There are many things athletes can do to improve their performance.
These include eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, engaging in training exercises specific to their sport and getting adequate rest. But one other option that is getting increasingly more attention lately is the taking of supplements, specifically those containing CBD.
CBD is short for cannabidiol and, though it is a compound found in the marijuana plant, it does not create the “high” effect commonly associated with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Research has connected CBD with numerous potential health benefits, and Medical News Today reports that these include pain relief and relief from various neurological disorders, making this option more appealing to those who regularly engage in physical activity.
What are the pros and cons of using this compound as an athlete?
Pros for athletes using CBD products
The first pro is pain relief, says Antonio DeRose, co-founder and COO of Marijuana Fitness Nutrition in Boulder, Colorado. A competitive trail runner and certified personal trainer, DeRose is also a cannabis product tester, freelance writer and speaker who will be sharing the benefits of cannabis for fitness at the 2018 US Cannabis Conference & Expo in Miami.
“CB1 receptors are present in nervous system areas involved in modulating nociception,” DeRose says, “And evidence supports a role of the endocannabinoids in pain modulation. This can help athletes who suffering from pain due to injury or training.” One such study was published in Current Neuropharmacology and shares that CBD has the ability to ease both chronic and acute pain; and it does so without negatively impacting the central nervous system.
A second pro for athletes using CBD, according to DeRose, is how it acts as an anti-inflammatory. “CBD can attach to the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, encouraging the reduction of inflammation in many areas of the body including tissue, the brain, intestines, and some studies even indicate its therapeutic use for conditions like fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
He notes this has implications for athletes recovering from training and competition, and for those dealing with injuries or post-injury rehab.
Research confirms this, as a 2010 study in Future Medicinal Chemistry explains that CBD can often help by regulating the immune system and suppressing inflammatory responses. These provide value both preventatively and in the event of an injury.
A third pro for athletes using CBD has to do with two of its other properties. “The US government actually holds a patent—No. 6630507—stating that CBD has powerful effects as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant,” DeRose says. “This can benefit several diseases associated with oxidation, as well as athletes in high contact sports who suffer from repeated head or body trauma. Even the use of CBD in sports massage for enhanced recovery is quickly spreading.”
Cons for athletes using CBD products
So, why would an athlete choose to not use CBD? “For athletes, the main concern is legality,” DeRose says. “Even though the World Anti-Doping Agency recently removed CBD from its banned substances list, not all sports leagues have followed suit, like the NFL. This means, in the NFL and some other leagues, athletes could face consequences for testing positive for CBD.”
He indicates that there is also a stigma related to CBD or cannabis use. “Several athletes do not share they consume cannabis or CBD products,” DeRose says, “out of fear of being stereotyped as a ‘drug user.’”
There is also concern about drug-drug interactions, according to Bao Le, DC, CEO and co-founder of BAS Research, a company in Berkeley, California, which was created to refine and improve the processes by which cannabis-related products are derived, and also to reduce the stigma around this drug.
“Some users reported that CBD diminished an enzyme called cytochrome P450, which helps metabolize drugs,” Le says. “Therefore, taking CBD can affect how your body consumes other drugs, potentially magnifying or altering their effects.”
Plus, you have to be careful traveling with CBD products, Le says, as “in most states, CBD is only allowed to be consumed within the state you purchased the product.” Additionally, many states ban products that contain more than 0.3 percent THC, so if a product with a higher amount is taken into such a state, the transporter may be committing a crime.
Additional considerations before using CBD as an athlete
An additional consideration before using CBD, according to Le, is that CBD is available in different forms, so “it’s a challenge to know which one is right for you.” Le adds that three of the most common forms of CBD are:
- Pills: The benefits of taking CBD in pill form is that it is “as easy to use as classic medication,” Le says, “and it is easy to keep track of the ingested dosages.”
- Vaping oils: “CBD can be purchased as a liquid that can be heated and inhaled through a special device or e-cigarette,” Le says. “This oil is often flavored to make the treatment experience less traumatic.”
- Creams: “When applied directly to the skin, CBD is absorbed slowly by the body, offering a long-lasting effect,” Le says, adding that topical creams are “a great way to treat sore muscles.”
Though there are many benefits to using CBD as an athlete, there are also a few drawbacks to consider as well. That makes this decision a personal choice.