CBD for Athletes: The Merits of Using CBD Supplements to Improve Physical and Mental Health and Well-Being


The use of CBD supplements to improve physical and mental health and well-being is gaining traction across all sectors of society, including athletes, both professional and amateur. While a formal research study investigating the direct correlation between CBD and sports performance is currently lacking, several preclinical studies and clinical trials in the non-athlete populations provide the basis for this discussion.

In summary, the research article titled “Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: A Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research” highlights the fact that “CBD has been reported to exert a number of physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects that have the potential to benefit athletes.” 

At the outset of this article, it is essential to note that it is vital to purchase CBD supplements that are manufactured from cannabis that is grown from high-quality cannabis seeds and where the CBD is extracted from the plants in a hygienic, professional laboratory. It is not a good idea to purchase black-market CBD-based products as they might include contaminants and other cannabinoids like THC.

Nov 22, 2020; Portland, Oregon, USA; The Portland Timbers and the FC Dallas take the field before a game at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

What is CBD and how is it extracted from the cannabis plant?

CBD or cannabidiol is one of the more than 100 cannabinoids or chemical compounds found in the hemp or cannabis plant. Additionally, CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the two most common cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant. The fundamental difference between the two is that THC is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. Succinctly stated, THC causes the high feeling. Juxtapositionally, CBD has the opposite effect, and when included with THC-based products, it reduces the drastic effects of the high.

The industrial hemp plant is the most common source of CBD. And there are multiple ways to extract CBD from hemp, some more effective than others. The best and most common method is to use what is known as the Supercritical CO2 CBD extraction method. In summary, CO2 is manipulated to enter a supercritical state by increasing its temperature and pressure above its critical point, where the distinct gas and liquid phases no longer exist, but it has not yet been compressed into a solid. When the CO2 has reached this state, it is pumped through the raw hemp plant material, stripping away the CBD without destroying it. 

Is CBD banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency?

CBD was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances in 2018. However, it is critical to be mindful of the fact that THC is still banned by most major sports leagues and athletic organizations. Athletes should not test positive for THC when taking a CBD supplement. However, the caveat here is that, as highlighted above, it is vital to make sure that the CBD-based supplement is manufactured in a professional, hygienic laboratory and not by a home-based supplier. Secondly, it is necessary to read the product labels before purchasing the product to ensure that the CBD is extracted from a plant, such as hemp, that has negligible THC levels.

The benefits of using CBD as an athlete

Jan 16, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) passes the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of an AFC Divisional Round game at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The pertinent point of this discussion is that CBD has many of the same benefits as THC but without the psychoactive effects. By way of expanding on this statement, let’s look at some of the merits of using CBD as a natural preparation to improve physical and mental health and well-being. 

Helps with Pain Relief

CBD-based products are one of the fastest growing treatments for athletes suffering from post-training or post-workout aches and pains. As highlighted above, non-clinical or anecdotal evidence shows that millions of people across the globe use CBD products to help them recover quicker from strenuous workouts by reducing muscle pain. 

Reduces anxiety and stress

Pain often causes anxiety in athletes as they tend to worry about how their pain and soreness will affect and even prevent further workouts. When an injury causes pain, athletes become anxious about the extent of the damage and when they will be able to resume training for their next competition or event. 

CBD products also have an added benefit to pain relief in that they are successfully used as an anxiolytic to treat high anxiety and stress levels. Not only does this help athletes perform at their best, but it also improves their post-workout, training, or match recovery by reducing stress and anxiety levels and having a calming effect on the body.

Strengthens the athlete’s immune system

Moderate exercise seems to reduce the body’s susceptibility to illness when compared to high levels of inactivity. On the other hand, intense exercise and long periods of intense training can increase the risk of contracting colds and flu after a hard exercise session. 

The good news is that CBD-based products offer a solution to this challenge in that they include properties that help the athlete strengthen the immune system so that the body is more resistant to illnesses and infections.

Prevents inflammation 

An inflammatory response is the body’s natural after-effect of strenuous workouts. These inflammations can prevent athletes from continuing with their training schedule. Using CBD-based preparations have anti-inflammatory properties, suppressing the inflammatory response, ensuring that muscle strains and injuries do not occur. 

Increases muscle mass 

CBD’s ability to improve the body’s recovery process also helps with muscle growth. Therefore, CBD-based products are particularly beneficial for athletes who need to focus on muscle-building strength exercises. In other words, the prevention of inflammation and enhanced recovery time and process helps athletes build muscle faster.



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