CBD is considered one of the fastest growing trends the health and wellness sector has ever seen.
In 2017, US hemp-derived CBD sales hit close to $190 million. By 2020, annual CBD sales are projected to be $2.1 billion, with $450 million in sales from hemp-derived CBD products. To say the industry is booming is putting it mildly.
Over the past few years, CBD has gained attention across the globe. It’s known to be awesome at reducing anxiety. Using CBD for pain has become almost as common as popping an Advil. CBD has even shown to be effective at helping with more serious conditions such as seizures, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. From celebrities and renowned physicians to world-class athletes and everyday people, CBD has truly taken the world by storm.
CBD for Runners: How Does it Help?
Although CBD has only been in the spotlight for a few short years, its already being used widely amongst those in the running community. Whether running city streets or taking it off the beaten path and onto the trail or up in the hills, training for a marathon or simply running for pleasure, CBD has become a standard staple for many people who run on the reg.
The benefits of CBD stem from the way cannabidiol brings balance to the body’s endocannabinoid system. If you’re a runner, you’re likely familiar with the endocannabinoid system without even knowing it. “Runner’s high” just like the high from THC are both considered to be directly connected to the endocannabinoid system.
Running for a long period triggers the release of the anandamide (aka the “bliss molecule”), a neurotransmitter and cannabinoid produced in the brain that binds to cannabinoid receptors and has a very similar structure to THC. It’s the chemical responsible for putting you in “the zone”, as well as for producing the high cannabis is known for.
But what about cannabis without the high for people who like to run? Specifically, CBD. While CBD doesn’t activate cannabinoid receptors in the brain, it has shown to moderately inhibit the degradation of anandamide by working against the enzyme responsible for breaking down the bliss molecule. What this means for you as a runner is an increase in the runner’s high you experience.
Runners who use CBD, however, aren’t exactly doing it to increase the natural high they experience. CBD is commonly used to regulate pain, soothe sore muscles, and reduce inflammation, and it’s these reasons CBD for runners is something that makes sense.
CBD for Runner’s Aches and Pains: Why More Athletes are Ditching Advil for CBD
For decades, the common go-to for any athlete in pain was over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen, Advil, and Tylenol. As a runner and cyclist myself, I used Advil for years before making the switch to CBD. It’s affordable, accessible, and works great for managing pain. But these OTC medications can come at a cost.
The use of ibuprofen (the generic form of Advil) has shown to contain some potentially serious side effects. The major adverse reactions of this wildly-popular pain killer include negative effects on the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), the kidney, and blood clotting system. Serious effects of ibuprofen include GI bleeding, increased risk of ulcers, kidney failure, heart failure, cell death, nosebleeds, and abnormally high potassium levels (aka hyperkalemia). Research indicates that one in five chronic use of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs will go on to develop gastric damage.
Personally, using Advil made me feel awful. Sure, it helped with the pain, but it also made my stomach hurt. And led to serious indigestion and constipation. Heart palpitations. Loss of appetite. Increased sweating and some serious lightheadedness.
The side effects of OTC pain meds/anti-inflammatories aren’t fun. Which is exactly why so many professional and amateur athletes alike that have discovered CBD are likely just as thankful as I am.
How CBD Works for Pain and Inflammation
There are over three million pain receptors found throughout the body. When we experience pain, cells that release pain-producing chemicals are activated and eventually travel to the spinal cord where pain signaling messages are then conveyed to the brain.
Ibuprofen works for pain by blocking the production of prostaglandins, a substance that is released by the body in response to injury and illness. Prostaglandins are responsible for causing pain, inflammation, or swelling…all of which are common in individuals who regularly run long distances and do endurance sports. While ibuprofen obviously works well to block pain and reduce inflammation or swelling, some of the side effects associated with it aren’t something I want anything to do with.
CBD, on the other hand, works with our body’s own endocannabinoid system. While CBD does not bind directly to either of the body’s cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), it does bind to the TRPV-1 receptor, which mediates pain perception, inflammation, and body temperature.
At high concentrations, CBD has also shown to activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which is largely associated with the anti-depressant effects the cannabinoid is known for. Aside from its connection as one of the “feel good” chemicals in the body, serotonin is also responsible for several other neurological and biological processes in the body including: addiction, appetite, anxiety, sleep, and pain perception.
CBD is a well-known anti-inflammatory. When a person experiences inflammation, signaling proteins known as cytokines are synthesized and secreted by immune cells. Cytokines are the modulating factors that help balance the onset and resolution of inflammation. One of the reasons CBD is considered to fight inflammation is by suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Using CBD for Post-Run Recovery
Pain and inflammation aren’t the only things runners and other athletes are using CBD for. This non-psychoactive cannabinoid just so happens to be excellent for post-workout recovery. A hard run can call for serious recovery. After an intense run it’s not uncommon to feel sore and tired. Some runners even get nauseous after a hard run.
After a long workout or run, there’s nothing better than taking time to relax and let the body recoup. CBD has shown to reduce muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients, although a CBD/THC application is known to work better for muscle spasms than CBD alone.
Several studies indicate that CBD has a beneficial effect on mood, stress, and sleep. If you’re looking to relax after a long run, CBD contains the soothing benefits you need when deep relaxation is necessary. Where THC is known to exacerbate anxiety in some people, CBD actually has the opposite effect and works as a relaxant by reducing autonomic arousal, or those physiological changes that occur in the body during times of “flight or fight.” CBD is so adept at stimulating relaxation that it’s known to counteract the paranoia and anxiety sometimes caused by THC.
CBD to Help You Sleep
CBD has also shown to be helpful for getting sleep, something vital for post-run recovery. Here’s the thing. Not getting enough sleep after a long run or workout can not only increase your risk of injury, but also stop any gains you might have made. If you’re interested in top performance on the trail or streets, you’ve got to get enough sleep.
Think of it like this. The longer and better you sleep after a run, the better your body and mind replenish their energy. You’ve got to give the central nervous system (CNS) plenty of R & R if you don’t want to suffer every time you run. The CNS is what’s responsible for pain response, reaction time, and triggering muscle contractions. If you don’t let it recoup, you’re never going to be on top of your game.
Without the proper rest your body needs, muscle growth and recovery begin to degrade, and the CNS stops “recharging your batteries.” If you’re not getting enough sleep after a big run, you’re likely to feel unmotivated and tired the next time you’re ready to get your body moving. Sleep also helps your body repair damaged tissues, but if you’re not getting enough the body’s natural ability to heal itself post-workout is going to be negatively impacted.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Runners
CBD certainly isn’t a cure-all for every problem runners might experience. But it sure can help. Not only does it reduce pain and inflammation, but it’s considered safe and well-tolerated and doesn’t contain all the nasty side-effects associated with ibuprofen.
Runners who push themselves on the daily may need more daily milligrams of CBD than those who run a couple days a week.
Everyone responds differently, and the best way to find what works for you is by experimenting with different dosages until you find what works best for you.
You might want to start with 10mg a day and work yourself up to whatever dosage ends up offering the relief you need. Just like any new supplement you’re adding to your routine, we recommend talk to your doctor first.
I’ve personally found that 30 mg before bed every night and using a topical for localized pain relief when needed works the best for me. And don’t forget the CBD Hemp infused bath bombs, of course!
No matter how you take it, one thing’s for certain: CBD is everywhere and it’s entered the crazy world of endurance sports to benefit athletes of all kinds with their performance and recovery.