The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently made a big change: though they still do not allow athletes to utilize medical cannabis, they’re allowing for athletes to use CBD-only supplements.
Though the WADA doesn’t govern all anti-doping regulations, they do set the tone, and other anti-doping authorities are likely to follow within the next year. Athletes the world over will now have more freedom to access the health and wellness benefits of CBD, without being disqualified from competing. But why are athletes using CBD supplements, and what can CBD do for your exercise routine? It turns out that there are a variety of benefits, even for those of us who don’t exercise as part of our profession.
CBD for Sports: “It Helps”
The WADA change came after MMA fighter Nate Diaz took a drag from a CBD vaporizer pen during a post-fight press conference, in direct violation of the rules, and explained the benefits he experienced from the supplement: “It helps with the healing process and inflammation and things like that, so you want to get these for before or after the fights, in training. It’ll make your life a better place,” Nate Diaz told press, potentially endangering his career.
Rather than ruining his career, Diaz opened the way for more athletes to use cannabidiol (CBD) to supplement and support their exercise regimen. CBD supplements can be great both pre- and post-workout to prevent inflammation like Diaz pointed out, but that’s not all. Research shows that CBD can improve recovery, especially after injury, reduce pain and muscle spasms, improve sleep, and stimulate appetite.
This is because of CBD’s effect on the human endocannabinoid system, which regulates various aspects of how our bodily functions. There are a huge variety of cannabinoids and CBD is one of the two most common cannabinoids. It’s right after THC, which also has health benefits but creates the psychoactive effect or “high” that’s associated with recreational cannabis use.
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CBD’s Effects on the Body
CBD interacts with specific receptors that are found throughout the body and there are a few that specifically benefit exercise. CBD activates the TRPV1 receptor, also referred to as the vanilloid receptor, which controls inflammation and sensitivity to pain. It blocks the GPR55 receptor, which controls “nociception” – the response of the nervous system to potentially harmful stimuli, which causes a sensation of pain. It also activates the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, which helps regulate stress, mood and anxiety.
The cannabinoid also supports various endocannabinoids – cannabinoids that the body produces “in-house,” so to speak. One of these is anandamide, the primary endocannabinoid produced in the body. It’s a neurotransmitter that increases activation of endocannabinoid receptors, reducing pain and inflammation. Anandamide has also been found in conjunction with endorphins, the body’s natural opioids, when we experience what’s commonly referred to as a “runner’s high”. Runner’s high is a natural buzz that comes after any cardio-heavy exercise. Since CBD promotes the endocannabinoid, it likely also helps promote that natural buzz that comes post-workout.
Another endocannabinoid that CBD supports is adenosine, a neurotransmitter that researchers believe also reduces inflammation. Pain and inflammation are a normal part of exercise, as we push our bodies to become stronger, and relieving that pain and inflammation is an important part of regular healthy exercise. I have personally known people who exercise regularly and use high doses of aspirin to relieve the resulting pain and inflammation, which can be damaging in the long run. CBD oils and capsules are a supplement that doesn’t seem to cause any damage, and certainly not the kind of damage that is caused by taking maximum doses of aspirin on a daily or regular basis.
CBD and Good Exercise Regimes
Proper sleep is also an integral part of a successful exercise regimen: you have to put the effort in, but your body also needs rest and recovery for that effort to be effective. Exercise is already known to help improve sleep - supporting healthy circadian rhythms, quality of sleep and preventing insomnia - but CBD can further encourage quality sleep.
Appetite and eating generally are also obviously beneficial to exercise: food provides nutrients and energy that are beneficial both before, during and after working out. Studies suggest that eating an hour before working out improves workout performance and can help you work out longer or at a higher intensity. Not eating before a workout can cause lightheadedness or general tiredness during workout, making focus more difficult. Snacking during a workout can prevent distracting hunger pains and if you’re going to be working out for more than 60 minutes, a high-carb snack can help keep you fueled. Eating a meal that’s high in protein and carbs post-workout is suggested for helping your muscles recover, restoring their glycogen stores. The increased appetite provided by a CBD supplement can help encourage proper eating to support your exercise regimen.
In short, CBD can be a wonderful addition to the supplements you take, in order to keep you at your best in a variety of aspects of your workout.