CBD for Athletes: Can it Help With Post Workout Recovery?

cbd for athletes: post workout recovery

Workouts are physically demanding on the body, especially for professional athletes who push their bodies to the max. But, this applies to everybody of any fitness level when moderate to intense exercising is performed. 

As we practice strength training exercises to build muscle, we’re causing little microscopic tears to our tissues. The body’s response is an inflammatory reaction, which helps heal and repair the tissue (this is why your muscles may feel stiff and sore after an intense workout).

Over time, and with repetition, this leads to stronger muscles. 

If muscles are overworked, it can lead to chronic inflammation in the body and cause muscle damage and injuries. To avoid this, athletes are turning to CBD to decrease their recovery time and reduce the inflammation in their bodies post-workout.

We’ll discuss why athletes are turning to CBD for post-workout recovery. And, even if you’re not a professional athlete, anybody that exercises moderately may experience these same benefits.

First, let’s define our terms.

Table of Contents

  1. What is CBD?
  2. What is Exercise-Induced Inflammation?
  3. Types of Inflammation
  4. How Does CBD Help to Reduce Inflammation?
  5. How To Use CBD
  6. CBD for Post-Workout Recovery
  7. Athletes Advocating for CBD
  8. In Conclusion: CBD for Everybody

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound that is extracted from the hemp plant and has recently shown much promise in the world of healing. It’s one of the many cannabinoids found in the plant that supports cellular and molecular health. It can be consumed orally or topically, and research has been piling up on its many benefits.

What is Exercise-Induced Inflammation?

Inflammation is defined literally as “to set on fire” and is considered a normal biological response to some sort of harmful stimuli in the body.

A systematic review article from the Research Center in Sport Sciences shared on Frontiers in Physiology, a forum that shares and dissects research and publications on all aspects of exercise physiology, explains: “Exercise leads to a robust inflammatory response mainly characterized by the mobilization of leukocytes.” 

Leukocytes are white blood cells that work in the body to fight disease and inflammation, and this study has shown that they are prevalent after moderate to intense exercise. Typically, the more intense the workout, the more of these cells that are present. They help repair the micro-damage in the muscles and tissues whose biomechanical limits have been pushed during exercise. 

Types of Inflammation

There are two general types of inflammation:

Acute inflammation occurs during illness, injury, or infection. It’s the immune system’s way of flushing immune cells into the body to protect it from further damage. This results in swelling and redness (inflammation) and is what happens to muscles and tissues post-workout.

Chronic inflammation is an inflammatory response in the body that is prolonged or ongoing. Over time, lingering inflammation can cause damage to organs and tissues because of the high levels of free radicals being released into the body. This creates an imbalance in antioxidants and free radicals, also referred to as oxidative stress. Chronic inflammation is often caused by stress, poor diet, untreated illness, and autoimmune diseases.

How Does CBD Help Reduce Inflammation?

How CBD improves recovery

Dr. Kerklaan, a renowned chiropractor, leading biochemist, and advocate for CBD, says, “CBD helps address delayed onset-muscle soreness, general muscle tension, and inflammation all of which can all result after exercise.” 

A 2015 study by the University of Massachusetts Medical school, entitled, Cannabidiol (CBD) and its Analogs: A Review of their Effects on Inflammation, shows that CBD molecules bind to the receptors in the body that regulate inflammation and pain perception, specifically TRPV1, triggering an anti-inflammatory response.

Another research article on the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Library of Medicine which reviewed several studies on cannabinoid analgesia (pain relief) further explains, “A new explanation of inflammatory and analgesic effects of CBD has recently come to light with the discovery that it is able to promote signaling of the adenosine receptor A2A by inhibiting the adenosine transporter.” 

The adenosine receptor is present in the heart, lungs, and spleen, and plays a role in the central nervous depressant system to promote sleep and suppress arousal.

CBD has also been shown to help regulate cytokines, which are small proteins released by immune cells in response to environmental threats, triggering inflammation. This study, published on the NIH website about Cannabinoids as Novel Anti-Inflammatory Drugs explains:

 “One of the possible mechanisms of immune control by cannabinoids during inflammation is the dys-regulation of cytokine production by immune cells and disruption of the well-regulated immune response. Furthermore, cannabinoids may affect immune responses and host resistance by perturbing the balance between the cytokines produced by T-helper subsets, Th1 and Th2.”

Dr. Perry Solomon, previous chief medical officer and founding member of HelloMD, also weighed in on CBD for inflammation: “Broadly speaking, it does decrease inflammation when it’s rubbed on muscles as an ointment or taken orally.” 

How To Use CBD

AdministrationBioavailabilityOnset
Oral5-15%Slow
Sublingual12-35%Moderate
Inhalation34-46%Fast
Topical~40%Fast

CBD is widely regarded as safe to use, even in high doses of up to 1500 milligrams a day, according to doctors published in Frontiers in Neurology (of course, if you have underlying medical concerns or conditions, it’s best to consult a doctor first).

Initial dosing can be a bit tricky, but the “start low and increase slowly” method is typically recommended: start with 5-10mg the first day and increase by 5-10mg daily until you feel relief.

You can take CBD orally via tinctures and gummies or even inhale it with vapes and hemp flower. These approaches allow CBD to be absorbed and utilized in the body, having a positive impact on our body’s receptors, as noted in the research.

For relief of muscle pain, CBD topical balms can be applied directly on the muscles in question.

CBD for Post-Workout Recovery

Many studies have shown that CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory. 

Since we know that acute inflammation tends to occur after moderate to intense exercise, it makes sense that athletes would incorporate it into their regimes. Reducing inflammation is helpful in an athlete’s recovery process, which is what makes CBD an excellent supplement for post-workout recovery. 

It’s not just for athletes, though. 

We can all potentially benefit from CBD’s anti-inflammatory potential. Unlike other anti-inflammatories, CBD does not increase the risk of stroke and is not harmful to the stomach lining.

Athletes Advocating for CBD

Many athletes have publicly spoken about their use of CBD in their wellness routines and are advocating that CBD for athletes be available.

Ryan Vandenbussche, a professional hockey player, shared with MensHealth.com: “As athletes, we were given opiates by our team doctors. Looking back after years gone by, I’m surprised I’m still alive.”

He says he prefers CBD to highly addictive and potentially dangerous opiates.

“As a 14-year professional athlete that has had a dozen surgeries, many broken bones, and north of 20 concussions, it’s better than the alternative.” 

Riley Coty, also from the NHL, says, “It’s very clear to me now that there is a much better and more sustainable way to manage what I call the recovery process.”

He became a believer of CBD in 2012, after reading the book “Hemp for Health” and trying CBD for himself.

In Conclusion: CBD for Everybody

In conclusion, there is much scientific evidence suggesting CBD can reduce inflammation in the body as it binds to receptors that are involved in controlling inflammation and pain perception, as well as regulating cytokines, the small proteins that trigger inflammation as an environmental response within our cells. 

We also know from exercise physiology that a microscopic injury occurs in our muscles and tissues as we exercise moderately to intensely. These tears eventually help our muscles grow stronger after the initial inflammatory response. Inflammation means “to set on fire,” which is not a sustainable state for our bodies. Chronic inflammation can cause extensive damage to organs and tissues.

Therefore, athletes are turning to CBD to help bring homeostasis (balance) back to their bodies and speed up recovery time by reducing the effects of post-workout inflammation. 

But, CBD is not just helpful for athletes.

Even moderate exercise can cause an inflammatory reaction, as can stress, untreated illness, and a poor diet.

CBD can help anybody wishing to reduce the effects of inflammation on their body, and especially without the side effects (including damage to the stomach lining and risk of stroke) of other drugs out there.

What about you? Have you used CBD post-workout? Please share your experience with us below!

The CBD Insider Editorial Team

The mission of The CBD Insider is to provide consumers with a way to find high-quality, safe, and well-formulated CBD products. Our editorial team of passionate industry professionals achieves this mission by providing unbiased, trustworthy, and well-researched reporting about the CBD industry.