Athletes from any number of different sports risk a lot to do what they love. It doesn’t take long for an active participant of a sport to recognize certain changes in their body, both for the better and the worse. In order to maintain the ability to perform any athletic venture long-term, athletes must also 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.
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 body 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.
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) is a chemical compound found in the flower of the marijuana plant and one of the most popular on the market. Unlike THC, it doesn’t have 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 been interested in the therapeutic effects of CBD and finding new ways it can be used to help people from any number of different demographics. CBD has quickly become a preferred treatment for pain, stress, sleep, and inflammation management.
Because CBD doesn’t bind to the ECS receptors, it is believed it keeps the endocannabinoids from being broken down, which allows them to have more of an effect on the body. Experts are still researching how exactly CBD interacts with the ECS system, but the current research does suggest that CBD has a beneficial impact on numerous systems in the human body . The endocannabinoid system has many functions within it. We’ll discuss them below:
The Endocannabinoid System
In short, the ECS is responsible for maintaining a constant state of homeostasis in the body, making it essential for health. The ECS provides an incredibly important function because all of our internal systems need to be in equilibrium to work effectively. When any sort of instability is registered, the ECS kicks in and rushes to the location of the issue to stabilize the condition.
There are three primary elements that make up the endocannabinoid system:
- Cannabinoid receptors. Found on the surface of cells throughout the body, endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are both able to attach to these receptors allowing them to communicate with a variety of systems inside the body. This specific communication is what enables the ECS to detect and correct any noticed instability.
- 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 that work to break down the cannabinoids and endocannabinoids after they’ve attached themselves to the receptors and achieved homeostasis. Enzymes are there to make sure the cannabinoids do not create an overcorrection once the risk has been effectively corrected.
Cannabinoids from cannabis plants are so similar to naturally produced compounds in the body, compounds like THC or CBD are able to attach to the receptors just as endocannabinoids do. CBD, for instance, has the ability to bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors and act as a blocker, binding to receptors and dampening their signals.
What Does it Help
CBD is thought to interact with two specific ECS receptors found in the central nervous system. Research is still ongoing, but studies show that CBD may alter serotonin signals, particularly the receptor that has the largest role in stress disorders .
As mentioned earlier, the endocannabinoid system and CBD work hand-in-hand and this is especially true when it comes to treating stress. The ECS is responsible for regulating stress and anxiety levels in the body, so when the system becomes overloaded with too much stress, it is up to the ECS to make the needed adjustments. Researchers believe that cannabinoids in the ECS can have a positive effect on anxious behaviors .
CBD is also believed to assist in neural regeneration . Stress and anxiety for prolonged periods of time can cause damage to the neurons and the brain, so in order to correct that damage, new neurons must be formed and new connections made. CBD helps boost this corrective process and stimulates growth of new neurons, resulting in reduced stress over the long term.
A recent study concluded that CBD was successful in reducing stress in rats, showing them to have overall lower behavioral signs of anxiety after taking CBD . They also concluded that many physiological signs of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, were also improved after ingesting CBD.
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 .
Besides its anti-inflammatory benefits, it is believed CBD’s analgesic effect makes it useful for help with sore or tired muscles. With the added benefit of pain relief, CBD can go a long way to help relax and ease the discomfort of those sore overworked muscles, especially for athletes .
If you’re an athlete and enjoy high-intensity workouts, you may want to try CBD before a workout. Some believe this helps ease muscles into and out of anaerobic mode. Combined with proper stretching and massage, some people notice an apparent difference in muscle recovery .
Current research suggests that because CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to regulate homeostasis within the human body, it could be used as an effective treatment for inflammation . It is thought to work at reducing joint inflammation while also protecting the nerves from damage.
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.