CBD For Athletes

Better sleep. Reduced anxiety. Improved immune function. A calmer and more peaceful life.

Full spectrum CBD oil’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) means it’s good for quite an array of different things! As we’ve said before, it’s almost as if the plant molecule is adaptable. If someone needs help with their sleep, it often helps specifically with that; if one has chronic pain, it usually seems to improve that.

So could CBD help athletes who want to get fitter, faster and stronger? It does promote things like fat oxidation (fat burning) and nervous system health, after all — and that’s only at first glance.

At Vision Aura, we’re confident that CBD can. That’s because the very same qualities of the ECS that improve health in a normal person…can further amplify fitness for those who are already fit!

We see CBD oil as an adaptogen. While it’s not officially classified as one yet, it does fit all the qualifications: it’s a phytochemical, it’s anti-stress, it stabilizes bodily processes, and it encourages homeostasis. It can help an athlete deal with and overcome the stressors of intense training just as well as it helps anyone deal with the normal stressors of life!

As an athlete, you already know that the best training plans walk a very fine line. In order to continue improving you have to push yourself to the maximum — but not too often,  because you also have to give allow yourself some time to recover.

In the process of finding this training sweet spot, you might overdo things. Your CNS (central nervous system) might get burned out; you might get injured. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol, the fight-or-flight stress hormone, could make it pretty tough to get good sleep.

Thankfully, though, CBD can help reduce or even eliminate these risk factors. Its pro-adaptive qualities ensure that your workouts remain in the ‘good stress’ category they should.

Going a step further, though, could CBD be a physiological and psychological driver of exercise? Could it actually be hacking the system in such a way as to encourage — and reward — our workouts?

While what that question brings us to is primarily theory, it’s also very, very interesting. Only in the past few years have scientists learned that endocannabinoids, and not endorphins, for the most part, are responsible for that post-exercise euphoria we call ‘runner’s high’.

Endorphins are great and all, but they’re much too big to really pass into the brain. Endocannabinoids (eCB’s), on the other hand, readily move across the blood-brain barrier. And a 2004 study found that these eCB’s are greatly boosted after an intense workout.

Coincidence? We think not. Author studies introduced what they called an “endocannabinoid hypothesis” to explain runner’s high, which they aptly described as pure happiness, elation, a feeling of unity with one’s self and/or nature, endless peacefulness, inner harmony, boundless energy, and a reduction in pain sensation”.

What we have in runner’s high is actually a mechanism, built into the body, designed specifically to promote exercise. Pretty amazing! And, like so many other things, this mechanism is controlled by the endocannabinoid system. That makes it a prime candidate to be improved upon by CBD oil.

To answer the question we asked earlier: if you take CBD, then yes…you might also be taking something that subconsciously makes you want to exercise.

Regardless of your motivation levels, though, there’s only one way to find out if CBD complements your fitness goals. That’s by trying it, of course. Consider taking a small dose of full spectrum CBD oil prior to your next workout, and then stay attentive to any changes in how you feel.  

All the endurance athletes out there will likely benefit as their bodies shift to beta-oxidation (that’s where fat stores are made more readily available for fuel). CBD isn’t even the only compound in hemp that has this effect; a slew of other terpenes and cannabinoids have been shown to do pretty much the same thing via AMPK activation. Several former pro cyclists have turned to CBD for these reasons — also citing that they don’t need conventional painkillers anymore!

If you’re a strength athlete, you’ll probably experience better proprioception and less ‘shakiness’ on heavy lifts. You may even be able to handle your favorite pre-workout with fewer jitters! After all, CBD acts on adenosine receptors in a way that’s perfect for balancing out the side effects of caffeine. As always, the plant molecule demonstrates its impressive ability to maintain balance for both endurance and power athletes.  

Another big health factor for both types of athletes: antioxidants. Or, more accurately, oxidants, since those are the potentially-damaging molecules that exercise helps produce. Think of oxidants and free radicals as the byproducts of metabolism, almost like exhaust is the byproduct of fuel getting burned in a car.

These byproducts aren’t normally an issue, but speed up metabolic pathways for long enough and they might become built up themselves. That’s not good. Left unchecked, high levels of free radicals can promote DNA damage and increase the risk of age-related diseases.

While many athletes are aware of the free radical issue, they may not be aware that common supplemental solutions — like vitamin C or E — might be doing too much. Small amounts of free radicals act are actually helpful; they act as signaling molecules that push the body onwards to adapt. It’s not a good idea to just blindly reduce them.

But this is one more thing CBD helps with. Unlike conventional antioxidants, it gently reduces internal stress and oxidation by boosting levels of something known as glutathione, our body’s internal antioxidant. CBD is so effective as an antioxidant (at the same time not overdoing things!) that the US government has a secretive research patent on the subject. We’d encourage you to do more research, too.

All in all, these are just a few of the ways that CBD can positively impact you as an athlete. Like always, the plant molecule is remarkably diverse — so there are also other modes of action. It’s no wonder pro athletes like golfer Bubba Watson support CBD; Watson calls the plant’s use for enhancing recovery a “no brainer”. From a very different sport, pro rock climber Steph Davis uses CBD to help her stay energized and focused.

While more conclusive research needs to come out before we can say exactly how much CBD will help you with your sport, initial findings have been pretty promising. Look for some of these newfound concepts to be better validated by science in the near future…and in the meantime, feel free to experiment on the interactions between CBD, your fitness, and you.

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