You’ve used CBD products to sleep better, destress, and ramp up your sex drive with amazing results, but could CBD also help you reach your fitness goals? All signs point to yes, with both scientific and anecdotal evidence suggesting that CBD might just be the magic ingredient your workout routine needs.
"CBD may exert a number of physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects with the potential to benefit athletes," said Dr. Thorsten Rudroff, an exercise scientist and director of the Integrative Neurophysiology Laboratory at the University of Iowa, over email. "I think everyone could benefit from CBD and definitely people who are working out at a high intensity."
In layman's terms, CBD can help you push through physical boundaries, shorten your recovery times, and even amp up your energy levels. Here's everything you need to know about incorporating CBD into your fitness routine.
CBD has a major anti-inflammatory effect.
Anyone who’s experienced soreness after a hard workout has felt the effects of inflammation. Intense exercise can cause microscopic damage to the body's muscles and tissues — and that’s usually a good thing. Inflammation triggers the body’s repair processes, causing tissue to grow back stronger.
But too much inflammation can lead to muscle damage, missed workouts due to pain, and injuries. Enter CBD. "CBD has incredible anti-inflammatory effects," said Dr. Benjamin Caplan, the founder of the medical cannabis-focused, Massachusetts-based CED Clinic and CED Foundation. Caplan is also the co-founder of EO Care, a digital platform providing personalized cannabis-care plans for its patients.
"CBD works in a different manner than NSAIDs like ibuprofen and steroid medicines, not only as a powerful anti-inflammatory but as a different type of anti-inflammatory," Caplan continued. "It has feedback-inhibition powers, which basically means it can calm down nerves that are too abundant."
"CBD has the effect of relaxing muscle tissues in a way that’s similar to massage or heat, so it’s great for recovery," said Caplan.
David Anthony Schroeder, the author of 7 Ways to Manage Pain With CBD, found CBD after years of suffering from chronic pain caused by sports injuries and intense exercise. "Someone sent me a homemade CBD pain stick, and I thought it was a joke," Schroder said. "I'd tried almost everything under the sun — legal and illegal — and CBD worked better than anything. I was shocked. That was five years ago, and now I take CBD every day."
CBD can help you push through boundaries.
Every exercise enthusiast knows that a good day at the gym, on the mat, or on the road is as much about your mental state as your physical one, and CBD is a great tool for positively influencing your mindset. That positivity can translate into increased performance, whether you want to run longer or faster, increase the weight you use during a class, or just stay for one more set.
"Your psychology really does affect your physiology," Dr. Caplan said. "Athletes have to be able to push through limitations, to feel comfortable in the face of strain and strenuous activity, and CBD helps someone to push past their typical boundaries. That happens both psychologically and physically. If someone is feeling less worried or anxious, they’re apt to push through their limits. If someone is feeling less pain due to inflammation, they’re more apt to push through their limits."
CBD can increase your energy.
CBD’s ability to increase energy is correlated both to its effects on sleep and stress — a well-rested and less-anxious person is a more energetic one — and its abilities as a carrier agent. What exactly is that? It’s simply one substance that better facilitates the transport and delivery of another to the body.
"CBD helps you maximize the active ingredients in a gummy or drop, so you can feel the same effects with less," said Amanda Goetz, CEO and founder of House of Wise and an ACE Certified Personal Trainer.
Another energy boost comes from CBD’s ability to "mimic our natural joy hormones," said Dr. Caplan. "CBD uses the same receptors that opioids work on, so some pure joy comes out of cannabinoids." A joyous, energetic workout through CBD? Yes, please.
The whens, whats, and hows of CBD aren’t one size fits all.
The correct amount of CBD and ideal time in which to take it varies person to person. “There is no such thing as a standard dosage or a perfect way to take CBD,” said Schroeder, who said he takes CBD proactively both topically and internally to counter pain and maintain his fitness routine. “Each person is a puzzle; you have to figure out what pieces fit into the right places.”
One rule of thumb he and many others suggest is trying 1-6mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of body weight. Another tactic: start with 5-10mg per day and increase by 5-10mg weekly until you find the dosage that’s right for you. In all cases, working with a doctor or CBD expert is recommended.
“People will find guided cannabis consumption to be much more effective in both the short term and long term than randomly trying different products,” Dr. Caplan said. “That guide will depend on what’s available in your area. In some places that’s a doctor or a pharmacist; in others it’s just someone you know who has experience with CBD.”
The timing of when to take CBD is also a personal preference. Dr. Rudroff suggests taking a dose “immediately after a workout with a high protein and low-carb meal” for best results, while House of Wise’s Amanda Goetz prefers to take a gummy before a workout.
“My typical routine is gummy and water, then I change into my workout clothes, find my AirPods, which always randomly go missing, and head to the gym in my building,” Goetz said. “By the time I get there I start to feel a burst of energy, and I ride that momentum.”