Should You Use CBD Before and After Your Workout?
Cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s commonly known, is in seemingly every product on every shelf in every store in America. For athletes, there are CBD creams, CBD supplements, and even CBD suppositories that can purportedly ease your pain, relax your mind, and aid muscle recovery.
But does this stuff actually work? Read on for more about the purported benefits of CBD before a workout, as well as claims that it may help post workout, too.
Can CBD Help Pre-Workout?
Although CBD is legal, and even allowed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, relatively little research has been performed on it.
“People are figuring out for themselves what works when it comes to CBD, ” says Dr. Kent Hutchison, Ph.D, professor of psychology and neuroscience at University of Colorado–Boulder. “That’s all we can really do until the studies are done.”
Hutchison’s research has found that CBD may help with anxiety, inflammation, and sleep, but he emphasizes that results are preliminary. It’s also important to consult with your doctor or other healthcare professional before using any CBD product.
Purported Benefits of CBD Before Exercise
There’s a lot of information circulating about the value of CBD for workout performance. Here’s what preliminary research says.
CBD has been found to help ease anxiety, according to research published in Frontiers in Immunology. Some competitors have taken that to mean CBD may have potential to help focus them before a tough workout or even tougher race. “Athletes do report this anecdotally as one of the reasons that they use it,” Hutchison says. “But there is no high quality research on this point.”
According to another study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, participants who were administered CBD reported a reduced blood pressure response to stress compared with placebo during exercise.
Anecdotal evidence of CBD for pain management abounds on social media and in fitness circles. But is there hard evidence supporting CBD for pain management? Not yet.
“There are implications that it works for inflammation,” Hutchison says. “And if you are working on inflammation, you might be working on pain.” As with most of the research done on CBD, the effects of cannabidiol on pain management require further study.
Can CBD Help Post-Workout?
The guidance on CBD following exercise is largely the same as with its use before it. However, it looks like there may be slightly more evidence supporting claims about CBD’s value in post-workout applications.
Purported Benefits of CBD After Exercise
According to a study in The Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Journal, two of the primary issues for which consumers are using CBD involve pain and sleep. For athletes, there’s hope that CBD may help with the impacts of exercise on both.
Exercise can induce an inflammatory response, contributing to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that can be felt for days after activity. It’s hoped that CBD may help blunt that response — along with its resultant pain and immobility.
But that hope is based on a handful studies that, while promising, don’t examine the effects of CBD on post-exercise muscle soreness specifically. So while Hutchison acknowledges there are implications CBD may help with inflammation due to DOMS, nothing is conclusive yet.
One of the best ways to recover after a tough workout or hard race is to hit the pillow, hard. “There is a mix of studies looking at sleep and CBD, with some support in general for cannabinoids and sleep,” says Hutchison.
A review of cases in The Permanente Journal found that two-thirds of participants with sleep complaints improved while using CBD. And according to a 2017 review in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports, CBD may have potential to treat insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and REM sleep behavior disorder. It’s important to note, however, that research on cannabis and sleep is in its infancy and has yielded mixed results.
Where to Buy CBD for Pre- and Post-Workout Recovery
CBD products have only been legal for a few years, so the market is still a relatively lawless frontier with scant research, conflicting opinion, and unregulated product development. According to a 2017 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, only 31 percent of products tested contained the amount of CBD specified on the label.
We spoke with Evan Contreras of Rm3 Labs Colorado, LLC, a state-licensed testing facility for marijuana and industrial hemp.
1. Look for the certificate of analysis and a full panel test
“Asking for a COA should not be a problem for a legitimate product,” says Contreras. A Certificate of Analysis (COA), like this one, should appear on a product’s website or packaging. This documents that the product performed well on tests for CBD and THC content at an accredited, ideally third-party, laboratory. These full panel tests can also tell you the concentration or potency of the CBD, which cannabinoids it contains, and whether other toxins found their way into the mix.
2. Check where the hemp and CBD comes from
“In Colorado, for example, we are required to only test hemp that has been sourced from Colorado,” says Contreras, who recommends learning the hemp’s provenance. The U.S. currently imposes the most stringent regulations on these products, leaving less chance of food fraud or adulteration.