CBD has been legal in the UK since 2016, back then it was still relatively unheard of. In the few years since then, the number of reasons people use CBD have become as diverse as the range of products containing CBD. One of the more recent moves towards CBD use is to support recovery after sports and exercise. Whether that’s your regular gym goer or professional MMA fighter, people are using it as a dietary supplement for a number of complaints.
What is CBD and why are people using it post-workout?
CBD is a phytocannabinoid which can be found in both the industrial hemp plant and marijuana plant. The difference between the two is important to note. Industrial hemp has very little to no THC at all but is rich in CBD. Marijuana is high in THC which is both psychoactive and illegal. In order to be sold in the UK, any products containing CBD must have less than 0.2% THC.
CBD is non-psychoactive but still carries the relaxing and calming effect of its illegal counterpart. It used to be synonymous with a more seedy image, back before lab testing and controlled agriculture helped it gain more legitimacy. Now, there are hemp farms and labs throughout the UK, USA and Europe dedicated to producing high concentration, high quality and THC free products.
People use CBD pre and post-workout for a few reasons. When you exercise you cause micro-tears in your muscles - especially if you do high intensity interval training, weights or cardio. After they’ve repaired and healed, the muscle gains strength and bulk. While your body is healing you may experience things like soreness, swelling and stiffness as well as shaky or twitchy muscles. CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory which means it can support your body’s ability to recover from these micro-tears more quickly as well as reduce pain and stiffness.
The endocannabinoid system - how CBD works within your body:
CBD operates with a system in your body called the endocannabinoid system which regulates a number of important bodily functions. This system is made up of a number of receptors spread primarily throughout your brain, immune system and nervous system but you also have receptors on your skin and several internal organs. When this system is working optimally it helps balance mood and stress levels, supports motor function as well as regulating pain and inflammation⁽²⁾.
Your body naturally produces cannabinoids internally but in the same way you can have less of a mineral than you need, you can also be deficient in cannabinoids. CBD is a supplement that attaches to the receptors in your body the same way your own cannabinoids would. The receptors in your nervous system are particularly important for sports recovery as they regulate pain, swelling and inflammation⁽²⁾. Using a CBD supplement in turn helps your body to reduce the negative effects of an intense workout.
What people are using it for:
- Injury and post-workout recovery. If you’ve suffered an injury and are currently rehabilitating a painful joint or strained muscle, CBD is commonly used to speed up recovery time⁽³⁾. Due to its anti-inflammatory nature it can reduce swelling and support your body’s ability to repair damage caused by a workout. Unlike many over the counter anti-inflammatory tablets it can also safely be used in high doses on a regular basis without damaging the stomach lining.
- Reducing pain responses in the body. CBD is analgesic, meaning it helps soothe and reduce the pain signals from a tired muscle going to your brain⁽⁴⁾. Less pain combined with reduced inflammation generally results in a shorter “rest period” for many athletes meaning they can get back into the gym or onto the field faster.
- Stress and sleep. You do a lot of your healing and cell regeneration when you sleep, so getting a good night's rest is important. For people who struggle to drop off or stay asleep, CBD can be incredibly useful. When it works with the receptors in your brain that are linked to mood and stress it can assist in getting your body ready to sleep. You also produce more cortisol when you workout which inhibits cell regeneration and increases stress levels. CBD helps re-balance your cortisol levels⁽¹⁾ after vigorous exercise as well as after a stressful day at work.
- Antispasmodic effects. After a workout sometimes you may experience shaky or twitchy muscles due to strain, lactic acid build up, dehydration or high cortisol levels. CBD can reduce the twitching response to make for a more comfortable rest day⁽⁴⁾.
How they’re taking it:
The important part for professional athletes especially is that it’s THC free - if you’re undergoing any testing for your sport you should always go for totally THC free products. While the maximum limit in the UK is a negligible 0.2%, THC can build up in the system. You’re best off with products with third party lab testing and no THC at all. Depending on the person taking it, the product choice and dosage may vary. There are a few options particularly popular amongst those using CBD for sports recovery:
For a high dose, convenient use and fast absorption the most popular option is CBD tinctures. These are oil based solutions that are administered sublingually and when taken this way they’ll also stay in your system for up to 6 hours. This means they only need to be taken twice a day (ideally morning and night).
The use of CBD e-liquids and cartridges are another popular method for taking CBD. They have the highest absorption rate and are the most readily absorbed by travelling through your respiratory system. While they do wear off after a few hours, you’ll feel the effects within minutes when you vape CBD. As with drops there are a range of strengths as well as flavours available.
For targeted treatment used alone or in conjunction with drops or vaping, topical CBD treatments are also a popular option. Aside from containing CBD, many treatments like gels or balms also contain other cooling ingredients to help soothe achy muscles and sore joints.
If you’re interested in adding CBD to your supplement regime, you can find more information on individual products and dosage recommendations in our dosage guide.
- Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Is cannabis an effective treatment for joint pain? - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
The World of Hemp website contains general information about diet, health, wellbeing and nutrition. This is general information and should be considered as is and not as specific medical advice to treat specific conditions. World of Hemp makes no representations or warranties in relation to the health information on this website and as such you should not rely on this information as an alternative to advice given by a doctor or specialist medical practitioner. Read disclaimer in full.