Summary: Benefits of CBD for Muscle Recovery
CBD relaxes muscle tissue [6,7,8] CBD may relieve acute pain in the muscles [4,9–11] CBD reduces inflammation  CBD improves sleep quality [13,14] CBD may enhance satellite cell differentiation in the muscles  CBD may support protein synthesis by reducing cortisol levels [4,12] So What Exactly is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active
ingredients in the cannabis plant. It’s a close relative to
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which is what makes marijuana psychoactive.
CBD and THC are both cannabinoids — organic compounds found alongside over a hundred other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.
Don’t worry, CBD is completely non-psychoactive — meaning it won’t make you high.
Most companies selling CBD will source it from
a specific form of selectively-bred cannabis called hemp — which is the
same species as marijuana (
sativa) but won’t produce more than trace amounts (>0.3%) of the
psychoactive ingredient, THC.
CBD supplements made from hemp are completely
non-psychoactive due to the lack of THC. As a result, government regulators around
the world don’t consider CBD a drug in the same way as marijuana. Most
countries regulate CBD as a nutritional supplement instead — however, laws
governing cannabis products change frequently, so be sure to
your local laws before placing an order.
CBD has a lot of suggested benefits — many of which have been backed up by scientific and anecdotal evidence. Supplements and pharmaceutical preparations containing CBD are being used by
cancer patients to reduce side-effects of chemotherapy (such as nausea), by children with rare forms of epilepsy (such as Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome), and by millions of people around the world for symptoms like anxiety, pain, inflammation, and insomnia.
CBD have so many suggested benefits?
CBD achieves all of this because of its
ability to interact with a regulatory system — rather than one specific organ.
This allows CBD to affect many different organs around the body directly and
indirectly — including the muscular system.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD works through a subsystem in the body
found in all mammals called the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) involves a
collection of special G-protein-coupled receptors (called endocannabinoid
receptors), and hormones designed to interact with these receptors (called
is used to help regulate homeostasis throughout the body — which basically means internal balance.
Everything from temperature regulation to
hormone levels needs to remain within a specific range. Homeostasis is the
process of keeping these metrics within the ideal ranges. If we fall too far
outside these ranges, we become sick and die.
CBD is a modulator of the endocannabinoid
receptors. It attaches to them in a unique way and modifies their structure
slightly to allow our naturally-produced endocannabinoids to bind to them more
effectively. It also inhibits an enzyme designed to break down our
endocannabinoids (called FAAH).
essentially primes the ECS — giving
it a boost to do its job more effectively.
CBD doesn’t stimulate the endocannabinoid
system directly, rather it helps upregulate the system we already have in
Conversely, the psychoactive
cannabinoid, THC, activates the endocannabinoid receptors directly (rather
than modifying them). Some of the receptors THC activates result in a release
of serotonin in the brain — which produces the characteristic high from
also activates other receptors in the body, including:
5HT1A receptors (serotonin receptors)  Vanilloid pain receptors  PPARγ nuclear receptors 
How Can CBD Help With Muscle
1. Reducing Inflammation
Perhaps the most important role CBD plays in
the process of muscle recovery is in reducing inflammation. The most common
method of reducing inflammation after an injury or post-workout is to apply ice
to the area.
debate around whether or not putting icing is
helpful for muscle recovery or not, and research is inconclusive — some studies
suggest icing the muscles improves recovery times [ 1],
while other studies have found that icing offers no benefit for shortening
recovery time [ 2].
controversy revolves around what role inflammation plays during the recovery
process. How Inflammation Helps The
Indeed, the process of inflammation is
designed to help damaged muscle fibers recover — it brings in blood flow to the
area, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen along with it. Additionally,
the increased blood flow helps to clear out cellular debris, damaged proteins,
and byproducts of muscle contraction like lactic acid from the area.
also stimulates stem cells (called satellite cells) in the muscle to turn into
new muscle fibers.
Inflammatory markers like IL-10, TGF-β, TNF-α,
and NF-κB are all thought to stimulate the satellite cells of the muscles after
an injury [
3] — leading to faster recovery and a return
of strength to the muscles. How Inflammation Slows Recovery
On the other hand, post-workout muscle damage,
or injuries to the muscles often involve specific regions of muscle — yet the
inflammatory process affects larger groups of muscles and joints that haven’t
The inflammatory response
can cause collateral damage to these regions of muscle and joints — leading
to a slower recovery process.
This is the main reason athletes use
anti-inflammatories or ice after a workout or injury. Reducing inflammation
limits the damage caused to nearby muscle and joint tissue.
Athletes often use ice immediately following a
workout, and NSAID medications like Aspirin or Ibuprofen to limit inflammation
for the remainder of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS symptoms for the next
offers something even better — and may be able to reduce most of the unhelpful
inflammation without compromising its benefits towards the recovery process.
CBD has been shown to
a wide range of inflammatory molecules but has little effect on
reducing TGF-β and IL-10. In some studies, CBD even caused an increase in IL-10
This could explain how CBD may alleviate inflammation in the muscle tissue without compromising recovery times. The important role of IL-10 in the activation of new muscle cell differentiation could have a big impact on our ability to recover from muscle damage.
2. Lowering Muscle Tension
One of the characteristic symptoms of DOMS is
muscle tension. When it comes to injuries, tension in the muscles surrounding
the affected area can make the pain much worse — which is why muscle relaxants
are so popular for alleviating pain during recovery from exercise or injuries.
forms of prescription muscle relaxants used
for treatment-resistant muscle tension are benzodiazepine drugs like Valium.
These medications work through the GABA receptors — which are a key regulator
of muscle relaxation [ 5, 18].
Benzodiazepines are powerful drugs and come
with a significant risk of side-effects like sedation, depression, confusion,
dizziness, and trembling — all of which are not conducive to optimal athletic
CBD and other cannabinoids have similar
effects on GABA as benzodiazepines — only without the risk of severe
6, 7]. Some research even suggests the use of
cannabis as a supportive agent for benzodiazepine addiction due to the overlap of
effects between the two [ 8]. This is dangerous and requires monitoring
by a doctor, of course. You should never attempt this on your own.
CBD may be a useful muscle relaxant for easing muscle tension and pain
following an injury or rigorous workout. 3. Alleviating Pain
CBD is suggested to be a powerful pain-killer
— as evidenced by both
anecdotal and scientific research. This effect
may allow CBD to offer symptomatic support for muscle injuries or post-exercise
recovery. With less pain, you’ll find it easier to get yourself back into
action faster, and feel more comfortable between exercise.
thought to stop pain through three main mechanisms:
Inhibit pain transmission in the
spinal cord and brain [ 9, 10] Reduce inflammatory messenger
activity [ 4] Lower sensitivity to pain through
vanilloid receptors [ 11] 4. Improving Sleep Quality &
A few of the most important aspects of
muscle recovery happen while we sleep. This is
when most of our recovery processes become active .
the important processes that take place while we sleep include:
Restoring damaged proteins like
troponin, actin, and myosin Removing cellular debris from
damaged areas Converting lactic acid to glucose
in the liver Stimulating the differentiation of
stem cells into new muscle fibers
deprivation can pose negative effects on recovery in a few key areas [ 12 ]:
May lead to a reduction in insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) — which we already pointed out as being one of the main triggers for
differentiation of the muscle stem cells (satellite cells). May increase cortisol levels — which has a
negative impact on protein synthesis. May cause a reduction in testosterone — which
is heavily involved in the process of muscle recovery for both men and women.
A combination of CBD and THC in a
pharmaceutical preparation of 1 part CBD to 1 part THC known as Sativex® has
been tested repeatedly on its effect on sleep. Research has consistently shown
Sativex® offers improvements on the quality of sleep, as well as the duration [
Other studies have found similar results using only CBD on rats [
14]. Researchers in this study found that CBD was able to increase the total sleep time, as well as improve the ability of rats to fall asleep. The Muscular System 101:
Understanding Muscle Anatomy & Regeneration
There are three kinds of muscle in the human
body — but the most relevant for the purpose of this discussion is the
skeletal muscle. The other two are smooth muscle (found in the internal
organs and lining of the arteries), and cardiac
muscle (a specific type of muscle only found in the heart).
The cells that make up skeletal muscle are
uniquely suited to their job. They have more mitochondria (the powerhouse of
the cell) than most other cells in the body. This is meant to help them meet the
high energy demands of the muscles.
Muscle cells are also long and cylindrical,
helping them form long fibers.
Each muscle cell contains functional units
called sarcomeres — which are the part of the muscle that contracts and expands
to allow for movement. Proteins called actin and myosin contained in the cells
are responsible for expanding and contracting the muscle tissue to achieve
movement using calcium and adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
When a nerve stimulates muscle cells with acetylcholine, (i.e. when you tell your arm to move) calcium is pumped into the cell, which allows actin and myosin to interact, causing the cell to contract (shorten)
. This step requires a lot of energy — in the form of ATP, produced in the mitochondria of the cell.
When the nerve stops activating the muscle cells, calcium is pumped back out of the muscle cell and phosphate (a form of transferable energy) dislodged, causing the muscle to expand again (lengthen).
What Makes Your Muscles Sore
After a Workout?
By now, you’re probably familiar with the
aches and pains that come along with exercising. These sensations are present
no matter how often you work out — so what causes them?
Every time you exert your muscles, you cause
microscopic damage to millions of tiny
proteins that make up your muscle cells. This damage leads to inflammation of
the muscle — which causes the characteristic aches, pains, and stiffness
experienced after a workout.
pain after a workout usually begins the following day.
This is referred to in the medical community
as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
DOMS is a healthy part of the adaptation
process. It only happens when we push our muscles harder than they have before,
or in a different way than we’re used to. Over time, repeating these activities
will produce less DOMS as the muscles recover and become stronger and more
resistant to the same level of exertion.
How is DOMS Usually Treated?
DOMS will go away on its own — usually after
3–5 days. Many athletes can’t wait this long
to get back into the gym or on the pitch, so they’ll take measures to reduce
are some of the most common treatments for DOMS:
Rest — This is the simplest treatment, but takes the longest amount of time. Massage therapy — Physically massaging the muscles helps to stimulate the area, remove lactic acid buildup that may be causing more inflammation to the area, and force fresh blood into the affected area. Painkillers — Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Aspirin are often used to reduce inflammation and stop the pain. Unfortunately, these medications also come with negative side-effects. Ice packs — Cooling the area slows blood flow and reduces inflammation. This only works if applied directly after an injury or following a workout.
Can Athletes Use CBD? Is it Legal
in Competitive Sports?
You may be skimming through this article and
wondering — “is CBD legal in sports? Won’t cannabis make athletes fail a drug
test if they use it?”
cannabis is technically illegal, CBD is a clear exception.
In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)
removed CBD from its
banned substances list. This essentially means
the organization recognizes that CBD is not comparable to performance-enhancing
drugs like amphetamines, hormones, or illegal drugs. This is how professional
athletes like Nate Diaz from the UFC are able to use CBD without being banned
With that said, make sure to check your
laws and regulations. Just because WADA allows CBD doesn’t mean your
individual country or regulatory agency allows it too.
tests used in professional sports can’t identify chemicals in the blood or
urine unless you specifically go looking for them.
They don’t provide a full list of compounds contained in the fluid.
Most drug tests for marijuana use synthetic
antibodies to look for THC — or the metabolites our body creates after breaking
down THC. Therefore, you’ll only fail a drug test for these substances if
you’ve used a supplement that included THC. For this reason, if you’re
competing in professional sporting events and are interested in using CBD, you
should opt for a product made from third-party tested CBD isolate, rather than
full-spectrum hemp — which may contain trace amounts of THC.
consume at your own discretion and risk. How Can CBD Be Added To A Recovery
There are so many different CBD supplements
available these days, it’s incredibly easy for people to start using this
supplement in whatever capacity makes the most sense for them.
are some of the most common ways people are adding CBD to their supplement
Add CBD oils to your protein or nutritional
shakes Take CBD capsules or gummies Use CBD oils sublingually
after a workout and on recovery days Use a vaporizer pen Apply CBD topicals directly over the affected
The hardest part of using CBD isn’t the type
of CBD supplement to use, because this really just depends on your individual
preferences and lifestyle. The hardest part is actually figuring out the right
dose to take.
dosing CBD so difficult? Because everybody responds
calculating out the right dose of CBD in some of our other educational
resources, which can be used to help you find a starting point — but there will
always be a layer of trial and error involved when it comes to CBD. You’ll need
to take some time to understand how the supplement works for you and your body
by gradually increasing the dose over time.
works by starting at the low range of the recommended dose, and adding 5-10 mg
per day until you find a dose that works for you.
The only exception to this process is
CBD. Since topical CBD isn’t absorbed into the bloodstream, you can
use a lot more at a time. If using a CBD topical for the first time, make sure
to apply a small amount to the skin first to check for possible allergies to the
If you don’t experience any itching or redness after the first 2–3 applications, you can go ahead and apply to the whole muscle group. In many cases, an allergic reaction will only appear when you use something the second time. Many children allergic to peanuts or other foods only experience anaphylactic shock on the second, or even third time they ate these foods.
There’s a perfectly good explanation for why this happens (involving antibody production), but this will have to wait for another discussion.
How To Get The Most From CBD For
The recovery process is complex, and
shortening the amount of time needed between recoveries relies on many
different measures at the same time will go a long way in shortening the
recovery time beyond what CBD has to offer on its own.
simple advice for getting more out of CBD for recovery:
Drink plenty of water — the recovery process releases a lot of metabolic waste into the bloodstream that needs to be filtered out by the kidneys. Stretch thoroughly after a workout — this helps to remove harmful lactic acid after a workout and improve blood flow to the affected muscles. Follow the advice of an experienced physiotherapist — it’s ideal to seek professional help to monitor your recovery and provide specific advice. Listen to your body — sometimes the pain experienced after a workout is more than DOMS. If you feel a sharp or excruciating pain, or the pain is accompanied by a fever, visit a doctor immediately. Use CBD both internally, and topically — this is going to provide the best chance for CBD to exert its effects on the muscles. Get plenty of rest — as mentioned, sleep is a critical component of the recovery process. Take the time to rest so you can get back into the gym faster. Always opt for high-quality CBD products only — there’s a lot of poor-quality CBD products floating around, many of which lack the potency advertised on the bottle, and may even have contaminants like heavy metals which could negatively affect your recovery. Take other supplements — some of the best supplements for promoting recovery are branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s), magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Eat a wholesome diet rich in proteins and phytonutrients — in order to recover the body needs access to the raw materials. These raw materials come from our food. We need proteins (and their amino acid components) to build the structures of muscle tissue, along with trace nutrients and vitamins.
Summing it All Up: CBD &
CBD is a popular supplement for a lot of
reasons. The active ingredient (CBD) interacts with the endocannabinoid system
to regulate homeostasis throughout the body — including the muscles.
After a tough workout, the tiny microfilaments
in the muscle fibers become damaged — leading to inflammation, pain, and a loss
of strength in the muscle. Over the next 3-5 days, the body needs to repair
this damage and strengthen the fibers. During this time, it can be difficult to
keep exercising that muscle group, which can ultimately slow down your gains.
Injuries are even worse, sometimes keeping you
out of the gym for months on end.
CBD offers some unique benefits to the
recovery process by reducing inflammation in the area that may cause
unnecessary damage to surrounding muscles, improving our quality of sleep to
support the repair process, and alleviating symptoms like pain or muscle
All these qualities may explain
why so many athletes report improvement in recovery times after using CBD.
In order to get the most out of CBD, we
recommend you take a multifaceted approach, incorporating other measures into
the recovery as well — such as massage, healthy dietary habits, taking other
supplements, drinking water, and ensuring you get plenty of rest.
The field of CBD and muscle recovery is still
young, and there are dozens of interesting research studies on this subject
either in progress or planned for the near future.
Be sure to stay tuned by signing up for our newsletter below to receive
news and updates on cutting-edge research as it’s published. References
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