Any athlete who's serious about making an improvement is constantly on the lookout for the latest training aid that can make them stronger, faster and able to recover better. One that is garnering a lot of attention as of late is cannabidiol (CBD) oil. In this article, we’ll get up and close with CBD oil so you can determine whether it deserves to be part of your training and recovery arsenal.
What is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol is a compound found in cannabis. Its the second largest extract from the plant, second to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is THC which is the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis that gets people high.
CBD oil is a completely legal substance. Since 2017, it has been an authorized athletic substance by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). It does contain a trace amount of THC, but this is so low that it does not affect the oil’s legal status or its classification as an allowable athletic supplement.
CBD oil contains more than CBD. It also has terpenes, flavonoids, a trace amount of THC and other compounds with the acronyms CBD, CBDA, CBN and CBC. The oil can be derived from the hemp plant as well as the marijuana plant.
A number of preliminary studies have focused on the benefits of CBD for general and athletic use. However, research into this area is still in its infancy and, until more conclusive studies emerge, we can only speculate and make assumptions.
How CBD Affects the Body?
The body is comprised of a whole raft of intertwined systems. One that you may not have heard of before is the Endo-cannabinoid system. Its key function is to regulate chemical processes in the body and maintain the body’s homeostasis. When you take CBD oil it acts synergistically along with this system to allow it to work more effectively.
CBD is not that easily absorbed by the body. For that reason, researchers recommend taking it along with either black pepper or turmeric both of which have the added benefit of speeding up the metabolism.
Are There Any Side Effects of CDB Oil Use?
The vast majority of studies on CBD oil report that the side effects, if any, are minor and greatly outweighed by the potential benefits. It should be noted, however, that many of these studies have been conducted on animals and not on humans. More human trials are needed to provide a conclusive statement on the matter.
The minor side effects that have been noted thus far are the following . . .
- Interaction with certain pharmaceuticals – CBD has been seen to inhibit the activity of liver enzymes known as cytochrome P450. These are the very enzymes which metabolize many of the pharmaceutical drugs that are prescribed. However, the effect is minor, being about the same as eating a piece of grapefruit.
- Dry mouth – this seems to be caused by the endocannabinoid’s involvement in saliva secretion. It means that you will get thirsty, prompting you to drink more water (not a bad thing!).
- Reduced blood pressure – a small drop in blood pressure has been noted at high dosages of CBD oil. It is often associated with a sensation of lightheadedness. People who are on blood pressure meds should consult their doctor before using CBD oil.
Let’s consider the top 5 reputed benefits for athletes of CDB Oil.
CBD Oil Benefit #1: Stress Reduction
When we workout or perform on the field or court, we place our body under stress. One of its responses is for the adrenal glands to produce more of the hormone cortisol. Known as the stress hormone, cortisol may lead to an increase in heart rate, dry mouth and upset stomach.
A study out of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil showed that SBD supplementation may lower the body’s exercise-induced release of the cortisol hormone. CBD was also seen in this study to have a sedative effect. This decreased stress effect can help an athlete to control their energy. While they may still have butterflies in their stomach before stepping up to the plate, it appears that CBD oil can help to get those butterflies flying in formation!
CBD Oil Benefit #2: Fights Inflammation
Physical activity leads to inflammation and the more you do it, the more likely you are to suffer from inflamed joints and muscles. In fact, inflammation is one of the most common side effects that athletes face. Preliminary studies on CBD indicate that may have promising results in combatting exercise-induced inflammation.
A US National Institute of Health study reported that CBD oil had ‘significant’ anti-inflammatory properties. The author of the study, Dr D.C., Hammell stated that ‘we report that administration of cannabidiol (CBD), a major non-psycho-active component of marijuana, and its modified derivatives, significantly suppress chronic inflammation and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance in rodents.’
A second study, again conducted with rodents, showed that CBD oil was able to reduce the severity of arthritis induced inflammation. In this case, the CBD oil was applied topically. There were no side effects reported.
Although no studies have yet been done on humans, many athletes have already been using CBD oil to effectively reduce their post-training and competition inflammation.
CBD Oil Benefit #3: Pain Relief
Pain is a constant companion for the serious athlete. At best, it brings about post-workout discomfort while, at worst, it can put a stop to your entire training program. There is a whole host of pain relieving treatments on the market to help with exercise-induced pain but many of them carry unwanted side effects. CBD promises to produce the benefit of pain relief without the negative of harmful side effects.
A 2008 meta-study focused on the effect of CBD oil as a reliever of chronic pain. The study primarily looked at two studies, one conducted in the 1980’s and the other in 2007. The meta study’s authors summed up their findings by stating that CBD oil was an effective overall pain manager that did not carry any serious side effects. As a side benefit, they noted, that CBD also showed promise as an effective treatment for insomnia.
A more recent study from 2016 investigated the effect of CBD oil on arthritic pain. This was another study that was done on rodents. Various dosages of CBD oil, ranging between 0.6 and 62.3 milligrams per day, were administered, with a mid-range between those two extremes producing reduced inflammation and associated pain.
CBD Oil Benefit #4: Fat Loss
CBD Oil shows exciting potential as an agent for weight loss. It does this primarily by acting as an appetite stimulant. Interestingly, this is the opposite effect to THC, which causes people to want to eat more, leading to the well-known marijuana munchies. It appears that the compounds within CBD act to stimulate the proteins that lead to oxidation and breakdown of stored energy in the body.
CBD oil is also believed to speed up the metabolism by stimulating the body to increase the number of cellular mitochondria, which leads to enhanced caloric burn.
There is also exciting research into the conversion of white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue. This ‘brown fat’ burns more calories, leading to enhanced fat burn. It is believed that CBD oil leads to more conversion of white fat into brown fat.
CBD oil has been shown to potentially improve insulin sensitivity. High insulin levels lead to an endless cycle of weight gain that makes it almost impossible for an athlete to get lean. According to a 2013 study that was published in the American Journal of Medicine, the CBD oil in marijuana was associated with lower levels of fasting insulin and smaller waist circumference.
CBD Oil Benefit #5: Combats Catabolism
All athletes want to be in an anabolic, muscle promoting state. CBD oil can help them stay that way thanks to its anti-catabolic properties. We’ve already mentioned that CBD oil has been shown to slow down the release of the stress-inducing hormone cortisol. Well, another effect of cortisol is that it breaks down muscle tissue. Its catabolic effect is most pronounced in an environment of ill-health. That means that an athlete who gets the flu is in danger of losing hard earned muscle mass. CBD oil, with its anti-catabolic effect, can counter that muscle loss.
There has been some promising research on the potential athletic benefits of CBD oil over the past decade. While more study is needed to confirm these effects, that hasn’t stopped many athletes from adding this compound to their supplementation regimen. They are taking it for its reported anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, appetite suppressing, anti-catabolic and stress-reducing effects. Based on the available evidence and with its lack of serious side effects, we have no problem in endorsing the use of CBD as an athletic training aid.