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Boosting Athletic Recovery: How CBD Could Help

Written By Ellese Symons Jul 3rd 2024
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Running could be one of the best activities for clearing your mind and building stamina. Resistance training, on the other hand, builds strength and endurance. Whether you're a self-proclaimed weekend warrior or fully committed to pushing the limits at every opportunity, the pain, stiffness, inflammation, and muscle fatigue that develop in the hours and days after intense activity are inevitable – and a physical reminder of the importance of prioritizing athletic recovery. 

What that looks like, however, is different for everyone. Regardless of your age, current fitness level, or training intensity, it's important to understand that giving your muscles time to rebuild and repair may not be enough to achieve overall fitness and optimal gains. Your body also needs adequate nutrition, hydration, and deep, restorative sleep. If you're serious about supporting your recovery efforts naturally, you may want to try adding CBD into your daily routine. We'll explain what it is, how it works, and why active adults nationwide are investing in the cannabinoid's impressive list of possible benefits. 

Topic Overview: Understanding the Basics of Athletic Recovery   

Pain, stiffness, and inflammation after physical activity – discomfort unrelated to injury - are symptoms of microscopic damage to your muscle fibers, a sign of achieving the type of wear and tear essential for increasing muscle mass. Your exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) triggers a response from your immune system - the release of specialized white blood cells to the impacted tissues to initiate repairs.1 The resulting inflammation is the primary cause of your delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). 

When your muscles don't have what they need to rebound between bouts of strenuous activity, you're at an increased risk of recurring injury, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage.3 Your body needs fluids to transport nutrients to damaged tissues, amino acids, and protein to repair and rebuild muscle, and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores.4 Experts also stress the importance of sleep because of its impact on essential growth hormones, cortisol levels, inflammation, cellular repair, and ATP production – a molecule that invigorates nearly every cell in your body.

Mechanisms of Action: Exploring How CBD Works and What It Does  

CBD is the commonly used abbreviation for cannabidiol, the most abundant of 113 potentially beneficial cannabinoids in hemp flower extract. The rest are produced in much smaller amounts. When you add CBD to your smoothie, swallow a softgel, or enjoy a delicious fruit-flavored gummy, the cannabinoids circulating through your bloodstream interact with more than 65 molecular targets, including your endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors.6 That's huge! 

Your ECS, the largest regulatory system in the human body, is involved in nearly every aspect of overall health and wellness – everything from emotional regulation, mental clarity, and muscle movement to immune system function, sleep cycle regulation, and the perception of pleasure and pain. The overall implications are so far-reaching that most experts believe supporting ECS function with CBD helps restore equilibrium (homeostasis) when internal or external stressors threaten essential balance.

Post-Workout Support: Comparing the Three Main Types of Hemp Extract   

CBD's indirect interaction with your ECS receptors translates to many possible benefits for post-workout recovery. The cannabinoid also interacts with the receptors of your dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) systems. 

Serotonin is primarily known for mood elevation and emotional regulation, dopamine is directly involved in reward-seeking behavior,8 and GABA blocks the signals between overactive nerve cells.9 According to a 2019 CBDistillery® survey of 1,900 customers, most respondents report positive effects for relaxation, better sleep, mild or temporary anxiety, and pain, inflammation, and stiffness after physical activity using products made with one of the following types of hemp extract. 

Full Spectrum   

Full spectrum products contribute to athletic recovery by delivering CBD plus the plant's many additional minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytonutrients in the same ratio's nature intended. Their cannabinoid profile includes a small amount of THC. The 15-20:1 CBD to THC ratio in unaltered full spectrum extract, however, ensures there's little risk of intoxication. Many athletes feel full spectrum CBD products are the most potent of the three options because of the way the combined impact of hemp's cannabinoids and terpenes contributes to the "entourage" effect cannabis is known for.10 

Broad Spectrum  

Broad spectrum products provide most of the minor cannabinoids and terpenes present in their full spectrum counterparts. But there's one significant distinction to many athletically inclined people. A process called chromatography is used to safely reduce the amount of THC in the plant's extract to non-detectable levels, .01% or less. Although broad spectrum products have the cannabinoid and terpene profile needed to initiate an entourage effect, some (not all) people investing in CBD for athletic recovery feel that removing THC from hemp extract diminishes the impact.11  

CBD Isolate   

CBD isolate is a powdered form of hemp extract; all that remains after the additional cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, essential fatty acids, and other phytonutrients are stripped away. The highly potent, crystalline granules are flavorless, odorless, and have 0% THC. Although products made with CBD isolate don't have the active components needed for an entourage effect, there's no reason to doubt their ability to deliver positive results for athletic recovery. Most of the initial research supporting the use of CBD for overall health details the favorable impact achieved utilizing the "pure form" of CBD.12 

Product Exploration: Finding the Best Fit for Your Daily Routine  

Deciding between full spectrum, broad spectrum, or pure cannabidiol products is a simple matter of personal preference – something most athletes choose based on the amount of THC they're comfortable with. Either way, you're investing in plant-powered recovery support that's safe for most adults, generally well-tolerated, and determined by the World Health Organization to pose no risk of public health concerns.13 Most side effects (if they occur) – symptoms that can include dry mouth, fatigue, diarrhea, or stomach upset – tend to resolve with smaller serving sizes. 

You can minimize your risk of developing any unpleasantness from CBD by following the advice of experts recommending that first-time consumers start with a partial serving. Consider trying half of the amount suggested on product labels. If you don't get the support you need from that starting point, increase your serving sizes gradually in small increments. Most of our 2019 survey respondents reported achieving their best results within 7-14 days of consistent use with the following product types. 

CBD Oil Tinctures 

CBD oil tinctures are made with hemp extract and a carrier oil. The carrier oil helps optimize the absorption of the fat-soluble cannabinoid. It's a product you can use to add CBD to your post-workout protein shake, morning coffee, or tea. Just shake the bottle, measure your serving size, and hold the tincture beneath your tongue for 45-60 seconds before swallowing. The fluid form and convenient dropper make it easy to adjust your intake as needed.   

CBD Softgels & Gummies 

Most athletes can expect the effects of their morning CBD to last 6-8 hours. Many prefer to keep the impact going strong with a second serving mid-day. We suggest the convenience and portability of CBD softgels and CBD gummies – products that are great for home use and on the go. Gummies are most often favored by athletes who appreciate their chewy textures and fun fruit flavors. CBD softgels are the better choice for anyone adverse to the rather distinctive, earthy flavor and aroma of hemp. 

CBD Topicals 

When you want fast-acting, targeted relief any time of day, consider keeping a CBD topical on hand.  They're applied directly to the surface of your skin. You can use a high-quality CBD balm or CBD sports stick before, during, or after your workout. Since the cannabinoids in topicals don't penetrate deeply enough to absorb into your bloodstream, you can use them to help support athletic recovery on their own or to complement the effects of your tinctures, softgels, and gummies.   

Could CBD Provide the Boost You Need for Athletic Recovery?  

Most of the discomfort (and fatigue) athletes experience after vigorous training or intense competition is caused by microscopic injuries to muscle fibers. Although CBD's exact impact on exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) is not completely understood, current evidence suggests the cannabinoid is helping athletes return to pre-EIMD soreness levels faster. 

A report published in Sports Medicine – Open credits the cannabinoid with multiple biochemical and physiological effects identified as potentially beneficial for athletic recovery, and similar investigations reveal "promising" evidence supporting its use for "sport-related fatigue," recovery efficiency, and factors relevant to repetitive motion.14,15 

It's important, however, to understand that product purity, potency, and overall quality can vary significantly between brands. Those differences matter.  When you choose CBDistillery® products to support athletic recovery, there's no need to worry. Our impressive assortment of hemp-derived CBD tinctures, topicals, softgels, and gummies are rigorously tested, quality-assured, and made with 100% clean ingredients. If you're leaning towards trying CBD but not quite sure where to begin, consider scheduling a personal consultation

References: 

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  1. Hourani W, Alexander S, (2018) Cannabinoid Ligands, Receptors, and Enzymes: Pharmacological Tools and Therapeutic Potential. Brain Neurosci Adv. Doi: 10.1177/2398212818783908. PMID: 32166144; PMCID: PMC7058259 

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  1. Yetman D. (2024) 14 Tips to Maximize Muscle Recovery. Healthline. 

  1. Dworak M, McCarley R, et al. (2010) Sleep and Brain Energy Levels: ATP Changes During Sleep. 30(26) J Neurosci 9007-16. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1423-10.2010 

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  1. Sallaberry C, Astern L. (2018) The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator. 34(6) JYI 48-55. https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator 

  1. Serotonin vs. Dopamine: What Are the Differences? (2023) Verywell Health. 

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