Can CBD Oil Help You Get More Out of Your Workouts?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Chances are you've used plenty of different oils—to add flavor to your food, to moisturize your hair and skin, and maybe even to infuse your home with delicious aromas. But there's one oil you may not be familiar with: cannabidiol oil, more commonly known as CBD oil. Although it's not entirely mainstream (yet), this substance is firing up controversy in some health and fitness circles. While some fitness professionals are skeptical of its risks and legality, many people claim that CBD oil helps to enhance not only their workouts, but their overall wellness.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil comes from the compound cannabinoids, which is found in the cannabis sativa plant. Yes, that's the same plant that produces marijuana—but that doesn't mean CBD oil will alter your state of mind in any way. The "high" that marijuana causes comes not from CBD, but from the active ingredient delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is the same, non-psychoactive part of the plant that can be used to produce hemp.

Taking CBD Before and After Workouts

Given CBD's inherent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, it's not surprising that it's become popular as a fitness enhancer. Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, a holistic cannabis practitioner and culinary nutritionist with Jannabis Wellness, confirms that CBD offers a range of benefits for fitness enthusiasts.
Most people prefer to use CBD after a workout to aid in recovery and to ease soreness. Because it's a vasodilator, it opens up the blood vessels and increases blood flow to the muscles, which promotes strength and recovery, Bissex notes. It's also been touted as an antispasmodic, which means it helps to reduce the muscle spasms that can occur after a strenuous exercise session. Using CBD after working out can help to alleviate muscle pain and soreness, aid in relaxation and decrease inflammation.
Others take CBD before exercise to help them stay focused and energized. The compound also helps to reduce the level of cortisol in the body. Also known as the "stress hormone," cortisol breaks down muscle tissue and prevents muscle growth—obviously not the goal of any workout. Studies have shown that CBD can prevent the cortisol from building up, making it easier to achieve a strong, lean physique.    
Originally, the World Doping Agency—which regulates the use of substances in sports—had banned the use of CBD by professional athletes, but in 2017 that ban was removed.

Other Potential Health Benefits

In lieu of taking prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, many chronic pain sufferers have turned to CBD for relief. Some studies have found it to be a more natural way to alleviate pain, stiffness and inflammation without side effects.
CBD has been shown to help suppress the growth of cancer cells and prevent them from spreading. Some studies have also suggested that the compound may alleviate symptoms in people suffering from anxiety. Plus, it could serve as a natural treatment for diabetics by reducing inflammation in the pancreas, which is a direct cause of Type 1 diabetes.
What's more, preliminary research has suggested that CBD could slow down loss of facial recognition during the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and it has also been shown to prevent seizures in those suffering from epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

How to Take CBD         

There are several different ways to ingest CBD. The tincture form is the liquid oil, which can be added to food or drink. Bissex says it can also be placed under the tongue for one to two minutes for direct absorption into the bloodstream. CBD oil provides quick relief, typically within 10 to 15 minutes.
CBD can also be taken orally, in a pill or edible form. This type takes a little longer to work, an hour or more. To decrease pain and inflammation, you can apply CBD topically in a cream form; Bissex says this usually provides relief in five to 10 minutes.
Other options include a transdermal patch, which is placed on the ankle or wrist and provides slow-release, long-lasting relief, or inhalation using a vape pen, which starts working in under five minutes.
Because people have different results and reactions to CBD, it's not a "one size fits all" supplement. The amount that works for your cousin, co-worker or gym cohort may not meet your needs. Start out slow, experiment with different doses to determine what works best depending on your goal. However you choose to consume CBD, it's best to speak with your doctor or healthcare expert before adding it to your daily regimen.

Common Myths About CBD Oil

Myth: Because CBD is made from cannabis, it can get you high.
Fact: Most CBD oils are made from hemp, which has less than 0.3 percent THC. According to Bissex, CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that will not make you high like THC, another cannabinoid in cannabis.
Myth: CBD is addictive.
Fact: After months of research, the World Health Organization released a report in 2017 stating that CBD is "nonaddictive and nontoxic," so you don't have to worry about becoming physically dependent on it.
Myth: All CBD is the same, so you should just buy the cheapest one online.
Fact: All CBD is not created equal, and there is a wide range of quality being sold, Bissex notes. She suggests looking for organically grown, whole-plant products from the USA, and to check for the extraction method—many companies use solvents (hexane and butane) to extract the CBD from the plant, which she avoids. "Ask for independent lab test results of any CBD product," Bissex recommends. "And buy from a company you trust."
Myth: CBD is illegal.
Fact: Well, this one is both a myth and a fact. Technically, since CBD is derived from hemp (cannabis), it is considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance. However, the 2014 Farm Bill contains a provision that says industrial hemp can be harvested for pilot programs conducting research. So far, 40 states have these pilot programs in effect. So if someone from one of those states is selling CBD oil, it's legal—but if they live in one of the 10 states that haven't yet passed a pilot program to produce hemp, it's technically against the law. Most CBD products should specify on the label whether they were produced in a Farm Bill-compliant state.

What to Know Before You Try It

Although CBD is a very low-risk, plant-based medicine, Bissex points out that there are some small potential side effects. Some people report experiencing some fatigue, dry mouth and vivid dreams, but these are typically lessened after a couple of weeks. CBD may also increase or decrease the effectiveness of certain medications, so check with a health professional before pairing it with an existing prescription.

If you're considering trying CBD oil—whether to relieve soreness after exercise or to treat other symptoms—it's always best to talk to your doctor first, and to check the laws in your state.