CBD and Exercise: What the Research Shows

April 21, 2020

Your body wants to move. We know this because when life turns up the heat, exercise delivers fast stress relief. It keeps everything from your muscles to joints to blood vessels to brain agile and performing at their best. It also improves overall physical and mental health. Researchers are currently exploring the benefits of CBD and exercise. Here's what the science is telling us so far.

What Is Exercise?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines exercise as "bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness". Exercise is a relatively new invention. Just over 100 years ago, most people got enough physical activity without having to exercise intentionally. But modern conveniences, as well as the greater availability of food, have made exercise necessary.

While exercise is generally good for us, certain factors can reduce your willingness to exercise and also increase the risk of injury from physical activities like exercise. Might CBD help in these two areas?

How CBD May Impact Your Exercise Routine

What is Cannabidiol?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of several compounds known as cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Many cannabinoids may be useful to humans, but right now, the most-studied have been CBD and THC.

Thanks to modern technology, we can now extract cannabinoids from the rest of the plant. So we can create CBD isolate, which is 100% CBD. We can also maintain an entourage of antioxidants, terpenes, and other substances it which is known as full-spectrum CBD.

Most CBD today is extracted from hemp cannabis, which is naturally very low in THC and legal federally. THC is the substance that causes people to get high when they consume marijuana but may have benefits of its own.

What the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

Your body is filled with intricate systems. The ECS is one of these. Its role in the body is to maintain balance in different areas of the body, including:

  • Pain
  • Appetite
  • Immune response
  • Stress response
  • Serotonin (happiness neurotransmitters) levels

So, for example, a little pain tells you something is wrong. But chronic pain is overkill. The ECS works to maintain a "goldilocks zone".

How does ECS work? Here's a quick overview.

Some cells in your body have either a cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) or cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). Your body produces endocannabinoids that attach to these receptors. When they do, they help regulate bodily functions.

CBD is the plant version of an endocannabinoid. It is very similar to the ones your body makes. Researchers have, therefore, been interested for some time in how CBD may interact with this system to provide similar balance to the body.

The Benefits of CBD and Exercise

Beginner or pro athlete, CBD may benefit your workout routine in several ways directly and indirectly.

When you're stressed, you may not feel like exercising even though it would improve your state of mind. Studies suggest that CBD may help some people manage stress and anxiety. If you feel better, you may exercise more and feel even better.

The studies show that CBD may have a serotonic effect, meaning that it increases serotonin and decreases its reuptake. Increased serotonin reduces pain and improves the mood, so you want to workout more.

Many pro athletes today openly speak about their CBD usage. They claim benefits like:

  • Faster injury recovery time
  • Faster muscle recovery time
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Fewer injuries and re-injuries
  • Less Pain
  • Improved sleep

Early and ongoing CBD research supports this observational evidence of benefits of endocannabinoids for athletes with findings like:

Inflammation and pain steal nutrients and fluids from the rest of your body. So when you have less pain and swelling in the body, you also have more stamina and energy as well.

A combination of THC and CBD

So what about CBD's cousin THC? It's well known that many athletes use marijuana, risking expulsion from pro sports if they get tested. But there are some reasons cannabis with higher levels of THC may draw them in. Studies have found that THC:

Overconsuming THC may, however, reduce strength during the workout as well as coordination, so some moderation appears to be in order. Given the fact that both CBD and THC may have some benefits for athletes, you could try a THC-CBD product, if that is legal where you are.

Using CBD for Exercise: What Dosage & Administration

It's important to note that studies don't show acute effects of CBD. So you will likely notice nothing if you take it once before a workout. The same goes for sleep, pain, and stress. In most of the studies, participants took a dose of CBD or placebo for two to eight weeks before seeing significant benefits.

The standard dose is 25mg twice a day. Based on the research, taking CBD pre-work may reduce inflammation, stress, and pain so you get more out of your workouts. If you're more interested in muscle recovery after, then you might choose post-workout.

If you are also using THC, those effects are temporary. So you might choose to take it right before working out. But since the effects of CBD appear to be longer-lasting, you can take it morning and night instead, if you choose.

But everyone is different. Factors like weight, body composition, and metabolism may factor into what dosage works. So be prepared to experiment a little to find the right CBD combination for you.

CBD and Exercise