CBD In Sport Series: Introduction
What is CBD? Will it help my sports performance and is it safe to consume?
These are just some of the questions that confuse athletes and create a lot of misinformation in the sporting world. We’ve broken down the key information you need to know below.
CBD stands for cannabidiol and is one of more than a hundred unique cannabinoid compounds found in either marijuana or hemp (see our Beginners Guide to Hemp). CBD oil is extracted from hemp leaves and contains very low levels (less than 0.3%) of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). So, it’s impossible to get high from hemp derived CBD oil.
Historically, CBD oil has been used for many hundreds of years to treat health problems. In recent times, scientists and doctors have tested and confirmed the many therapeutic benefits of CBD oil for anxiety, insomnia, addiction, acne, pain and inflammation.
Why is CBD beneficial?
We all have a network of cannabinoid receptors throughout our body as part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is active in your body even if you don’t consume cannabinoids as other foods such essential fatty acids, chocolate, herbs, spices and tea also have a stimulating effect. The exact functions of the ECS are still being understood but we know it plays a role in regulating our body systems (homeostasis) and in particular sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction and fertility.
The ECS has two main receptors, known as CB1 and CB2 that allow for the binding of cannabinoids. CBD influences cannabinoid receptor activity and encourages production of the body’s natural endocannabinoids. We have also discovered that CBD influences activity beyond the ECS, interacting with opioid, dopamine and serotonin receptors. Having such a widespread effect on so many systems throughout the body is an exciting prospect for the therapeutic and potentially sports enhancing benefits of CBD.
For athletes, the major benefits of CBD are:
- Pain relief, particularly musculoskeletal pain and stiff joints
- Alternative to over-the-counter non-steroidal an;-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen
- Alternative to opioid pain medications such as morphine and codeine that carry a significant risk of addiction and death by overdose
- Reduced inflammation by regulating the immune system
- Improved gut health by reducing colon inflammation
- Increasing sleep quality by inhibiting the reuptake of adenosine which has a major role in inducing sleep.
Is CBD safe to use?
As a result of the very low THC levels, CBD oil has no psychoactive effects and is therefore very safe for competitive athletes and all individuals to consume. CBD oil is legal in both Australia and New Zealand for medicinal purposes but does require a doctor’s prescription.
CBD is also legal for athletes. At the beginning of 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances, although THC and synthetic cannabinoids are still prohibited. Provided that the CBD product being used has been certified for low levels of THC and is of high-quality, it is not be possible for athletes to test positive.
How do you take CBD?
CBD can be taken in various forms, depending on the specific need. The most common forms that are used for sport include capsules, topical creams and lotions, oils and tinctures (placed under the tongue with a dropper), edibles (gummies) and protein powder. Athletes may also take CBD in sports drinks and even as CBD-infused coffee.
The form of CBD taken will depend on how quickly you experience its effects. Oils and tinctures under the tongue are the most rapid, followed by topical creams and then edibles which require digestion so take longer.
Different CBD formulations are also available. Hemp derived full-spectrum CBD products contain low THC (less than 0.3%) and other natural cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that work in synergy to enhance human health (known as the entourage effect). Broad spectrum CBD has all the compounds in full-spectrum without THC which is necessary for those athletes and professionals such as pilots that need a zero-tolerance for drug-testing. CBD isolate has all other compounds removed to generate the purest and highest concentration of CBD (are usually 99% pure). There is no entourage effect with CBD and so is
not considered as beneficial.
How much CBD do you use?
Generally, the most effective way of consuming the correct dose of CBD is through capsules. The most common dose of pure CBD is 20 – 40mg each ;me, although the range can vary greatly from 1 – 100 mg. The key factors influencing how much CBD you should use include:
- Your size and weight
- The severity of the condition or pain you’re treating
- Your tolerance to CBD (individual body chemistry)
- The potency of the CBD oil, capsules, gummies or other CBD products you’re using
As CBD affects everyone differently, it’s best to start with a low dose when using for the first time and increase gradually every day.
What´s the bottom line?
Provided that a quality source of CBD is used without high levels of THC and other unwanted substances, CBD is emerging as a key strategy for enhancing sports recovery and managing acute and chronic pain. Despite the early scientific evidence being promising, we still have
lots to learn about how CBD supports sports performance and how athletes can best utilise it. As further science supporting the efficacy and safety of CBD in sport becomes available, the more that athletes will embrace CBD for improved sports recovery and safer pain relief.
WRITTEN BY Dr. Nick Kimber