CBD Basics For Runners

3 min read

man running in mountains

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the best known cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. CBD-containing products are said to boost your body’s endocannabinoid system, a euphoric effect similar to the “runner’s high” (which is not the same high you would get from the THC in marijuana). If you’re considering giving CBD a try for athletic reasons, here in a nutshell is what you need to know about its applications for runners.

Why Do Runners Use CBD?

While most of the known benefits of using CBD among runners are anecdotal, many runners report they have had a positive experience using it to:

  • replace pain medications
  • improve sleep quality and duration, which is reportedly almost an immediate benefit
  • reduce anxiety, especially around exercise- and sports-related transitions
  • shorten the recovery time needed from injuries or between long workouts
  • reduce the number of flare-ups from old injuries
  • boost energy levels
  • reduce inflammation

Those who have experienced the above benefits also report feeling more confident and motivated to continue running and working toward their fitness goals.

A few studies show promise for the use of CBD among runners. A 2016 study found that it was effective in reducing arthritic pain in rats.

CBD Is Not a Cure-All For Runners

There’s no doubt that the use of CBD among runners can bring positive benefits. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a cure-all for injuries or a replacement for other traditional remedies for common running ailments.

Many physicians who work with runners report that they see the most success when CBD is used for long-term trouble spots rather than short-term complaints. Furthermore, CBD is typically most efficacious when used in combination with other therapies, such as massage, strength and mobility training, icing, stretching, foam rolling or a targeted physical therapy regimen.

Why does CBD seem to help so many runners? Evidence is lacking in terms of studying the specific benefits of CBD in runners, but some believe that it helps prevent the breakdown of muscle and collagen that can lead to or prolong common running injuries.

How to Take CBD For Running

CBD comes in a variety of forms. Some of the most popular include gels, capsules, topical creams, tinctures and powders that can be mixed into drinks. You might find that using a topical cream or lotion is best for targeted injuries, whereas a drink or capsule may be most useful for improving sleep or managing anxiety. However, the form of CBD you take may not be as important as proper dosage and timing, yet there’s little research to indicate how to determine the most effective usage.

Effective doses of CBD can vary significantly between runners, especially given how much injuries can vary in type and degree of severity. 

If you happen to be sensitive to medications, supplements or new routines, start slowly. The product will tell you what a typical dose is, but you may choose to start with a lower dose and gradually increase as needed until you experience the desired effects.

How much is too much? Currently, there is no evidence that using CBD therapeutically comes with a high risk of serious adverse effects. That being said, everyone may have a unique tolerance.

It’s also important to choose athlete-friendly CBD products that have been third-party tested for purity, quality and safety. This can help you avoid any accidental consumption of unwanted substances, including trace amounts of THC that could make you fail a drug test. 

While promising studies have been done on CBD, keep in mind that results have been mixed when it comes to treating sleep problems and joint injuries. There is still much more research to be done to determine best uses, doses and forms for runners.

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