THE BENEFITS OF CBD FOR ATHLETES
Train hard, recover harder. That’s the mantra of any elite athlete. Hard yards on the field, in the gym, or on the court wear our bodies down. In the short term, that’s purposeful. We push past our limits so our bodies can adapt and grow. If this goes on for too long, however, you get diminishing returns.
Overtraining leads to exhaustion. Repeated stressors without adequate recovery lead to chronic pain and fatigue. Even our internal systems go out of whack - we can’t sleep, cortisol is at a constant high, and our resting heart rate increases. In periods of intense training, you need to get into “rest and recovery” mode as soon as possible. Taking CBD can help.
CBD AND RECOVERY
Training and competition naturally put us under pressure. In response, we react. Our sympathetic nervous system switches into high gear, releasing adrenaline, increasing circulation, and sharpening our senses. These interactions, however, trigger inflammatory responses within the body, especially when they become chronic.
CBD actually inhibits adrenaline and noradrenaline secretion, helping us relax. Further research shows that CBD decreases inflammatory markers in rats. While none of this replaces active recovery, proper nutrition, and a good night’s rest, the science is promising.
While CBD’s interactions tend to occur in the brain, its pain-reducing benefits work differently. Your body is full of vanilloid receptors that respond to noxious stimuli. (In fact, they’re behind the spicy burn of capsaicin in peppers). Specifically, CBD mediates the TRPV1 receptor that responds to high temperatures and acidic pH levels. Researchers confirm these effects after measuring pain levels during intense heat and small incisions in rats. As heat comes with inflammation, and exercise-induced lactic acid lowers pH levels, these receptors are perfect targets for pain management in athletes.
ANXIETY AND STRESS
Performance anxiety, packed schedules, and pressure to succeed all contribute to stress. Too much nervous energy on game day leads to choking. Chronic anxiety limits energy levels, sleep, and recovery. Fortunately, CBD can manage your emotional and mental state.
CB1 and CB2 receptors, parts of the endocannabinoid system, act as docking stations for free CBD. After CBD binds to these receptors, it suppresses the release of excitatory neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate. It also works with serotonin and dopamine to trigger feelings of calm and satisfaction. Studies have even shown that ingesting CBD before a stressful situation can reduce immediate sensations of performance anxiety.
Plenty of athletes and laypeople alike chalk their CBD use up to anxiety management. Given that it has little to no side effects, it’s definitely worth a shot.
Sleep is a magical, naturally performance-enhancing solution. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to facilitate recovery from training or prepare for competition. Sleep improves mood, cognition, muscle growth and repair, and so much more. Taking CBD can both help you fall asleep and stay asleep so you’re prepared for the challenges ahead.
CBD actually induces sleepiness by elevating adenosine levels in the brain. (For reference, caffeine works by clearing adenosine away. CBD does the opposite). Further shows that CBD continues to work long after you’ve hit the hay. In rat studies, those taking CBD ended up with more time spent in REM and slow-wave sleep. Sleep-deprived humans showed decreased disruption in REM sleep as well. The scientific evidence is still fresh, but early research shows CBD’s promise for improving sleep quality.
REACTION TIME, MEMORY, AND COGNITION
As it counters all types of inflammation, CBD contributes to overall nervous system health. Instead of slowing you down, like it’s cousin THC, this cannabinoid could help you react more quickly. By narrowing focus and moderating arousal, it helps isolate sharp changes in scenery - triggering a lightning-quick reactions. Because CBD slows neurodegeneration, it leaves you with healthy signaling pathways that can be fortified through training. Early animal studies even suggest that CBD facilitates recovery from traumatic brain injury. While we hope that never happens, it’s a risk athletes face. Taking care of your head with a little CBD can go a long way.