Athletes from a variety of different sports are paying increasing attention to a new supplement called cannabidiol or CBD. It’s promising better recovery, improved pain management reduction during inflammation, and better sleep. That almost sounds too good to be true. So, let’s take a closer look at all you need to know about CBD as a cyclist.
What is CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid found naturally in the cannabis plant but it is not psychoactive like its well-known cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabinoids are substances that already exist in the human body. We all have what is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that modulates the activity of neurons to maintain homeostasis. As a cyclist, you apply greater stress to your body than your ECS can handle, which leads to pain and inflammation. Supplementing with CBD may help the overloaded system get your neurotransmitters back under control.
How to use CBD
There are CBD capsules, pills, and oils on the market, so you will be able to find a variety of creams and lotions, recovery drinks, edibles, drops, and tinctures with the substance. Capsules, oil, and edibles have to be digested so they take longer to take effect. Topical creams are generally quicker than edibles, sublingual drops are even quicker than that and inhalation via vaping is the fastest method.
A recent study has also shown that CBD given for seizures related to epilepsy (a condition which CBD has been FDA-approved for) is much better absorbed when ingested along with high-fat food. A group in the study that was assigned to eat a high-fat meal before taking CBD had a 14 times better absorption of it on average compared to those who took CBD without food.
It’s also worth noting that CBD is available as “full-spectrum” or “isolate”. Full-spectrum CBD products contain CBD and other compounds found in the original plant, which could include small amounts of THC. Products that contain CBD isolate should only contain CBD.
How much should you use
Unfortunately, research on other uses of CBD, besides epilepsy, is in its early years and there is no standard dose that delivers a consistent effect for all people. CBD products are also considered supplements so, they are not well regulated. In general, it’s best to start with a very low dose and gradually increase it based on the effects you experience.
Is CBD legal for athletes?
The World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances, both in or out of competition, at the beginning of 2018. So, CBD is legal for athletes. Just keep in mind that it’s only CBD that has been cleared, THC is still prohibited in competition. As an example, triathlete Lauren Goss was handed a 6-month ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for THC levels in her blood. She blamed it on a CBD cream she was using out of competition for an injury. So, be extra careful especially with full-spectrum CBD products as they can contain some amount of THC.
Should you give CBD a try?
CBD is showing a lot of promise for athletes and it seems that there aren’t any substantial risks associated with it so far. The only potential danger is that the science on CBD is way behind its quickly spreading use. We don’t yet know enough about the mechanisms of how it’s supposed to work and about the right dosing. But if you are interested, check out our next article where we will take a look at what we know about CBD and cycling recovery and some athlete reports after using it.