A study published in Sports Medicine suggests cannabidiol (CBD) improves sports performance.
Cannabidiol has been linked to anticonvulsant properties and other benefits, but a growing number of studies have suggested a connection between CBD and physical sports performance. In a July 6, 2020 study published in Sports Medicine, researchers analyzed the effects of CBD on athletes and found surprising results.
Researchers cited 200+ studies and trials on CBD, then concluded that “CBD may exert a number of physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects with the potential to benefit athletes.”
CBD is one of the hundreds of chemicals within the cannabis plant. The two best-known chemicals are THC and CBD, both of which are linked to various beneficial health effects. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Cannabidiol (CBD), however, is not prohibited. THC has psychoactive effects, while CBD does not.
CBD has become readily available in many countries. You can buy CBD supplements around the world, for example. CBD companies ship products to all 50 states. Some athletes take CBD to support performance. Some take CBD orally via supplement form. Others use CBD topically, rubbing it on parts of their body to relieve pain and stiffness.
Researchers Identify Anti-Inflammatory, Neuroprotective, and Physiological Benefits of CBD for Athletes
As research on CBD continues to grow, we’re learning more about how CBD impacts the body.
In the 2020 study, researchers reviewed available evidence on CBD and sports performance. During the narrative review, researchers analyzed preclinical studies and clinical trials in non-athlete populations.
After reviewing the available evidence, researchers found significant evidence supporting various benefits of CBD:
“Preclinical studies have observed robust anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and analgesic effects of CBD in animal models.”
Researchers also found that CBD could soothe digestive discomfort and pain throughout the body – possibly due to its anti-inflammatory effects:
“Preliminary preclinical evidence also suggests that CBD may protect against gastrointestinal damage associated with inflammation and promote healing of traumatic skeletal injuries.”
CBD could also lower stress in athletes and non-athletes. Research shows CBD has an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect, particularly when given to people with anxiety or those in stressful situations:
“Early-stage clinical studies suggest that CBD may be anxiolytic in “stress-inducing” situations and individuals with anxiety disorders.”
Because of this effect, CBD could help athletes manage the intense pressure associated with sports. Athletes at all levels experience stress and anxiety. By acting as an anxiolytic, CBD could reduce the physiological impact of stress and anxiety.
Many people take CBD to improve sleep. However, researchers did not find significant evidence connecting CBD with improved sleep:
“While some case reports indicate that CBD improves sleep, robust evidence is currently lacking.”
Researchers were also unimpressed with studies analyzing the cognitive effects, cardiovascular effects, and other benefits of CBD:
“Cognitive function and thermoregulation appear to be unaffected by CBD while effects on food intake, metabolic function, cardiovascular function, and infection require further study.”
CBD Could Benefit Athletes in Multiple Ways
After reviewing available evidence on CBD, researchers concluded that CBD could have positive effects on athletes.
Researchers cited over 200 studies, then concluded there was valid evidence connecting CBD with improved athletic performance:
“CBD may exert a number of physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects with the potential to benefit athletes.”
Most sports require a combination of physical and cognitive abilities. Based on this research, CBD benefits athletes in multiple ways, supporting physiology, biochemistry, and psychology among athletes.
More Evidence is Needed to Verify the Athletic Benefits of CBD
Researchers cited over 200 studies in this review. “However, researchers cautioned that more research was needed to verify the athletic benefits of CBD:”
“…well controlled studies in athlete populations are required before definitive conclusions can be reached regarding the utility of CBD in supporting athletic performance.”
Yes, early research on the physical and cognitive effects of CBD is promising. However, many studies have been small or have involved animals instead of humans. Some of the research is inconsistent. Some studies have found cardiovascular benefits linked to CBD, while others have found no such benefits.
Because of this conflicting research, more work needed to verify the benefits of CBD for athletes. Early research, however, is promising – and this study summarizes available research better than any other research to date.
To view the full study published in the July 2020 issue of Sports Medicine, click here.