If you’re new to the natural compound cannabidiol (or CBD), you may find yourself asking what all the fuss is about?
After all, little is known about CBD in the consumer mainstream, despite its growing popularity. This is changing however, thanks largely to the popularisation of CBD among athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
Make no mistake; these individuals are becoming increasingly reliant on CBD as a food supplement, and there are a number of compelling reasons for this.
We’ll explore these below, while asking how athletes can benefits from the consumption of cannabidiol.
What is CBD?
In simple terms, CBD is a natural compound derived from specific parts of the hemp plant, although it includes only trace amounts of the psychoactive agent THC and is therefore incapable of getting you high, so CBD is a completely legal substance in most countries, with the United Kingdom being one of those countries.
CBD works within our body’s Endocannabinoid system (ECS) to influence a host of responses and functions, specifically by interacting with cannabinoid receptors in various locations including the brain and the digestive system.
Not only does this help the body to maintain a neutral and balanced state, but it can also help individuals to regulate their appetite and immune response while supporting a higher standard of general well-being.
Arguably, this affords athletes a competitive advantage, as does the versatility of CBD and its numerous forms.
CBD can be consumed in many different forms, from oils, water soluble CBD, edibles, CBD E Liquids and shatter, for a few examples.
Water soluble CBD however, is most popular amongst athletes as it's a very convenient form of consumption, which can be added to any drink.
For example, the World's strongest man 2017, Eddie Hall and a number of other successful athletes are benefiting from the use of CBD.
Water Soluble CBD can be dissolved into a sports energy drink and consumed either pre or post-workout, enabling users to access the significant benefits of CBD in real-time.
But what are these benefits, and why are they so compelling? Let’s take a look:
1. Control your Appetite and Weight with CBD
The term ‘athlete’ is a hugely genetic one, as there remains a huge range of competitive disciplines that individuals can participate in. Each one places different physical demands on the body, while they also have specific requirements in terms of diet and training.
For the most part, athletes will be required to dramatically increase their calorie intake when training, as this will provide them with the requisite energy to work-out at a high level of intensity.
The issue here is what to eat, as it can be exceptionally difficult to control your weight and regulate your appetite while also striving to optimise your performance when training.
This is where CBD can come into play, as it works with both CB1 and CB2 receptors to simultaneously quell your appetite, boost metabolism and optimise weight management efforts.
Firstly, consumption of CBD oil or isolates helps to stimulate proteins, which in turn increases the rate of breakdown and oxidation of excess fat within the system. This aids the fat burning process considerably, helping you get the most from your physical workout.
CBD works in a similar way by increasing our metabolism, enabling you to burn calories at a more prolific rate and adopt a slightly more flexible approach to the food that you consume.
Even more fascinatingly, studies have proved that CBD is capable of interacting with CB1 and CB2 receptors and neutralising your appetite. Just as the compound works to naturally counteract the effects of THC, it can also prevent the ghrelin receptors from becoming activated and sending messages to the brain demanding food.
These receptors, which are known colloquially as the ‘hunger hormone’ are located on the vagus nerves inside our gastrointestinal tract. They exist within the Hypothalamus (the region of the brain that controls our appetite) along with the leptin hormone that creates feelings of satiety after eating.
CBD stimulates the hormones located within the Hypothalamus, regulating the appetite and controlling food cravings as a result. This is highly beneficial to athletes during their training, as they look to manage their calorie consumption and eating habits efficiently.
2. Avoid the Highs and Enjoy a Better Nights’ Sleep
We’ve already said that CBD does not get you high, while we’ve already mentioned that this compound actively counteracts the psychoactive agents within THC.
From a more general perspective, the ability of CBD to interact with CB1 receptors in the brain also helps athletes to maintain an optimal sleep cycle and even counteract the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
This theory is based on numerous studies, which have revealed that sleep disorders such as insomnia are related to a dysfunction within the aforementioned endocannabinoid system.
In fact, research has shown that the CB1 receptor is heavily involved in the regulation of sleep cycles, with an increase in endocannabinoid triggering the activation of the central nervous system. This produces sleep-inducing effects, by releasing the molecule adenosine into the brain.
Conversely, in instances where the CB1 receptor is blocked, it stimulates the release of chemicals that maintain wakefulness.
Ultimately, a fully functional endocannabinoid system automatically increases or decreases the signalling of CB1 receptors to regulate our circadian rhythm and manage our sleeping cycles.
If there are functionality issues caused by a lack of viable endocannabinoids, however, consuming CBD supplements can help to correct this imbalance.
This can be of a considerable benefit to athletes, particularly those who train and compete at a high level of intensity. But can the consumption of CBD really help users to manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety that may be caused by elite-level competition?
The short answer is yes, as this has once again been a focus of several studies in recent times. The key takeaway from such research is that the effects of sustained cannabinoid use could trigger a more subdued response to stressful situations, such as those faced by elite-level athletes.
At the heart of this is the capacity of cannabidiol to balance cortisol levels in the human body, with this hormone playing a pivotal role in determining how we react to threats. In instances where high cortisol levels are present in our bloodstream, we’re more more likely to suffer adversely with physical and emotional stress.
This can trigger debilitating health issues, including suppressed immune function, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
Studies have proved that regular cannabinoid users showcased no discernible difference in salivary cortisol levels when faced with stressful or non-stressful situations, whereas those who did not take cannabidiol reacted far more adversely to obvious threats.
This built on the findings of previous studies, which highlighted cannabinoids (and particularly CBD) as being capable of regulating cortisol levels and alleviating the symptoms of anxiety over a sustained period of consumption.
These findings have huge significant for athletes, for whom rest and a focused mental state are of pivotal importance. Given this and the practical benefits of CBD, it’s little wonder that we’ve an uptake in consumption among athletes across the globe.
3. Achieve Better Recovery and Optimise the Performance of your Immune System
Last, but by no means least, we come to the ability of CBD to optimise your physical and mental recovery post-workout. In this respect, CBD delivers a number of viable benefits to athletes, regardless of their level or the precise discipline that they participate in.
One of the biggest benefits of CBD is the fact that it naturally counteracts the symptoms of inflammation, which can easily occur following a particularly intensive workout or failure to warm-down effectively.
By itself, inflammation is a perfectly naturally biological process, and one that essentially serves as a warning sign or a direct response when your physical health is under threat. Whether this takes the form of illness or strained muscle groups, inflammation is a generic response that is intended to safeguard your well-being.
The issue here is that inflammation is most likely to occur as a result of habits and intense exercise than illness, so you’ll need to find a way to mitigate this process during training blocks.
CBD can help with this, as it interacts with the endocannabinoid system while also encouraging it to produce an increased number of natural cannabinoids. This equips the body better to heal post-workout, enabling muscle groups to recover faster and more effectively from physical exertion.
By interacting with CB2 receptors, CBD can also impact on our immune response and minimise the inflammation that occurs in the first place.
In essence, research of the endocannabinoid system serves has proven that cannabinoids such as CBD serve as neuromodulators for various human processes, with immune response being one of the most important.
In this case, compounds such as CBD work to protect and lubricate immune response for optimal function, relieving the symptoms of pain, discomfort and disease progression in the process.
By balancing and optimising the immune system, athletes can also minimise the risk of feeling tired or run-down during prolific training blocks or intense competition. With this in mind, the consumption of CBD may also reduce the frequency with which we contract colds or viruses, which in turn ensures that your training regime is not interrupted too significantly.
So, while it’s impossible to prevent yourself from getting ill, you can least neutralise this risk while optimising your recover time when the need arises.
From a mental perspective, athletes must also transition between extreme physical and mental states when training or in competition, as periods of immense focus and intensity are followed by bouts of rest and recovery.
Transitioning quickly and effectively between these two states represents a significant challenge, and one that even experienced athletes may struggle to contend with.
CBD may be able to help with this, as we’ve already talked about how it interacts with the CB1 receptors in the brain and combats symptoms of stress. It therefore stands to reason that the compound should also make it easier for your body and mind to relax, while optimising your warm-down and shifting quickly from one state-of-mind to another.
This is a delicate balance to achieve, but athletes who are successful in this respect have the chance to optimise their performance during training and competition and steal a distinct advantage over their rivals.
The Bottom Line – The Growing Influence of CBD Among Athletes
As we can see, CBD offers a diverse range of benefits to athletes, particularly in terms of their recovery, weight management and immune response.
As a result, you can use oil or isolate supplements to optimise your performance during training and competition, ensuring that you get the best from your workouts and ultimately perform at the highest possible level when participating in tournaments.
Above all else, the diverse and convenient nature of CBD means that it can easily be incorporated into your training regime, whether you mix a water soluble solution into your post-workout drink or infuse oil into the foods that you consume.
Either way, this represents a huge boon for athletes, particularly those who combine their endeavours with a full-time job and a packed, busy schedule and struggle to fit everything in.