By Emily Hirsh, MS, RD
Pushing the limits of your body can have its highs and lows. There’s nothing quite like the rush of running past your opponents to move into first place, or the thrill of kicking the ball just right to score the winning goal. As a performance athlete you reap the health and psychological benefits of regular exercise; however, this comes with some drawbacks.
Intense training and competition can lead to fatigue, soreness, pain and traumatic injuries. You may be tempted to ease this pain by popping various over-the-counter (OTC) medications, but side effects of popular OTC pain medicine include an increased risk of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disease.
CBD, a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, offers a safe, nonaddictive alternative for athletes seeking pain management — along with other health-enhancing benefits.
CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects, meaning taking CBD won’t make you feel “high.” CBD influences your body’s use of its own endocannabinoids more efficiently. Along with its antioxidant properties, CBD also interacts with the brain’s serotonin and vanilloid receptors, which are responsible for mood and perception of pain.
Fortunately, in 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from the list of prohibited substances. This change opened up the use of CBD for pain management, anxiety and sleep disturbances among athletes.
Whether it’s pain from overexertion or pain from an injury, safe and effective pain management for athletes can be an elusive pursuit. Unfortunately, highly addictive opioids and popular over-the-counter drugs like NSAIDs are the most common method of pain management for amateurs and pros alike.
But there might be an alternative with fewer side effects. CBD has emerged as a natural defense against inflammation and pain. Current research has revealed that for adults treated with CBD for chronic pain may be more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in symptoms.
The same anti-inflammatory properties of CBD that help with pain management may also help decrease the severity of common injuries in athletes. A recent study suggested that CBD may help reduce the severity of a concussion, in addition to helping with pain management.
Consistent, quality sleep plays an essential role in muscle growth and repair, which is vital for athletes. Moreover, pre-performance stress can lead to a dreaded sleepless night, which can greatly diminish athletic performance. The calming effects of CBD are well-established. CBD appears to ease anxiety and pain, both of which make falling and staying asleep more difficult, and may benefit people with short-term sleep problems.
These benefits just scratch the surface with respect to the benefits of CBD for athletes. What we do know is that CBD does not leave you intoxicated, is nonaddictive and does not lead to an increased risk of gastrointestinal or cardiovascular disease from prolonged use. Athletes can now reap the many benefits of CBD to help with pain management, inflammation and getting a much-needed restful night’s sleep. As an athlete looking to gain an edge over your competition, the therapeutic properties of CBD may be the game changer you are looking for.
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