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CBD and Sport: Why Athletes Are Incorporating CBD To Better Their Sports Performance

cbd and sport

Exercise can put a lot of physical and mental strain on your body and, for professional athletes, the stakes are much higher. It’s for this reason that athletes from a cross-section of sporting disciplines are advocating the use of CBD for its myriad of health benefits. From MMA to American football, CBD covers all areas of the sporting realm.

But what is the reason for this incredible sports-related growth in CBD’s popularity?

The answer, it seems, is quite straightforward. While current pain management strategies work, they can also cause long-term damage which is why there continues to be a search for alternatives to aid in sports recovery and safer pain relief. CBD is a naturally-derived substitute which sports professionals are using, and many have been very vocal in their support of the cannabinoid.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over 500 naturally occurring compounds found in the hemp plant. The other phytochemicals include terpenes, responsible for the aroma, fragrance, flavonoids, and other vital nutrients.

Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound and does not induce the “high” or other intoxication symptoms often associated with cannabis. Instead, CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and influences its CB1 and CB2 receptors to regulate several of our cognitive and physical functions. 

First things first. Is CBD even allowed to be used by athletes?

Yes, CBD is allowed in sport. In 2018 the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) made a historic move as they removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances (both in and out of competition). This stance was then followed by the US Anti-Doping Agency, who have provided a Marijuana FAQ for added clarity as THC and synthetic cannabinoids are still prohibited.

The urinary threshold is now 150 nanograms of THC per millilitre, up from the previous limit of 15 nanograms. So, even if you are using full-spectrum CBD (which can contain up to 0.2% THC), you are unlikely to have a positive result. The change was enacted by WADA because they found that “many cases do not involve game or event-day consumption. The new threshold level is an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before competition.”

Professional athletes who are tested regularly may consider using broad-spectrum CBD instead of full-spectrum CBD, which offers the same benefits including the entourage effect, but contains 0% THC, so there is no chance of a positive result on your drug test.

In short, with high-quality, certified CBD products, this shouldn’t be a concern. Consumers can choose THC-free CBD oils, which don’t contravene anti-doping rules, meaning that athletes can turn to CBD without any risk of addiction or dependence.

From horse-riding to swimming, there are reports from all corners of the sporting world that continue to raise awareness for the health-promoting benefits of CBD. Four of the most vocal disciplines are:

MMA fighters are among the leading proponents of CBD for sport, with the Diaz brothers, amongst others, praising CBD for its pain-relieving properties (and they have even gone on to launch their own CBD brand.)

In the UK, many rugby players are using CBD to help put their bodies back together. The cannabinoid has received a lot of positive publicity recently as Saracens teammates Dominic Day and George Kruis have launched their own CBD brand after experiencing the positive impact of it for themselves for both

In the UK, many rugby players are using CBD to help put their bodies back together. The cannabinoid has received a lot of positive publicity recently as Saracens teammates Dominic Day and George Kruis have launched their own CBD brand after experiencing the positive impact of it for themselves for both post-game recovery and injury rehabilitation.

Retired NFL stars were amongst the first to start talking about CBD, many of whom struggled with injuries sustained over the course of a long, gruelling career. Proponents of CBD include Lofa Tatupu, Kyle Turley, Terrell Davies, David Ahrens and Rob Gronkowski.

CBD is being used by a number of golfing greats including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Charley Hoffman and Bubba Watson. While golf may not be as physically challenging, the mental acuity and concentration required, along with high levels of stress, have led many to turn to CBD for its anti-anxiety and calming effects. Learn more about how CBD can benefit your golf game.

The body’s endocannabinoid system works to bring the body back into homeostasis and, amongst other actions, helps your cells to respond to stimuli. This creates pain-relieving effects and can benefit those with chronic pain (including back pain, nerve damage, joint pain and muscle pain.)

CBD is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties which make it ideal for athletes. While some inflammation can be helpful in stimulating positive training adaptations, an excess of inflammation slows down recovery and has a negative impact on performance. In essence, every time you work out, your body breaks itself down in order to rebuild itself, and this process can often leave you feeling sore and lethargic. Post-workout inflammation is a common issue, but CBD can help. CBD interacts with CB2 receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, thereby reducing cytokine and chemokine production, and increasing the body’s T-regulatory cell production, for a powerful anti-inflammatory response.

Sleep is one of the keys to achieving greater progress in training. Adequate sleep has been proven to aid in motivation to stick to training routines while a lack of sleep makes exercise feel harder and reduces endurance performance.

CBD is linked to improving sleep quality by making it easier to go to sleep and stay asleep. This is thought to be because CBD inhibits the reuptake of adenosine. Adenosine slowly accumulates in the brain as your brains burns carbohydrates for energy. As the level of adenosine rises, it binds to neurons and inhibits the release of neurotransmitters which slows down brain activity (making you feel calmer and drowsier. CBD binds to the same receptors as adenosine, ensuring the accelerated accumulation of adenosine, so you feel more tired, more quickly. CBD is also thought to have an anti-anxiety effect, which makes it easier for people using CBD to fall asleep.

Pre-event stress and performance anxiety can be managed with CBD. In both human and animal studies, physiological (such as an increased heart rate) and behavioural symptoms of anxiety were reduced with CBD use.

Early-stage clinical studies also suggests that CBD might be able to reduce anxiousness in “stress-inducing” situations, including participants with SAD. In addition, research suggests that CBD can help to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and stress — for example, one 2019 study found that CBD reduced anxiety symptoms in a simulated public speaking test — which could help sports-performance anxiety in athletes.

For some people, CBD acts as an appetite suppressant, making it easier for athletes to stick to their strict eating plans. It is particularly important for athletes who compete in specific weight classes, such as MMA fighters.

One 2018 study found that cannabinoid receptors regulate food intake and inflammation. To be specific, CBD blocks the CB1 receptors that stimulate the appetite, which could reduce food intake and body weight, and stimulation of the CB2 receptors limits inflammation and promotes promotes anti-obesity effects by reducing weight gain.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are not as safe as was originally thought, and, for long-term users, can have a number of side effects including an increased risk of renal damage, heart attacks and strokes.

CBD offers a safe, effective alternative to help athletes reduce their reliance on other medication for exercise-related pain. As was reported by The Essentials of Pain Medicine, 4th Edition, “There are no documented deaths from cannabis or cannabinoid-based products. In a systemic review of studies of oral and oral-mucosal cannabis for various medical conditions, the majority of adverse events reports were considered non-serious (96.6%).”

It is also an alternative to opioid medication such as morphine and oxycontin, which are highly effective but come with significant risks in terms of addiction and overdose. In the UK, opioid deaths continue to climb so, while CBD may not offer the same relief for acute, high-intensity pain, it can be effective for long-term pain management and comes with a much lower risk profile.

Whether you like to hit the gym hard or are a dedicated endurance athlete, the research is clear: CBD can help your performance while you’re working out and as you recover after. Whether you experience pain, inflammation, poor sleep quality or stress, CBD can help to modulate your body’s response allowing you to get the best results from your training as an athlete.

Need additional help? Take our CBD Quiz for product recommendations in minutes, or read our full guides on How to Choose the Right CBD Product and The Different Types of CBD

These products have been tested by third-party, independent quality control analysts via a vigorous process, and the certifications are available to view on the specific product pages. In addition to this, the Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG) have awarded us gold certification meaning our oil is 100% THC-free and recommended for safe use in sports.

We are Purity Hemp, the UK’s #1 Online CBD provider. Backed by science, and built on the principles of traceability, transparency & trust, we are dedicated to improving the health & wellness of people around the world. We are proud to be one of the only companies to guarantee full traceability from seed to shelf with our premium range of CBD products, tested by third-party, independent quality control analysts.

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Directions for Use:

  • Shake well before use
  • Add dose directly to your pet’s food, stirring it in if necessary
  • Use up to twice daily – (See dosage table for guidelines)
  • Store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight

Weight of Pet Regular Dosage Strong Dosage
Up to 20lbs/9kg 1 to 4 drops 4 to 8 drops
20 to 40lbs/9-18kg 2 to 8 drops 8 to 16 drops
Over 40lbs/18kg 4 to 20 drops 16 to 40 drops

Contains Zero THC, chlorophyll free

*This product is sold for use by pets only, as it contains CBD Isolate.

We recommend discussing the use of CBD with a qualified vet, especially if your pet is pregnant or nursing a litter.

Keep out of sight or reach of children.