Benefit # 1: CBD Reduces Stress
Perhaps the single biggest benefit of CBD for athletes is stress reduction.
That may sound great — and it is — but what does it really mean? To answer that, we should first take a closer look at what stress is.
We’ll spend more time addressing benefit #1 than the other benefits on this list because it’s from this quality that all others flow.
So what is stress?
“Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”
In 1936, a forward-thinking endocrinologist named Hanse Selye did one better. He described physiological stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”.
In animal experiments, Selye noted that stress could cause gut health breakdown, enlarged adrenal glands, and other effects. The results of chronic stress were even worse: animals developed arthritis, had strokes, and succumbed to heart attacks during his research.
The Relationship Between Sports & Stress
What does stress have to do with athletes?
A lot, actually!
That’s because athletic activities themselves are a form of stress — one that needs to be overcome and adapted to just like anything else.
As an athlete, you’ve probably already experienced this battle. The best training plan carefully balances work and rest, carefully balancing your nervous system on the fine line between freshness and overtraining.
Finding that sweet spot isn’t easy — but CBD could make it easier. Consistent daily supplementation with 10-20 milligrams of the compound might allow athletes to break through previous stress-induced limitations…pushing themselves to new limits in the process.
Benefit # 2: CBD as an Adaptogen
Traditional adaptogens include reishi mushrooms and echinacea, but now CBD has joined this list of stress-reducing, performance-boosting plants. That’s because it fits the definition perfectly.
So what are adaptogens?
As Dr. Brenda Powell of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine told Time Magazine , adaptogens are non-toxic plants and herbs “meant to bring us back to the middle.”
Adaptogens also protect the nervous system and the neuroendocrine system from overreaching themselves. And according to a 1969 study adaptogens must be stimulatory in nature — without causing side effects.
Sound familiar? That’s exactly what CBD does! By activating our Endocannabinoids system(ECS), a signaling network of internal cannabis-like substances, CBD helps promote balance. With ECS activation comes the type of health and vitality where homeostasis can be maintained.
Using Adaptogens to Promote Faster Recovery
For athletes, CBD and the rest of hemp’s most active ingredients may help them better adapt to their training. Think of the metabolic state that follows a tough workout: body temperature is high, and cortisol levels through the roof. Additionally, muscle proteins have broken down, and stored sugar in the form of glycogen is almost completely depleted.
It’s not exactly a picture of balance.
Sensing this stress, the body begins to produce greater amounts of endocannabinoids such as anandmide to deal with the recovery process. Add in additional plant cannabinoids like CBD, and such imbalances can be quickly corrected.
Interestingly enough, this renewal process was also described by Hans Selye, who called it the “resistance stage” of adaptation. Resistance against stressors that is, in order to recover fast and avoid burnout.
Thankfully, CBD helps! One study even went so far as to question whether cannabinoids were performance-enhancing drugs that should be prohibited in pro athletics. And things could get even better when one takes CBD alongside other adaptogens…
While research in this area is limited, we do know that most plant adaptogens work via activating enzymes like AMPK to regulate energy balance and upregulate fat burning. It could be that taking CBD and other adaptogens together lead to synergistic effects! In other words, the two types of substances could actually help each other work better.
Benefit # 3: CBD Protects The Central Nervous System
The central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of the brain and spinal cord, and it controls inner communication and perception by sending signals within its nerves and neurons.
It’s simple: when there’s more stimulus within the body the CNS is more active, and when less is going on the CNS is less active. Sports that involve movements against resistance (think weight training) are especially taxing to the CNS. Tax it for long enough, and eventually the system’s initial ‘spark’ of input excitatory to ‘dim’. With this loss of firing power comes less effective muscle contraction and reduced strength.
Athletes with CNS burnout will feel slower and lift less at the same rate of exertion. If the recovery process continues to be ignored, these athlete’s muscles may become literally to normal neuronal firing. Not good!
But now for some better news: CBD is neurotransmission’s best friend. CBD may help synchronize neural signaling and help balance pre- and postsynaptic neurotransmitters . The compound may also help nerves retain their myelin sheaths.
Actually, it’s the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that directly promotes neuronal health. But it all happens downstream of CBD intake, which has been shown again and again to strengthen and vitalize the ECS.
Taken pre-workout, might CBD protect against overtaxing the CNS? While that’s not proven yet, many strength & power athletes have credited CBD with helping them avoid the ‘shakiness’ that sometimes comes with max-effort lifts.
CBD may even aid a tired nervous system in recovery and growing more flexible. Why? Because CBD aids endocannabinoids in their role as “key modulator of synaptic plasticity” within the nervous system.