On January 1st, 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from their list of banned substances. This has led to a surge in CBD use amongst professional and amateur athletes alike.
Let’s take a look at how it’s changing the game for athletes recovering from injury or looking for a performance boost.
CBD in the spotlight
Nate Diaz is one of the hardest fighters in UFC history. His blood-stained epics against the likes of Josh Neer, Conor McGregor and Jorge Masvidal are the stuff of legend.
And so, for CBD fans, is his appearance at a press conference after a brutal loss to McGregor at UFC 202.
Bruised and battered, he took reporters’ questions while vaping CBD. When asked about it, he claimed it helped with healing and lessening inflammation, ultimately “making your life a better place.”
USADA gave him a slap on the wrist but the incident brought CBD use in sport right into the spotlight, arguably helping pave the way for WADA to lift its ban.
How does CBD help recovery?
There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about the recovery benefits of CBD. But let’s see what the science has to say.
In March 2018, Dr. Thorsten Rudroff, a professor of neurology at the University of Iowa and Dr. Jacob Sosnoff, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois researched the effects of CBD on people with MS.
Having examined 132 different studies they concluded that CBD “has a number of beneficial pharmacological effects… it is anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antiemetic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective.”
These anti-inflammatory properties are key to recovery. Anything from elite competition to a gym workout damages muscle fibres, causing inflammation. As the body heals these fibres, it can cause soreness and stiffness.
CBD interacts with a human being’s Endocannabinoid system (which is basically responsible for balance throughout the body) and regulates the production of cytokines – proteins secreted by immune cells that cause inflammation.
In turn, this lessens inflammation and can help aid recovery.
How does CBD help improve performance?
There’s no empirical evidence… yet… that CBD can directly improve sports performance. However, there are various ways it can indirectly help.
Firstly, it can relieve tension – without getting you high. During a competition or workout, the body produces cortisol, nature’s in-built alarm system and major stress hormone. CBD counterbalances that by producing serotonin, which can bring stress levels back to normal.
Less stress means more sleep – which is just the ticket for regenerating and repairing damaged muscles. So you’re ready for action the next day.
CBD is also getting serious traction in the sporting community for pain relief. Particularly as it’s a natural alternative to opioid analgesics like Vicodin.
Where next for CBD in sports?
We really are right at the start of something here. There’s still plenty of scientific research that needs to be done to uncover the real potential of CBD.
But things are moving fast. From 2020, Major League Baseball will remove marijuana from their list of banned substances.
And sports stars from all over the world are investing in CBD. In the US, New York Giants receiver Tiki Barber and former Boston Celtic Paul Pierce have launched their own CBD companies. As have former New Zealand All Black, Ben Franks and ex-England rugby union star, James Haskell.
These guys have performed at the highest level and now they’re praising CBD as one of the most powerful healing tools out there.
And they know a thing or two about pain.