A Complete Guide to CBD for Athletes

A Complete Guide to CBD for Athletes

The exertion of stress on an athlete’s body can have positive and negative effects. Stress during training makes people more adaptable and helps them do better. However, if this goes on for a long time, it can also cause injuries and chronic pain from physical trauma and constant wear and tear. 

Nowadays, opioid addiction and overdose are becoming more and more common, killing tens of thousands of Americans yearly. Moreover, pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium which you can buy without a prescription, pose a bigger health risk than was thought before.

Thus, many athletes, especially cannabis enthusiasts, are now interested in how Cannabidiol (CBD) can help athletes recover faster and treat pain more safely. CBD can reduce inflammation and pain without the side effects of NSAIDs or opioids. This makes it easy to see why many people are eager to try it.

This guide will tell you everything there is to know about CBD for athletes.

What Is CBD?

CBD is now common among athletes. But what is it, how does it work, and why is it ideal for athletes?

To begin, you already have cannabinoids in your body. It is found in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which controls how neurons work. CBD is a type of phytocannabinoid made only by the cannabis plant. This cannabinoid does not have the same intoxicating effects as THC, another compound found in cannabis.

The scientific community’s comprehension of how the ECS operates and how CBD affects it is still in a developmental stage. It was hard to do research in this area for a long time because there were so many laws about marijuana and CBD use. Nevertheless, in light of the recent systematic review and initial findings of The Essentials of Pain Medicine, published in 2018, the following are the basics:

  • Postsynaptic neurons in your nervous system are in charge of making endocannabinoids that are then released into synapses. They do this by binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors on the presynaptic neuron to stop the production of certain neurotransmitters. For example, when CBD is used to treat epilepsy, it may reduce seizure activity by reducing the buildup of glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter. 
  • CB1 receptors can be found in various tissues in the brain, spinal cord, and other organs. CB2 receptors can be found in higher numbers in the immune system tissues. CBD strongly affects the central nervous system when it binds to CB1 receptors. On the other hand, CBD has a stronger effect on reducing inflammation when it binds to CB2 receptors.
  • It seems that the main job of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis. It does this by controlling the levels of neurotransmitters in the body. You could think of CBD as adding to or increasing the activity of the endocannabinoid system that is already in your body.

As an athlete, you put a lot of stress on your body. This may lead to times when you feel more pain and inflammation than your endocannabinoid system can handle. Pure CBD may assist this overloaded system in regaining control of its neurotransmitters and helping athletes maintain homeostasis.

Potential Benefits of CBD for Athletes

CBD products are getting increasingly popular among professional athletes who want quicker sports recovery and better athletic performance. It is widely believed that daily CBD administration can help support the normal functioning of the ECS.

CBD may not be a cure or treatment for any serious medical condition. However, it is a readily available supplement and well tolerated by the vast majority of healthy adults. Many people use it for pain relief and to get more restful sleep. 

Many athletes are now incorporating CBD into their daily routine, either before bed or in a smoothie after a workout. Look at other positive benefits of CBD for athletes when it comes to increasing athletic performance and speeding up sports recovery below:

Promotes Pain Relief

Several studies have shown that CBD is an effective pain reliever. Such pains include exercise-induced muscle damage, neuropathic pain, joint pain, and many others. Relevant evidence and more placebo-controlled trials are needed to make sense of the anecdotes from a biological point of view. Even though more future research is still required, it seems like CBD appears to be an excellent alternative to prescription medications for some athletes to manage pain.

Substitutes Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Athletes have used NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) since the 1970s. However, new research suggests that these drugs may not be as safe as previously thought. 

Due to the higher risk of kidney damage, NSAIDs are often said to be avoided by athletes during long training sessions and competitions. If you take NSAIDs often or for a long time, you may be more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. This is true even if your workouts and competitions only last a few minutes.

Some athletes have found that the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD can help them use less or stop using NSAIDs for pain management. The fourth edition of The Essentials of Pain Medicine says that medical cannabis and CBD products have not been linked to deaths. Research on oral and oral-mucosal cannabis treatments for various medical conditions found that most reports of side effects were not serious.

Substitutes Opioids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 42,000 people in the United States died from opioids in 2016. Opioid painkillers like morphine, codeine, and oxycontin are very good at treating pain. However, there is a high risk of becoming addicted to these drugs, and it is possible to die from an overdose. 

Cannabinoids don’t work as well as opioids when relieving severe, sudden pain. But cannabinoids may help with long-term pain, on their own or in combination with other drugs. Moreover, there is a much lower chance of becoming addicted to CBD products or dying from an overdose.

Supports the Body’s Natural Systems

CBD’s effects on the body happen through a process that involves the ECS, which is essential for controlling hormones and other functions in the body. However, homeostasis could be thrown off by a lot of physical activity. Researchers have found that CBD is good at bringing about balance and helping the body’s natural processes work better.

As an athlete, you need to give your body the right fuel for performance to reach your full potential. Many athletes take supplements and eat a varied and well-balanced diet to ensure they get all the nutrients they need to perform at their best. CBD is just one more option for a dietary supplement that makes this possible.

Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation, especially when mild, can be suitable for athletes and help bring about good training responses. But when there is too much inflammation, recovery is slow and athletic performance will decline.

You already know that CB2 receptors are found in the brain and the rest of the body, but they are much more common in the immune system. When your immune system goes into alarm mode due to strenuous exercise, CBD influences your recovery stage by binding to CB2 receptors. CBD and other cannabinoids that bind to CB2 receptors can potentially have an anti-inflammatory effect since they lower the production of cytokines.

Improves Gut Health

The inflammation in the small and large intestines can cause a great deal of discomfort, which is one of the primary reasons athletes have to withdraw from their competitions. CBD could help ease your symptoms if you have a problem with inflammation that induces stomach pain before or after you work out. 

However, CBD won’t help with stomach problems caused by not drinking enough water or being too hot, which are also common among athletes. Cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are also found in the colon. The ECS controls and manages many bodily functions, including the thyroid gland, the pituitary gland, the pancreas, and the kidneys. In turn, this makes the digestive system healthier and reduces hunger.

It Helps in Falling Asleep Faster

To train well, athletes must have a consistent and high-quality sleep routine. CBD can help athletes fall and stay asleep. Many of the essential functions in the body, such as creating new tissue and fixing cellular damage, occur while sleeping. Thus, you need sleep for better muscle recovery, bone health, and greater athletic performance.

Enhances Sleep Quality

One of the best ways for an athlete to get better results from their training is to improve sleep quality. Anecdotal evidence shows that when athletes take CBD, it is easier to fall asleep and have a better night’s sleep. CBD stops the reuptake of adenosine, inducing sleep along the way.

When your brain uses energy, it breaks down adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and builds up adenosine in the brain. The more adenosine binds to neurons, the more it stops neurotransmitters from getting out. This slows down your brain’s activity, making you feel calmer and even putting you to sleep. While you are sleeping, your body will further break down adenosine. 

As time passes, low levels of adenosine will wake you up, and the cycle will start again. Taking CBD may also have a strong effect on anxiety, which can make it easier for some people to fall asleep.

Aids Recovery

Researchers have examined how well CBD is a possible treatment for pain and inflammation. It is believed that the ECS, which is involved in the inflammatory response, could help athletes get better faster.

Athletes often have demanding training schedules that include many sessions in one day and only a few rest days throughout the week. If an athlete has a faster recovery rate, they can train more often and harder without an increased risk of pain-related behaviours.

Moreover, athletes often look for ways to reduce the amount of muscle soreness they feel after strenuous workouts. Heat and cold therapy are both common treatments. For example, you can soak in an ice bath or spend time in a hot tub. Aside from that, massage and exercises that focus on mobility can also help ease aches and pains.

Alternatively, athletes can also use topical CBD, like balms and creams, to relieve pain in certain body spots. Getting a CBD massage is an excellent way to improve blood flow, loosen up tight muscles, and make soft tissues work better.

How to Use CBD Correctly

There is an ever-growing flow of new CBD products entering the market. CBD can be taken in by mouth in the form of tablets, capsules, tinctures, or oils. You can also vape CBD or add it to drinks and foods. You also put creams, lotions, or balms on your skin.

The way you take CBD may affect how you feel its effects. For instance, since capsules, oils, and other edibles have to be digested, the process may take a little bit longer. On the other hand, sublingual drops and tinctures are said to work the fastest.

There are two most popular types of CBD on the market right now: full spectrum CBD products and CBD isolates. Full spectrums contain not only CBD but other components of the cannabis plant. These components may contain small amounts of THC. On the other hand, CBD isolates no other ingredients except for CBD.

How Much CBD Do You Need?

Here is where things start to get more complicated. There is no standard dose that is ideal for everyone. Since there aren’t many rules about CBD products, the amount of CBD in each may be different. 

You can take CBD in many ways (oil, gummies, drinks, tinctures, and vaporizers). Thus, it can be hard to figure out the right amount to take. Most likely, the most accurate way to do this is to consume CBD in the form of capsules or figure out how many milligrams of CBD are in a dropper-full of a tincture.

The best and safest bet is to always start with a low dose and slowly increase it based on how the product affects you.

Is CBD Legal?

How to Find the Best CBD Oil for Athletes

When professional athletes think about adding CBD to their routines, quality should always be the top priority. This will ensure that the amount of THC doesn’t exceed what is allowed. CBD products on the market today fall into three different groups:

  • Full-spectrum products that contain other valuable cannabinoids and have a legal amount of THC (no greater than 0.3%)
  • Broad-spectrum products that have CBD and other helpful cannabinoids, except for THC
  • CBD isolates that are void of other cannabinoids except for CBD

If you don’t want to risk experiencing psychoactive effects, choose a product that is either an isolate or a broad spectrum to ensure zero THC content.

Moreover, the product needs to be tested by a third-party lab and come with a certificate of analysis (COA). Labels should also be clear and easy to understand. The label will show you how much cannabinoid content is in the product, giving you a chance to ensure that you are not using something with a lot of THC.

CBD oil is the most popular way to include CBD in an athlete’s daily routine. These are often taken sublingually or put under the tongue. You can also take CBD capsules, which are absorbed through the digestive system, just like vitamin supplements. For topical CBDs, you rub CBD muscle balms, creams, or lotions, on your skin.

Other Ideal CBD Products for Athletes

  • Yoni PMS & Menstrual Cramp Relief Tincture – Are you a female athlete who suffers monthly from menstrual cramps caused by PMS? Then this tincture is the best product for you since it delivers fast relief so you can get back to your A-game.
  • Boost Balanced 1:1 900mg Tincture – Have a dropperful of tincture before or after your training! This tincture contains a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD so that you can take advantage of the potential benefits of both cannabinoids.
  • Mota Medicated CBD Honey – Get relief from muscle soreness and cramps by incorporating CBD Honey into your diet. This infused honey can be used as an alternative to sugar for tea or dishes.
  • Boost CBD Milk Chocolate – Although athletes must follow strict diets, you should give yourself a guilt-free treat once in a while. Try Boost CBD Milk Chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth!

Is Taking CBD Okay for Athletes?

Even though CBD has a lot of benefits for athletes, not all are willing to use it. The most common reason is that it may lead to a positive on a drug test, which could mean paying a fine or being banned from professional sports.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is an independent organization whose primary goal is to make anti-doping rules the same for all sports and all countries. The WADA took CBD off the list of banned drugs in 2017. Thus, athletes in almost all sports can now use CBD to improve their performance and speed up their recovery during training and competition.

However, it is vital to note that THC is still not allowed. Keep in mind that some CBD products have THC. So make sure you choose one that does not exceed 0.3% or none. 

For those worried that using CBD will make them fail a drug test, you can rest assured that this is often not the case. THC will cause you to fail a drug test, but CBD will not. It should not be in danger if you use CBD products as long as it does not have a lot of THC.

Famous Athletes Who Have Used CBD

CBD has many positive effects on sports performance, training, and recovery. Thus, it should not be surprising that more and more athletes are taking it. Let’s look at some athletes who have been using CBD for years.

Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe is a legend in women’s soccer. She is not only a great player, but she is also a symbol of the feminist movement. Moreover, she is a strong supporter of CBD for sports. Her success began in 2004 when she was 19 and won the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship. She has played for teams from the United States, Europe, and Australia.

Rapinoe has gotten a lot of praise for how well she runs the United States Women’s National Team. Under her leadership, the team won the 2015, 2019, and 2012 FIFA Women’s World Cups and the 2012 Olympic Tournament.

The athlete has talked publicly about how using CBD oil can help keep her overall health up while she trains and competes. She has also talked about how important it is to question the “status quo” when using CBD for athletes and sports.

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson was the first heavyweight boxer to hold all three belts simultaneously (WBA, WBC, and IBF). He is not only one of the most well-known boxers but also one of the most well-known athletes in the sports industry. From 1987 to 1990, he was the only person who could claim to be the world heavyweight champion.

The boxing champion often talks about how much he likes CBD oil. Tyson has been very vocal about how good CBD is for sports. He has also said he uses CBD to train before and after fights. Tyson has been in favour of CBD for many years. He also has his legal marijuana garden and business.

Nate Diaz 

Nate Diaz is among the most successful fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) history. He has won 19 of the 30 fights he has taken part in. He also won the fifth season of the show The Ultimate Fighter.

Diaz had beaten fighters like Ray Maynard, Donald Cerrone, and Connor McGregor. He also uses CBD often, even in front of the media. After his famous fight with Connor McGregor, he inhaled CBD during a news conference. Diaz also used the opportunity to talk about how CBD is good for the body.

Paul Pierce

Basketball player Paul Pierce played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 19 seasons. For most of those years, he was the captain of the Boston Celtics. He was chosen for the All-Star game ten times and won four times throughout his career. He is now a commentator on ESPN shows like “The Jump” and “NBA Countdown.”

Pierce uses CBD for one reason: to keep his mental health in check after he went through something terrible. In 2000, when he was at the top of his career, he was brutally attacked in a Boston nightclub. The attack, in which he was stabbed 11 times and had a bottle smashed into his face, left emotional scars

Ross Rebagliati

Ross Rebagliati is a Canadian snowboarder who is one of the best athletes in his field. He is also the first to win a gold medal in men’s snowboarding at the 1998 Winter Olympics. Rebagliati is a big fan of both CBD and medical marijuana. He even has his own business in the medical marijuana industry.

Rebagliati has said that he thinks CBD is the best for your health. He strongly supports people using CBD oil, not just athletes but also other enthusiasts.

Eddie Hall

Eddie Hall was named the strongest man in the world in 2017. He was the first person to deadlift 500 kilograms in an international competition. Hall also makes a lot of public appearances where he talks about how CBD might help improve people’s overall health.

CBD for Athletes Frequently Asked Questions

What does CBD oil do for athletes?

Athletes exert extra strain on their bodies, resulting in severe pain and inflammation that your endocannabinoid system can’t tolerate. Exogenous cannabinoids, like CBD, may help your system regain control of your neurotransmitters and maintain homeostasis.

CBD appears to have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and pain-relieving properties, which may assist athletes in recovering throughout training and competition. More research and systematic reviews in specific sport-related communities are needed to support these findings.

Is CBD good for athletes?

The World Anti-Doping Agency prohibits using all cannabinoids during athletic competitions except for CBD. For various reasons, CBD may be a beneficial supplement to any athlete’s training program. It can reduce inflammation caused by irritation or sporting injury.

CBD can be effective before and after exercise. It can be good to boost your energy and relax your muscles before exercise. On the other hand, it may then help to reduce post-workout inflammation.

How much CBD for athletes should I take?

CBD use before exercise or competition can significantly reduce the effects of anxiety and lower blood pressure. As a result, it allows you to perform at your best in sports. Many experts advise taking 300 milligrams of CBD orally, but other people have claimed results with as low as 20 milligrams is a typical amount in CBD for athletes. For the best and safer bet, begin with lower doses or ask your trainer or doctor for the best dosage for your body.

Does CBD affect muscle performance?

Since CBD may reduce inflammation and encourage better sleep, it may help hasten muscle recovery. While mild inflammation may improve training adaptations, excessive inflammation can impair the muscle’s ability to recover. CBD topicals can help athletes with muscle discomfort and tightness. Its anti-inflammatory effects allow them to hasten their body’s healing process.


Athletes often push their bodies to the limit, so they have to make sure they have enough time to recover. Thanks to WADA, CBD is no longer on the list of prohibited substances athletes can’t use in competitions. As a result, more and more athletes are turning to CBD to help them with their active lifestyles.

CBD products promote healing by allowing athletes to recover from the stresses of training and short-term and long-term pain. The discovery of the natural compound may make a big difference in the sports industry. 

Some athletes are not only open about taking CBD, but they also actively promote it and sometimes even start their own CBD companies.

However, there is still a lot to learn about how CBD works and the best way for athletes to use it. Thus, consult and follow your doctor’s advice before adding it to your daily routine.

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