The buzz behind CBD (short for cannabidiol, a chemical found in the cannabis plant) continues to grow, largely due to its ability to treat anxiety (which can definitely come in handy for those pre-Spartan race jitters) as well as its role in easing chronic pain. But while most research around CBD and pain is related to those with conditions like arthritis and severe joint pain, the mechanism in which CBD works may help athletes before they get to a place of pain. Here’s what you need to know about CBD oil and exercise, plus which type of CBD will be the most beneficial for your training.
CBD Oil and Exercise: What You Should Know
CBD May Help Inflammation
“While CBD may have some pain-relieving properties, it is much more of an anti-inflammatory agent,” says Matthew Mintz, MD, a board-certified internist based in Bethesda, MD. “Inflammation, especially in joints, can lead to pain.”
So while CBD won’t be able to ease muscle-related pain, it can help with joint issues such as arthritis or osteoarthritis by keeping inflammation down if taken prior to exercising. And — while depending on your age you may think you’re immune to joint issues — osteoarthritis happens when tissue at the end of a bone (like the knee) starts to wear down. This means that over time, any Spartan can become susceptible to joint pain simply from wear and tear on their body over the years.
CBD May Need Time to Kick In
Particularly if you’re taking it for anxiety that’s related to your training or an upcoming Spartan race.
“CBD works in a variety of ways on the brain that then effects how our chemical messengers send signals,” says Mintz. “This is similar to how antidepressants work, but through a slightly different mechanism, and without the side effects drugs often come with.”
But there IS a catch: You can’t take CBD an hour before a workout or race and expect to feel better.
“Some patients have stated they feel better soon after taking CBD, but it usually takes a week or so to fully kick in” says Mintz. “If you’re trying to reduce anxiety before a race, I would recommend starting CBD at least a week before.”
Start taking it before exercising to help mimic race day, and see if over time you feel more mellow and centered during training.
“Unlike THC [short for tetrahydrocannabinol, another chemical found in the cannabis plant], there is no psychoactive impact of CBD, so it’s very safe,” says Mintz.
This means that even if you don’t see improvement at first — or even over a week — there are no issues with continuing to take it as long as you stick to the recommended dose (this can be anywhere between 15 mg to 50 mg, depending on the type of CBD).
The Type of CBD You Use Matters
“CBD can come from marijuana, but most of the CBD popping up all over the place comes from hemp, which is a very similar plant with almost no THC,” says Dr. Mintz.
Similar to marijuana, hemp is legal in the U.S., but neither are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means choosing what kind of CBD to buy is extremely important.
“There are a number of factors to consider, (such as the growing practices, whether or not the product is organic, contains no GMOs or pesticides, etc.) but the most important one is that the CBD you use is verified by an independent third-party lab so you know exactly what you are getting without contaminants or impurities,” says Mintz.
Make sure to purchase CBD from a licensed dispensary or check the label (or item description if you’re buying a product online) to verify if it has been lab-tested.