this article originally posted on ESSENTIAL's Stream blog
Every athlete deals with muscle soreness. Whether you’re a pilates instructor with sore obliques and hip flexors, a Muay Thai fighter with bruises and muscle pain, or a runner with tight hamstrings and quads, you know the feeling of wishing you could skip the painful part of your recovery. Fortunately, Cannabidiol (CBD) is an amazing recovery resource and can even provide athletic benefits that go beyond your muscles. Let’s do a quick refresher on what CBD is and talk about how it can help you recover quicker and perform better.
What is CBD? CBD is one of the main compounds found in cannabis. The other main compound is THC, which is the one that causes a psychoactive effect on users (what you probably know as a “high”). CBD, on the other hand, does not have any psychoactive effects. Not to be confused with CBN, a cannabinoid found in cannabis that is formed through the oxidation of THC.
These cannabis substances influence how we feel because our bodies have an endocannabanoid system, which controls important things like anxiety, memory, metabolism, and growth. Substances like CBD bind to, change the shape of, and block endocannabanoid receptors to help regulate these processes in the body.
Pain Relief & Recovery Time To understand how CBD can help provide relief to sore muscles, it helps to know where the soreness comes from]. Post-workout muscle soreness is extremely common because when we work out hard, we create microscopic tears in our muscle fibers. Even though this can be painful, a little soreness is a good sign, as our muscles heal back bigger and stronger. When the torn muscle fibers become inflamed, our bodies kick start the repair process, which can lead to soreness. However, if you add CBD to your recovery, you may feel less pain and soreness. That’s because introducing CBD to your system (whether by dropping oil under the tongue or--our favorite--Essential’s CBD Bath Bombs) can actually help your body create more anti-inflammatory molecules.
The research for CBD’s pain management potential has been pretty exciting. Even better, CBD doesn’t have any of the negative side effects of THC, which could hurt athletic performance. With CBD helping your body fight inflammation and relieve pain, you may find yourself recovering from soreness more quickly. Topical CBD creams are popular among athletes, who rub these creams on achy muscles, helping to relax them. One study on a population of Multiple Sclerosis patients also found that CBD could even help increase mobility. Management of Sports Performance Anxiety Anyone who’s felt nervous before a big athletic event or even a group fitness class knows that athletic performance isn’t just physical. In addition to being distracting, anxiety before an athletic performance can cause sleep loss, affect your nutritional intake, and increase your energy expenditure. A review by Sports Medicine shows promising evidence that CBD can help relieve sports performance anxiety. Plus, combining CBD with psychological tools like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be even more effective to get your mind right before a big event. Testimonials
We talked to a couple Hit House instructors who have used CBD as part of their fight training to see how these products worked for them. Hit House is a boutique fitness studio in downtown NYC that teaches approachable Muay Thai Kickboxing, which is a full body workout (and can also mean full body soreness).
Regina Postre says: “When I was training hard and was always sore and bruised. I used to ingest CBD oil and it REALLY helped ease the muscle soreness and joint pain. I also used to use a CBD moisturizer on my knees when they were in pain and the relief was almost instant (though not permanent).” Justin Ng says: “I use a CBD rub and I love it. It smells good and doesn’t have a super strong smell. I typically apply it at night before bed to any areas where I may be feeling sore or achy.” Finding what works for you As with any chemical intervention, there are risks involved in using CBD, so how can you figure out what’s right for you? First, choose if you’d like to try CBD by dropping oil under your tongue, eating a CBD edible, or putting it on your skin with a lotion or cream. Next, slowly incorporate it into your routine. It’s best not to try it before any big athletic events, just in case. As you become more used to it, notice how you feel and try adjusting the dosage until you find the level that works for you. And, even though CBD’s effects are pretty mild, it’s always best to seek medical advice before adding it to your routine, particularly if you have a medical condition or are taking other medication. When implemented mindfully, CBD can be a powerful addition to your fitness regimen, helping you to recover faster and unlock new athletic potential.
Maggie Norsworthy is a writer, editor, and writing coach based in Jersey City. Her favorite exercise is running and her favorite color is orange. Find out more at maggienorsworthy.com.