Cannabidiol (CBD) can be legally consumed by athletes, but what does it actually do and why must you use it?
To start with, there are already naturally cannabinoids occurring in your body called the endocannabinoids. Experts have found that there exists an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is responsible for neuron activity modulation. CBD is a cannabinoid derived from cannabis. It is non-psychoactive, unlike THC.
Athletes put a lot of stress to their bodies, resulting in inflammation and pain that is greater than what the ECS can manage. To help the overloaded ECS get the neurotransmitters back under control and aid athletes maintain homeostasis, incorporating exogenous CBD can play a crucial role.
6 CBD benefits for athletes
Research has already proven that cannabis rich with THC and less CBD is helpful in pain reduction, including stiff joints and musculoskeletal pain from exercise. Yet only a handful of research is still done on CBD alone. Biological plausibility and anecdotal evidence are just the best we got so far. However, CBD seems to effectively ease the pain for many athletes minus the euphoric feeling, despite the lack of hard evidence.
Naproxen sodium, ibuprofen and other over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most popular medications athletes take to relieve pain. Yet they may not be safe after all. Because of the heightened risk of renal damage, ultra-distance athletes are usually recommended not to use NSAIDs, especially during long training events and sessions. Frequent or long-term use of NSAIDs could increase your risk for stroke and heart attack, even during short events workouts and sessions.
CBD, on the other hand, is seen as a potential NSAIDs alternative with limited side effects. The Essentials of Pain Medicine, Fourth Ed said that cannabis products have no documented deaths and its side effects are 96.6% non-serious.
Based on data from the CDC, over 42,000 deaths were reported in the US involving opioids in 2016. This suggests that while they are highly effective in managing pain, they come with a remarkable risk of death by overdose and addiction. While cannabinoids are less effective than opioids in pain relief, they are helpful for managing pain in the long term, even when used alone or in combination with other drugs, minus death risk.
Cannabinoids binding to CB2 receptors found in the brain and periphery have anti-inflammatory potential in inhibiting the production of cell messengers called cytokine. Simply put, CBD which interacts with CB2 receptors aid in reducing body response when the immune system rings the alarm post-hard workouts.
GI distress caused by intestinal inflammation is among the top reasons why endurance athletes quit races. While CBD cannot address stomach issues brought by overheating and dehydration, it can be useful in alleviating symptoms of underlying inflammation issues contributing to gut problems during or after exercise.
Anecdotal evidence shows that athletes taking CBD experience better restful night’s sleep and greater ease going to sleep, thanks to its potential to inhibit the reuptake of adenosine. Adenosine triphosphate stimulates brain activity.
As the brain burns carbohydrate for energy, the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) breaks down and gradually accumulated in the brain. With more adenosine binds to neurons, the release of neurotransmitters is inhibited and thereby slowing down brain activity. As a result, you feel more relaxed and induces sleep. As you sleep, the adenosine is metabolized by the body, and reduced concentration of adenosine will soon wake you up, and the cycle starts over.
CBD is also said having anti-anxiety potentials to help people get more restful sleep.