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CBD for Fitness Recovery

What is Sports Recovery

Sport scientists, trainers and other professional are all familiar with the “Recovery Principle”, a concept that dictates that, after training and competition, athletes need an adequate amount of time to recuperate and recover. In fact, many believe that recovery is just as important as the workout itself for building muscle, physical endurance and mental stamina.

This is because it is during these rest periods that both the body and mind adjust and reshapes itself in response to the stresses placed on it during training sessions and competitions. When the body exerts itself during intense physical exercise, metabolic processes like heartbeat, breathing and muscle tension go into overdrive. Once activity stops, the body gradually returns to its normal stable resting state, or a state of homeostasis.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Skeletal muscles are long and cylindrical muscle cells that form long fibers that are used during physical activity. Motor movements are modulated by a variety of mechanisms and structures, including units of striated muscle tissue called sarcomeres, the proteins actin and myosin, calcium channels and an enzyme called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

When a nerve signal stimulates a group of muscle cells using acetylcholine, calcium is pumped into those cells, allowing actin and myosin to interact and causing the cell to contract (shorten). Then, when the nerve signal stops activating the muscle cells, calcium is pumped back out of the muscle cell. This causes phosphate (a form of transferable energy) to dislodge and the muscle cells expand (lengthens) again.

Together, this expansion and contraction of the long muscle fibers propels the limbs and achieve movement. This expansion and contraction of the muscle fibers requires a lot of energy in the form of ATP. ATP is produced in the mitochondria of the cell and why muscle cells have more mitochondria than most other cells in the body.

However, this is also why skeletal muscle cells, in particular, are sensitive to this recovery principle. This is because, every time muscles are exerted, microscopic damage to millions of the tiny proteins that make up the muscle cells are caused. This damage causes inflammation of the muscles and surrounding tissues and is referred to in the medical community as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Inflammation in DOMS & Sports Recovery

The process of inflammation is designed to help damaged muscle fibers recover by increasing blood flow to the area, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen along with it. Additionally, the increased blood flow helps to clear out cellular debris, damaged proteins, and byproducts of muscle contraction like lactic acid from the area as well as stimulating stem cells in the muscle to turn into new muscle fibers. However, the inflammatory response can also cause damage to larger, non-affected regions of muscles and joints that slow down the recovery process.

Symptoms of Sports Recovery

DOMS is a healthy part of the adaptation process and usually occurs within 24 hours of strenuous exercise. Symptoms of DOMS, sports recovery and excessive training include:

Sports Recovery Medications & Treatments

Usually DOMS and other symptoms of sports recovery go away on its own, typically sometime between three to five days post-training. However, many pro-athletes and active people will take measures to reduce downtime and increase sports recovery times. This usually includes a mixture of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Pharmaceutical Interventions

In cases of intense training, over exercising or injury, prescription medicines are used to speed up recovery and reduce symptoms. However, these medications also come with negative side-effects, making their long-term and/or frequent use impractical for most.

Pain killers: These are usually prescribed in severe cases, with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Aspirin most often used to reduce inflammation and stop pain. Short-term side-effects include stomach ulcers, drowsiness and dizziness, with long-term use potentially resulting in heart failure, heart attacks and strokes.

Muscle relaxants: Sometimes benzodiazepine drugs like Valium are prescribed to reduce muscle tension that work through the GABA receptors, which are a key regulator of muscle relaxation. Side effects are however common and can include sedation, depression, confusion, dizziness, and trembling.

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Rest is the simplest and most effective treatments, but also takes the longest amount of time. For those individuals for which waiting is not an option, other therapies can be helpful including:

Massage therapy: Physically massaging the muscles can help stimulate the affected muscles and remove lactic acid buildup in the tissues responsible for causing more inflammation to the area. Massage can also help force fresh blood into the affected area that can speed up recovery.

Ice packs and/or cooling gels: Cooling the area slows blood flow and reduces inflammation. However, for this to work, it needs to be applied directly after an injury or following a workout.

Active recovery: Light and low-intensity exercise such as walking, easy biking, and gentle hiking or swimming can help get the blood flowing and muscles moving, speeding up recovery.

CBD for Sports and Recovery

Research and Scientific Evidence on using CBD for recovery

Rather than acting on one specific physiological system or organ, CBD has the ability to modulate the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as well as other regulatory systems in the body. This allows for CBD to affect any variety of different organs and systems, including the muscular, both directly and indirectly.

What this means is that CBD doesn’t stimulate the ECS and other systems directly, but rather helps up-regulate them, helping to restore the state of body homeostasis disturbed by intense physical activity. In addition, CBD has also been shown to activate other receptors important to sports recovery in the body, including:

CBD for Inflammation

CBD’s anti-inflammatory property is perhaps the most important factor with which CBD can help in the process of muscle repair, DOMS and sports recovery.

CBD acts similar to NSAIDs like Ibuprofen and Naproxen in reducing inflammation. Prostaglandins are the main chemical responsible for inflammatory responses, and CBD has been shown to help reduce inflammation and pain by decreasing the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase through the inhibition of prostaglandin release. Similarly, CBD can also help fight the associated oxidative stress of inflammation by exerting an immunosuppressive effect on the cells that play a role in inflammation.

CBD for Pain

Research has also shown that CBD has powerful analgesic properties that, in the context of sport recovery, may offer symptomatic support for muscle injuries or post-exercise recovery.

CBD is thought to stop pain through three main mechanisms. Firstly, CBD can inhibit pain transmission in the spinal cord and brain. Secondly, CBD can reduce inflammatory messenger activity, and thirdly also lower your sensitivity to pain by suppressing α3 GlyRs receptors and TRPV1 pain receptors.

CBD for Muscle Tension

In addition to inflammation and pain, another major symptom of DOMS and sports recovery is muscle tension that can make pain much worse in affected and surrounding areas.

CBD has been shown to work similarly to muscle relaxants like benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines work through GABA receptors, which are the key regulators of muscle relaxation. CBD has been shown to have similar effects on GABA and central benzodiazepine receptors, but without the side-effects and risk of dependence.

CBD for Sleep Quality & Duration

Sufficient rest and sleep is essential to sports recovery. This is when damaged proteins are restored, cellular debris is removed and lactic acid is converted to glucose. In addition, the differentiation of stem cells into new muscle fibers are also stimulated during sleep.

CBD has been shown to have the ability to increase and improve the ability to fall asleep as well as total sleep time. In addition, CBD can also improve and promote REM sleep, which is important for cognitive and physical performance during training, competition and recovery.

Bottom Line

CBD is a popular all-round supplement that is gaining popularity in sport recovery, treating inflammation, pain and muscle tension while helping improve sleep. This is because CBD interacts with various regulatory systems in the body and restores homeostasis throughout the body that offers some unique benefits in the recovery process. To get the most out of CBD for sport recovery, we recommend speaking to a healthcare practitioner. He or she can help put together a multifaceted recovery plan that includes CBD along with other treatment options such as massage, healthy dietary habits and active recovery methods to shorten down time.