Whether you’re a competitive athlete, CrossFit obsessed, or an every-once-in-a-while gym goer, you might be wondering how CBD can help improve your athletic performance. This is especially true if you’ve ever been prescribed prescription muscle relaxers, pain pills, or sleeping pills to help with your post-training aches and pains.
If this is you, you’re far from alone. “Athletes keep showing up with a big bag of CBD products asking what they are allowed to take,” says Dr. Andrew Kerklaan, founder of Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics. “They say they want to take CBD instead of prescription meds,” he continues.
It’s no surprise that athletes are looking for an alternative. According to the Centers for Disease Control, opioid-related deaths have risen from 8,048 in 1999 to over 47,600 in 2017. And unfortunately, many athletes end up on prescription drugs, which puts them at a higher risk for drug abuse and addiction down the road. A 2014 Journal of Adolescent Health study even showed that young male athletes who participate in competitive sports are four times more likely to have a prescription for opioids—and four times more likely to abuse them—than their non-athlete peers.
CBD may offer an alternative route, which is why it’s getting so much attention in the world of sports “The athlete population is very aware of the potential of CBD and other cannabinoids,” says Dr. K.
So, how can CBD help with recovery and performance, exactly?
“If you look at humans and our performance, muscle inflammation, tendon inflammation, and pain response are the biggest issues to overcome,” says Dr. K. Interestingly, CBD shows promise for all of the above. “Here is a naturally plant-derived molecule with almost no toxicity that is super well-absorbed and that appears to have an impact on these three componets.”
When it comes to recovery, the faster you can reduce inflammation, the less muscle tension you will have and the quicker you will recover. As Dr. K explains it: “Being able to minimize the pain response so you don’t get muscle guarding will allow you to move better and peak your strength and coordination.” Luckily, CBD displays strong antiinflammatory properties and topical CBD has been shown to be helpful for conditions like arthritis.
You don’t have to be an NFL linebacker to benefit, either. “Anyone exercising to a certain level needs their bodies to recover, sleep well, and avoid buildup of muscle tension,” says Dr. K. This means that frequent gym goers, runners, yogis, and even those of us with a long commute can take advantage of cannabinoids. “CBD is natural way to keep them performing to the level that they want,” he continues.
Even pro video gamers are turning to CBD. “Video games are all about reflexes and coordination, so they’re paying attention to their mental and physical health to optimize performance,” explains Dr. K. Along with hiring nutritionists and massage therapist to improve their performance, they are using CBD for mental focus and to reduce muscle tension.
If you’re an athlete, the number one rule is to buy from a reliable brand that’s disclosing all their lab results. This ensures the product’s quality and purity. In other words, it guarantees that the amount of CBD on the label is actually in the bottle—and that the product is free from contaminants like pesticides, heavy metals, and microbes.
Lab testing will also make sure the amount of THC in the product is at an acceptable level which is critical if you’re an athlete that’s being drug tested. As Dr. K explains it: “Athletes have to know that the CBD product they’re using isn’t going to cause them to test positive for THC.”
This is also why topicals are a great option for athletes. “You won’t get absorption into the bloodstream, so it eliminates the risk of testing positive for something that could get you sidelined,” he says.
So whether you’re an Olympic athlete or you just love listening to Beyoncé while you sweat it out on the elliptical, a topical CBD relief spray or cream after next tough workout is definitely worth a try.