6 Reasons Pro Athletes Believe CBD Gives Them an Edge


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There is an ongoing search for performance-enhancing substances that can provide this dodging advantage for high-level athletes. With only milliseconds sometimes defining the difference between a touchdown and an interception, athletes are looking for any legal substance that can provide that little extra push. But finding these improvements is not easy. Supplements must comply with strict anti-doping laws and also be safe.

Many professional athletes are turning to CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid with anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, and analgesic properties — ideal features for athletes looking to improve their physical and mental performance.

Some believe the CBD represents a game-changing supplement, including current and former NFL players such as Derrick Morgan, Rob Gronkowski and Brett Favre. Athletes from various sports codes have claimed benefits such as accelerated injury recovery, sound sleep and reduced muscle soreness.

But many still have questions.

Related: Rob Gronkowski tackles the CBD business

Is CBD safe for elite athletes?

According to Eloise Theisen, president of the American Association of Cannabis Nurses (ACNA) and executive director of Radicle Health, there is no evidence that athletes can benefit from CBD as a supplement, but much is still unknown.

“Research is still evolving on the therapeutic benefits of CBD, and there is some evidence to suggest that it may help with pain, insomnia, anxiety, and muscle spasms,” says Theisen.

“Lately, we’re seeing more athletes wanting to use CBD for muscle recovery, pain relief, as a mood stabilizer and sleep support,” he explains. “CBD can offer many benefits without too many side effects: from a safety perspective, CBD has fewer side effects than prescription and over-the-counter remedies, and the World Health Organization has recognized CBD as safe, no possibility of abuse “.

But Theisen also warns that we need more research to better understand therapeutic uses and doses and the long-term benefits and side effects.

So what exactly does science say? How can CBD specifically support high-level athletes and those of us who aspire to reach such great heights?

Is CBD legal at the elite level?

While the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) considers THC, the other primary cannabinoid present in cannabis, as an illicit substance, CBD isolation is allowed as a legal substance. The AMA removed cannabidiol from its banned list in January 2018. Athletes consuming CBD should make sure they are using approved CBD isolates, as the presence of even traces of THC in Full-spectrum CBD may be enough to fail a urine test.

A recent 2020 study found that athletes who use CBD products may also be inadvertently ingesting banned minor cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBN, CBC, and CBDV, present in broad or full-spectrum CBD products. The study authors reported that athletes using CBD should be educated about the risks associated with CBD use to avoid inadvertently violating anti-doping rules.

According to a 2020 review in Sports Medicine and another 2020 review published in Pharmacological Research, CBD can support athletes in the following ways.

1. Manage performance anxiety, stress, and fear conditioning

Everyone experiences anxiety-causing situations, but athletes often face these situations more often than the general population. Performance anxiety before an event can cause insomnia, increase energy expenditure, and impair nutritional intake.

Most importantly, anxiety can negatively affect performance in itself and inhibit recovery after an event. CBD has been shown to decrease perceived anxiety before, during, and after anxiety-causing situations. Interestingly, preclinical studies in animals also suggest that CBD may also improve fear memory processes, impairing the acquisition of fear. This particular property could be beneficial for athletes who suffer from stress, fear, or trauma after a sports-related injury, such as a concussion.

2. Protects against gastrointestinal damage

Athletes who train hard can reduce oxygen and prevent the delivery of nutrients to their gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Gastrointestinal stress can negatively affect exercise performance and recovery due to nausea, vomiting, and impaired nutritional absorption.

The 2020 Sports Medicine study reported that CBD can protect against gastrointestinal damage by reducing tissue damage and restoring bowel permeability. A permeable gut is better able to absorb nutrients from food.

3. Reduces inflammation

CBD can help relieve the inflammatory pain associated with tissue damage and neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage or irritation. This could represent a critical advantage for endurance athletes, as repetitive or prolonged workouts can cause inflammation and irritation to the peripheral nerves.

Based on the pharmacology of how CBD interacts with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, CBD can also help control pain, general inflammation, or swelling caused by an injury.

The pharmacological research study reported that CBD could become an alternative to nonsteroidal, opioid, or corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drugs. The authors also suggested that, despite the current lack of studies specifically exploring the use of CBD in the management of sports injuries, the data indicate the potential use of cannabinoids in the management of osteoarthritis, muscle pain and delayed onset (DOMS) and overuse injuries.

4. Improves bone health

Healthy bones are essential for athletes, but bone health can be compromised by traumatic injuries or insufficient energy availability. Sports medicine review research suggests that CBD may help with healthy bone deposition and fracture healing.

5. It offers neuroprotective properties

The neuroprotective properties of CBD may be therapeutic to counteract the damage that can occur after a sport-induced concussion. These concussions are considered a variation of mild traumatic brain injury and can lead to serious long-term complications, such as brain damage.

The authors of the Pharmacological Research Study emphasize recent research in an animal model that demonstrated the usefulness of CBD in treating symptoms (such as depression or aggression) resulting from mild traumatic brain injury. .

CBD oil can also help counteract neuronal damage to the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Cannabinoid also inhibits oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, giving more neuroprotective benefits. These findings are promising, especially since there are currently no pharmacotherapies available to manage mild traumatic brain injury.

6. Supports sleep and wake cycles

There is still controversy over the effects of CBD on sleep. Anecdotal reports often argue for its effectiveness, while data from human populations suggest insignificant effects. Animal model research has found that CBD can induce sleep and act as a wake-up call agent.

These seemingly opposite effects, known as biphasic, depend on the dose used. Lower doses of CBD appear to promote wakefulness, while higher doses appear to calm. Both properties can be especially beneficial for athletes. Getting a good night’s sleep can be very valuable before a great race while staying awake, and alert is most helpful for athletes participating in long distance events.

The bottom line? Although the mechanisms underlying these properties of CBD need to be clarified, these preliminary observations highlight CBD as a possible tool to support athletes’ sleep patterns.

More studies are needed to investigate the effects of CBD among human athlete populations to more accurately assess its usefulness and long-term impact.

Reviews of sports medicine and pharmacological research emphasize the preliminary nature of their findings, suggesting that while CBD offers promise for athletes, more conclusive research is required.

But as long as NFL athletes continue to promote the benefits of CBD, the cannabinoid profile will continue to rise.

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