Most of us love a good workout, but it takes a special type to enjoy the aches and pains that follow us after we’ve left the gym. For athletes, this is especially true – the pain is just a sign that their muscles are growing. But for the rest of us, muscle pain can be a huge deterrent to working out in the first place.
Gym-goers have used supplements for a long time to help them get back to the gym feeling their best. But the adverse effects of many artificial supplements and treatments have many looking for more natural ways to boost their gains.
The newest, all-natural supplement in the fitness arena is, you guessed it, CBD! Popular for its many health benefits, CBD has been gaining traction as a post-workout recovery tool. Read on to learn more about muscle recovery and how CBD might be able to help.
What makes our muscles sore after a workout?
There are two types of muscle soreness: acute muscle soreness (AMS) and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). AMS is the pain you feel during and immediately after working out, while DOMS usually sets in 12-24 hours later.
AMS is usually caused by simple muscle fatigue and lactic acid build-up in the muscles. DOMS is due to microtears in muscle tissue and the inflammation that follows. These tears need to recover before that muscle group can operate at its best again.
Some ways of reducing DOMS include icing sore muscles, using a foam roller, and taking anti-inflammatory medications. However, new research has shown that CBD topicals may be effective in conjunction with these conventional methods of muscle recovery.
What is CBD, and how might it aid muscle recovery?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating derivative of the hemp plant. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD will not get you high. CBD operates on the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates pain, mood, and inflammation (among many other things).
Studies have shown that CBD has anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. These properties may make CBD an effective tool in helping to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with DOMS, thus allowing athletes to recover more quickly.
CBD’s pre-workout potential
Athletes are always looking for a quick edge before starting a workout. Because of its ability to improve circulation and reduce inflammation, many people use CBD as a pre-workout supplement to help them get more out of their workouts.
Working out is not just a physical exercise either. It takes a lot of mental resolve to push yourself to the limit. Studies have shown that CBD could help improve focus and concentration, which may make it a good choice for anyone looking to take their workouts to the next level.
Using CBD after a workout
Once you’re done working out, applying a CBD topical directly onto your sore muscles could speed up your recovery process by providing relief from the pain and inflammation that comes along with DOMS. The thought is that without the inflammatory response, your body will be able to focus its energy on healing the tears in your muscles.
Research on this topic is still in its early stages, but a study published in 2016 found that CBD was effective in reducing inflammation and pain in rats with arthritis. However, these studies have not been applied to DOMS specifically.
Topicals often also include other ingredients that can further aid recovery, such as Arnica and Menthol. These ingredients are known to improve circulation and reduce swelling, making them a perfect complement to CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD’s contributions to general wellness may aid recovery
Besides its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, CBD is also known for its ability to improve sleep quality and overall mood. These factors are crucial to recovery, as a good night’s rest and overall well-being can help you push through sore muscles after a workout.
Sleep is essential for muscle recovery. When we sleep, our bodies produce more human growth hormone (HGH), which helps repair damaged tissue and promote muscle growth. A lack of sleep can interfere with this process and lengthen the time it takes to recover from a workout.
CBD’s ability to improve sleep quality may be due to its interactions with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system regulates many functions in the body, including sleep, appetite, and pain. This has led to the development of such creative products as CBD-infused blankets.
CBD is thought to interact with receptors in this system to promote wakefulness during the day and sleepiness at night. One study found that CBD improved sleep quality in many people with self-reported sleep disorders.
Ways you can incorporate CBD into your workout routine
There are several ways to take CBD before and after working out, including:
• Oral supplements – These can be taken either as tinctures or softgels, depending on your preferred dosage and level of convenience. Using these before your workout may help you to push through your limits and get more out of your workout, while using them after working out may help reduce soreness, speed up recovery, and help you get the rest your body needs. Many CBD-containing supplements also contain other beneficial ingredients like anti-inflammatory compounds or B vitamins that can further help with recovery.
• Topical gels, creams, and roll-ons – Applying CBD topicals directly to the affected areas can provide relief from pain and inflammation associated with DOMS. Many of these products are also formulated with other natural ingredients that may enhance their effectiveness. Since these products are designed with muscle relief in mind, just follow the instructions on the label.
• Vaping – This is one of the quickest ways to feel the effects of CBD, as it is absorbed into your bloodstream directly via the lungs. While vaping may not be appropriate for everyone (especially those with breathing issues), it could be helpful for those looking for fast relief from pain or inflammation.
Tips for buying reputable CBD products
A new product like CBD is sure to have some more (and less) reputable products on the market. Here are a few tips to help you sort the wheat from the chaff:
- Start with products that come with a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This document, available on the company website, will tell you if the product has been tested for purity and potency. COAs are especially important for CBD products, as the market is currently not regulated.
- If you can, make sure the product is full-spectrum, meaning it contains all of the compounds found in the hemp plant, including CBD and trace amounts of THC (<0.3%). These compounds work together to produce what is known as the “entourage effect”, which is thought to enhance the efficacy of CBD.
- Choose a company that has third-party certifications or quality seals from reputable organizations, such as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). This certification means that products comply with strict standards for quality control and manufacturing processes.
- Look for products made with US-grown hemp. To go the further mile, check the state in which the hemp was grown, as some states have stricter regulations than others. For example, hemp grown in Colorado is subject to more stringent testing requirements than hemp grown in other states.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions! A reputable company should be able to answer any questions you have about its products. If they can’t, or they give you evasive answers, that’s a red flag.
Take it from the pros
It never hurts to hear about others’ experiences before trying out a new product. Professional athletes in many sports have turned away from synthetic pain relievers and instead turned to CBD for post-workout recovery.
Derrick Morgan, linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, is one example. After being introduced to CBD by a friend, Morgan realized that it helped him both with pain relief from training and also with anxiety, another issue he was struggling with. He now uses a CBD topical called Defy, which he says has “done wonders” for his recovery.
Another example is Megan Rapinoe, a professional soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist. She says that she started using CBD-containing products after sustaining a number of injuries, and that it helps her ” recover a lot quicker than without it.” Megan has also partnered with the CBD company Mendi to produce a line of CBD-infused topical products.
Similarly, NFL player Eugene Monroe decided to retire from football at the age of 29 due to the cumulative effect of injuries sustained over his career. After failed attempts to manage his pain with opioids, he found relief with CBD products instead. He now advocates for changes in the NFL’s policy on cannabis and CBD, stating that “CBD isn’t just for athletes. It’s for anyone experiencing chronic pain, post-workout recovery, or any number of conditions.”
The bottom line
CBD is a promising new tool for athletes looking to improve their recovery times, but more research needs to be done in order to verify its efficacy scientifically. However, its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties and its contributions to overall wellness make CBD worth considering for anyone looking to get the most out of their workouts. Whether you’re a recreational athlete or a professional competitor, CBD may be able to help you push past your limits and achieve greater fitness goals.