Can CBD help athletic performance?
For high-level athletes, and those of us who strive to reach such heights, the search for performance-enhancing substances is eternal and challenging. Supplements have to conform to anti-doping laws, be safe, and preferably natural.
Enter CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD is currently creating ripples among athletes, who claim benefits as varied as accelerated recovery from injury, sounder sleep, and reduced muscle pain.
Although many organizations regard cannabis’ other main cannabinoid, THC, an illicit substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency permits the use of pure CBD isolates. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid with anti-inflamatory, neuroprotective Anti-Anxiety, and analgesic properties and could represent a legal, game-changing supplement.
But is the power of CBD just hype? Is there substantial evidence that CBD can offer athletes that elusive edge? Or are these claims simply PR spin for a trending cannabinoid?
According to recent research in 2020, CBD may support athletes in many ways.
A 2020 review published in Sports Medicine analyzed preclinical animal studies and clinical CBD trials in non-athlete populations. The authors found that CBD may promote physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects potentially beneficial to athletes.
One of the key findings of the review is that CBD could help alleviate inflammatory pain associated with tissue damage and neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage or irritation. This could signal an important advantage for endurance athletes: repetitive, long-distance workouts can provoke inflammation and irritation in peripheral nerves.
Healthy bones are essential for athletes, and bone health is sometimes compromised by traumatic injuries or inadequate energy availability.
Management of sports performance anxiety
CBD may also help athletes manage sports performance anxiety, according to the Sports Medicine review. Anxiety before a competition can cause sleep loss, increase energy expenditure, and impair nutritional intake.
According to the authors of the review, studies in non-athlete human populations have indicated that CBD may relieve anxiety in stressful situations. CBD could even be more effective when teamed with psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapies.
“CBD can help athletes with recovery by reducing inflammation and aiding in muscle relaxation, It’s an anti-inflammatory that works by reducing pro-inflammatory markers in the body. There’s also research showing that CBD is effective in combating neuroinflammation, making CBD interesting for athletes who play sports like football or boxing where concussions are common.”
-Dr. Elaine Burns, medical director of Southwest Medical Marijuana Physicians Group
As is often the case with cannabis research, more data on human populations is needed for more conclusive outcomes. While the current data is very promising, clinical research in athlete populations will provide more definitive insights into CBD’s utility.
So far the results seem promising!
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