CANNABIS & ATHLETES: PREPARATION

by | May 3, 2021 | Athletes | 0 comments

It takes a lot of dedication and sacrifice to become a professional athlete, no matter the sport. One of the most significant challenges for athletes is maintaining the ability to perform at the highest level. For this purpose, they must learn how to take care of their bodies before, during, and after events.

Doing this will ensure they minimize any possible damage done and make sure they are able to achieve peak performance for their next active session. In this series of articles, we will discuss how cannabis can help in every stage of this process and what it can specifically achieve in the body of an athlete.

ATHLETIC PREPARATION

Also called pre-competition readiness, the idea of preparing for a tough, athletic pursuit is very important to many athletes who value top performance and optimizing their bodies in both the short and long term. The idea behind this preparation is to fully utilize the physical, mental, and emotional condition leading up to the event. Doing so will allow the athlete to perform at their absolute peak level, often giving them a noticeable advantage over those who did not prepare in the same way.

CANNABIS PRODUCTS & PRE-COMPETITION READINESS

Some of the cannabis products used during this stage may be the same as what’s used in other stages of the process, but they will have different intended purposes. One of the most common products athletes use to prepare for competition is a daily full-spectrum CBD supplement to help them manage stress levels, inflammation, and increase their overall mood and health. 

Often, the night before a big competition, athletes will choose to increase their cannabis consumption for added levels of calmness before the event. This can help alleviate any anxiety or muscle tension brought on by the stress and preparation for the event. Upping their cannabis intake the night before a big event can also lead to an excellent night’s sleep, which can make all the difference in an upcoming challenging event. 

HOW DOES IT WORK

Cannabis is a plant with a long history of medicinal value going back thousands of years. Cannabidiol, CBD for short, is one of the many chemical compounds found within the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, it doesn’t have any  intoxicating effects, which has helped it find its way into the homes of athletes around the world. In recent years, the medical and scientific communities have become increasingly interested in the therapeutic effects of CBD and finding new ways it can be used to help people from any number of different demographics. Quickly, using CBD has become a preferred way to treat pain, stress, sleep disorders, and inflammation.

Because CBD doesn’t bind to the ECS receptors, it is believed it keeps the endocannabinoids from breaking down, which allows them to have a more significant effect on the human body. And while experts still aren’t sure how CBD interacts with the ECS system, the current studies suggest CBD does have a positive impact on our various body systems [1]. We’ll cover more on the ECS system and its interactions with CBD in the next section.

THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM

In short, the endocannabinoid system, otherwise known as the ECS, has a very simple yet vital purpose – it has to maintain homeostasis in the body. For this, all our internal systems need to work in sync. If there’s any instability, the ECS immediately registers it and rushes with help to stabilize the condition and help our body be in a state of homeostasis. It goes without saying that remaining homeostasis is exceptionally important if you’re an athlete. If one of your systems isn’t working correctly, your performance momentarily drops, and it’s not something you can afford in the world of sports. 

The ECS consists of the three primary components – cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes. More on them below:

  • Cannabinoid receptors. These can be found on the cells’ surface all over the human body. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids attach themselves to these receptors, communicating with the body systems, enabling the ECS to register and correct instabilities. 
  • Endocannabinoids. The chemical compounds the human body naturally produces. These are structurally similar to endocannabinoids, the chemical compounds found within cannabis, and are the key to cannabis interacting with the endocannabinoid system.
  • Enzymes. These are proteins whose purpose is to break down the endocannabinoids and cannabinoids once they’ve achieved their goal of maintaining homeostasis. Enzymes ensure cannabinoids leave before creating an overcorrection once the issue has been resolved.

Where do cannabinoids find themselves in all this? Well, as discovered, compounds like THC or CBD are incredibly similar to compounds naturally produced by the body. Because of that, they can attach to the receptors within the ECS just as endocannabinoids do. For example, CBD can bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, working as a blocker, attaching itself to receptors, and dampening their signals.

HOW CBD CAN HELP

Preparing your body for a sports event takes place on both the physical and psychological levels. All your body systems need to be in a complete state of homeostasis so that you can perform at the peak of your capabilities. This is where CBD can provide an exceptional aid, helping athletes deal with stress, improve their sleep, and reduce inflammation.

DECREASED STRESS & ANXIETY LEVELS

Dealing with stress before an important game or event is bread and butter for any athlete. CBD can help with that, with some studies claiming that CBD might alter serotonin signals, working with the ECS receptor responsible for dealing with stress disorders [2]. 

As covered, the ECS and CBD co-operate to regulate homeostasis within the human body. This also includes regulating stress and anxiety levels. In essence, if stress starts to overload your system, it’s the ECS’s responsibility to provide the correction and help your body and mind relax. And where’s CBD in all this? Well, some researchers believe that cannabinoids in the ECS can have a positive impact on stressful and anxious behaviors [3]. 

Another area where CBD is believed to be beneficial is neural regeneration [4]. Chronic stress and anxiety can damage neurons and the brain. The body then has to form new neurons and new connections. In other words, go through the neural regeneration process. As believed, CBD can help boost this process, stimulating the growth of new neurons, which should result in reduced stress over the long term.

And while there’s still more research to be done, a recent study concluded that CBD helped reduce stress in rats. According to this study, rats who took CBD showed overall lower behavioral signs of anxiety. The research also found that ingesting CBD can aid with physiological signs of stress, such as increased heart rate.

IMPROVED SLEEP

A good night’s sleep is important to athletic performance. A recent study found that cannabinoids could be used as an effective treatment for those suffering from insomnia or other sleep concerns. The study included 72 adults who suffered from anxiety and insomnia. The participants of this study were given CBD in the form of 25 mg capsules, most of them being consumed before bed. After one month of this treatment, participants reported a 66% increase in the quality of their sleep, a huge improvement [6]. 

REDUCED INFLAMMATION

As briefly mentioned, several studies have shown the CBD’s anti-inflammatory benefits. However, on top of that, CBD is believed to come with an analgesic effect, making it useful for help with tired and sore muscles. This can be beneficial, especially for athletes who want to relax the discomfort coming with overworked muscles [7]. 

If high-intensity workouts are something you enjoy, trying CBD before a session might be the right idea. According to some, CBD intake can ease muscles into and out of anaerobic mode. This, combined with massage and stretching, can make a significant difference when it comes to muscle recovery [8].

Current studies suggest that with CBD interacting with the ECS to regulate homeostasis, it might work as an effective treatment for inflammation [9]. According to this research, CBD can reduce joint inflammation and protect the nerves from damage.

WHAT’S NEXT

These steps are most commonly used as part of a long-term daily routine leading up to an event or the immediate days before the actual event occurs. What about after the event? All the preparation in the world cannot keep unplanned occurrences from happening. After any kind of competition, an athlete is bound to have sore and tired muscles or even an injury if something went wrong the day of. In our next article of the series, we’ll explore how CBD can help with recovery after an event.