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CBD for Athletes: Exploring the World of Sports and CBD

Cannabidiol is a hot topic in the wellness world — and athletes are among the many people exploring the world of CBD. 

Are you one of them? This guide is for you. 

We’ll look at the essentials that professional athletes and fitness freaks should be up-to-date on and explore the best CBD products for physically-active people.

Why Are Athletes Interested in CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 unique cannabinoids present in Cannabis sativa plants, and it has quickly become the second most famous one.

Unlike its psychoactive cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t get you high. It doesn’t have an addictive potential, either. 

The UK declared CBD extract to be a novel food product in 2019. A wide variety of CBD products are now legally available over the counter — no prescription needed. Manufacturers do have to follow strict guidelines, and those include making sure CBD products don’t contain more than 0.02 per cent THC. 

Why do consumers choose to add CBD to their routines, and why would CBD be interesting to athletes?

Preliminary research has suggested that cannabidiol may play a role in alleviating sore muscles by having an anti-inflammatory effect. CBD may also have analgesic properties, as well as containing antioxidants. Athletes may be interested in exploring these potential benefits in their training routines.

Anyone considering including CBD in a personal wellness routine — including athletes — should remember that research into the potential benefits and side effects of cannabidiol is still in its early stages. As such, CBD manufacturers and stockists cannot make any health claims, and consumers should not use CBD products to prevent, treat, or cure specific medical conditions.

Athletes who are considering incorporating cannabidiol products into their training routines would be advised to consult their GP and trainer before making these changes.

How Does CBD Work?

You won’t see it, but it’s there. An impressive network of receptors and chemical signals called the endocannabinoid system is at work within your body. CB1 and CB2 receptors are present in the brain, spinal cord, nerve endings, and skin. The endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in emotion regulation, memory processing, pain management, and appetite regulation.

What activates the endocannabinoid system? Cannabinoids, of course!

Now, they don’t all come from Cannabis sativa plants. In fact, your body also makes its own cannabinoids, called endogenous cannabinoids. Cannabis sativa plants (including marijuana and industrial hemp) are, however, exceptionally rich in cannabinoids. 

Cannabidiol interacts with both types of cannabinoid receptors — CB1 and CB2. It doesn’t bind directly to either of them, however. Instead, CBD seems to block the action of an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). This may help the endogenous cannabinoids you produce work better.

Which CBD Products Might Athletes Seek Out?

CBD products fall into three broad types or formulas:

  • Full-spectrum CBD products. These cannabidiol products come with a “full spectrum” of ingredients. Besides CBD, they also contain terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, and non-psychoactive minor cannabinoids. In the European Union and the UK, full-spectrum CBD products may have a THC content of 0.02 per cent. 
  • Broad-spectrum CBD products. This type of CBD undergoes further processing to remove THC. By the time these products are ready for sale, only trace amounts of THC remain. Broad-spectrum CBD does contain terpenes and flavonoids, though.
  • CBD isolate products. CBD isolate is pure CBD. Pure CBD has a crystalline form, but CBD isolate is often added to oil or edibles.

Some people believe CBD acts most effectively in concert with terpenes and other minor cannabinoids. This hypothesis is called the entourage effect, and it’s the reason why many CBD consumers opt for full-spectrum or broad-spectrum cannabidiol products. 

Consumers who do not wish to ingest any THC, which includes some athletes, can opt for CBD isolate. 

Athletes will find a wide variety of products incorporating each type of CBD on the market. Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting ones!

1. CBD Topicals: Creams, Lotions, and Muscle Balms

Topical CBD — applied to the skin — is unlikely to reach the bloodstream. Instead, it acts topically on the skin, which also contains endocannabinoid receptors. Combined with a relaxing and healing sports massage, these products can hydrate your skin and alleviate post-workout soreness. 

2. CBD Gummies

CBD gummies are a convenient and portable way to enjoy cannabidiol on the go. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts can easily toss a few CBD gummies into their bags and take one before training or after a vigorous workout. 

3. CBD Oil

CBD oil is the most bioavailable way to take CBD if administered by holding it under the tongue for 60 to 90 seconds. It is not as portable, because:

  • It’s best to store CBD oil in a cool, dark place. A hot gym environment may damage your CBD oil.
  • CBD oil is sold in glass bottles with droppers, which means it’s not pre-dosed. This can be a hassle when you’re out and about.

However, CBD oil is well-suited for an at-home wellness routine that may include meditation or post-workout stretching. It can also be added to massage oils or muscle balms. 

Finally, some people use CBD oil as a cooking ingredient. Adding a drop or two to a protein shake is a great way for athletes to include cannabidiol in their diet. 

4. CBD Capsules

CBD capsules are a good choice for athletes who crave convenience and don’t enjoy gummies or other edibles. You swallow a CBD capsule with water, making it easy to add a CBD capsule to your regimen of preworkout supplements. 

5. CBD Energy Drinks

More innovative CBD products are hitting the market now, and that includes CBD-infused energy drinks. Athletes who use energy drinks anyway may find this option very appealing.

What Should Athletes Know Before Taking CBD?

Some athletes exclusively have personal fitness goals. Others compete professionally, semi-professionally, or are respected amateurs. Here’s a look at the factors to keep in mind before starting a CBD routine, regardless of your goals.

1. Are Athletes Allowed to Take CBD? 

The World Anti-Doping Agency used to ban cannabis and products derived from Cannabis sativa plants altogether. It removed cannabidiol from its list of prohibited substances in 2018. However, THC is still on the list, and using full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD products may occasionally result in a positive THC test. 

The body that regulates your sport may have different rules about CBD. It’s important to check them before you start taking CBD. 

2. CBD Is Generally Well-Tolerated, but Side Effects Are Possible

CBD generally has a favourable safety profile, but some people experience side effects. They can include diarrhoea, appetite changes, weight changes, and mood changes. Liver damage is another possible side effect. 

Athletes hoping to add CBD to their wellness routine may wish to consult with their healthcare provider, as well as a personal trainer, coach, or other relevant sports mentor. Those who notice side effects should stop taking CBD immediately.

3. What CBD Dose Should Athletes Start With?

CBD consumers should always start with the lowest possible dose. 

What that looks like depends on the CBD product you choose. CBD oil used under the tongue is more bioavailable, meaning its effects kick in faster, and the body absorbs more of it. Oral CBD products like gummies, capsules, and energy drinks aren’t absorbed as well. They also take longer to start working.

Whatever product you choose, start with the lowest dose. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, and stop using CBD if you notice any side effects. You can slowly build your dose up until you reach your sweet spot and get the desired effect.

CBD Products for Athletes: A Final Word

Cannabidiol is rising in popularity, and athletes are among the many people exploring CBD products. 

Topical CBD products like creams and muscle balms may be especially interesting to athletes. CBD oil is a classic best used at home, while CBD gummies and capsules offer a convenient and portable way to consume cannabidiol.

Check-in with your sport’s regulatory body (where relevant) before using CBD, and consider consulting your GP before making any major changes to your lifestyle.



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