. Capsules, oil, and edibles need to be digested, so they may take a bit longer. Topical creams are easy to apply and are quicker to take effect than edibles, and drops/tinctures are known to be the most rapid.
Our number one, most popular product with athletes is our Releaf Stick. It is very simple to apply and to pack and carry around. The Relief Stick is an effective way to alleviate inflammatory related joint and muscle discomfort. We also offer the Releaf Balm which provides the same cooling, soothing sensation as our Releaf Stick but it is easier to apply to hard-to-reach areas.
Some athletes prefer to use our bath salt and bath bombs which are highly effective for muscle recovery and overall relaxation. Our Wellness Tincture or Wellness Capsules are excellent products for daily use as a supplement to prevent inflammation and aid in overall healing from intense training as well as to create homeostasis in the body for peak performance.
Now that we have highlighted a range of our products for athletes, we let the real athletes speak for themselves.
“Once I discovered this product, I used it before every practice and match to help loosen up my muscles and make my minor aches and pains go away. It became a ritual pre and post competition and heavy gym sessions. Since I’ve retired, this product is still in my daily repertoire and I’ve since introduced many people to it and athletes I coach cannot get enough of it. It really is one of the best products available if you ask me.”
– Maverick Hatch
Canadian Beach Volleyball National Team (retired).
Two-time Canadian National Champion
“As an ex-professional athlete dealing with stiffness and pain from my playing days I am always on the hunt for fast acting natural remedies. I am very pleased to say that the hunt is over. ACTIVE RELEAF products keep me moving and enable me to do fitness/ weightlifting at a very high level. I highly recommend all of their products.”
– Kwbana Beckles
The legalization of CBD in the sporting world marks a major turning point in how athletes recover from training stress and manage their pain. While existing studies have found that CBD is non-habit forming and does not appear to have negative side effects, there is a lot still to learn about how CBD works and how to best utilize it for athletes. What we know at this point is that CBD offers good potential benefits and few risks. Using CBD is a personal choice and, at the very least, if it improves recovery as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and sleep aid, then it has great potential to improve athletic performance.