Self-care is absolutely essential when you are exercising regularly, and this goes beyond simply stretching before a workout to prevent injury. We all suffer from aches and pains when pushing the body to new limits but using opioid-based prescription painkillers to relieve that discomfort can cause more harm than good. High cortisol levels can also be problematic when attempting to build muscle.
Interestingly, an increasingly popular constituent of the cannabis plant may help in both areas. Cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive, which means CBD products won’t make you euphoric and incredibly hungry while impairing your short-term memory and judgment, as often happens with cannabis high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is part of a special group of compounds known as cannabinoids, which impact the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Hemp and cannabis plants are the main sources of cannabinoids, although it’s feasible that they are present in other obscure plants. Researchers have so far identified 113 cannabinoids, although only a handful have been studied comprehensively.
In this post, we will look at the benefits that ECS regulation may have for exercise, and why promoting balance in this system is vital for our physical and psychological happiness. We’ll also check out which CBD products are most beneficial for exercise and recovery.
Introducing CBD: cannabis with a non-psychoactive twist
Scientific and public interest in cannabis has historically been centered around THC, because of its peculiar psychoactive effects and intriguing medicinal properties. Recreational users are mostly concerned about the THC concentration of a strain, since this indicates how “high” it will make them.
As a consequence, non-psychoactive CBD took a back seat for decades. While researchers found some impressive therapeutic benefits, such as CBD’s anti-psychotic potential, the mechanisms in which the cannabinoid produced these effects was a conundrum until the final decade of the 20th century. But everything changed when the ECS was unearthed by world-leading cannabis researchers in Israel.
This discovery was remarkable, as it showed that cannabis could have a therapeutic effect on so many aspects of health, including immune system response, appetite, memory, mood, bone health, cognition, pain perception and reproductive health. Medical scientists still only have a partial understanding of the ECS, and it may take decades to understand all of the effects that cannabinoids have on receptors inside and outside of this system.
CBD and THC are both cannabinoids with a few shared properties (both are potent anti-inflammatories), although their influence on the ECS could not be more different. THC is a partial agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD is an antagonist of them. To oversimplify matters, this signifies that THC’s effect on the ECS is direct, while CBD’s is indirect. And indeed, CBD elevates levels of endocannabinoids, while THC essentially replaces them by binding straight to the receptor.
The development of CBD science has been life-changing for some patients, most notably children with intractable epilepsy conditions, who cannot be treated with standard anti-seizure medication. While some patients require cannabis oil treatment with THC, others enjoy unprecedented relief from CBD-rich extracts alone. CBD is helping to advance medical cannabis legislation all over the world, by showing to politicians and the rest of society the benefits of the plant, without putting focus on the herb’s psychoactive effects.
How CBD regulates the endocannabonoid system
The endocannabinoids in the ECS are also neurotransmitters, and these send important messages which help to regulate the functions we touched on earlier. CBD increases anandamide concentrations by affecting the process that causes the endocannabinoid to be broken down. Initial research on animals indicated that CBD was an inhibitor of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), an enzyme which catabolizes anandamide. The theory went that stopping this degradation increased anandamide levels, which could then regulate the ECS by binding with cannabinoid receptors.
This hypothesis was almost correct. In fact, CBD stops anandamide from ever reaching the FAAH enzyme by connecting with fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs). This stops FABPs from transporting anandamide to the FAAH enzyme, thereby preventing its degradation. Several medical scientists believe that a similar effect happens with CBD and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), the second-most abundant endocannabinoid in the ECS.
CBD and cortisol
In 1993, a placebo-controlled, double-blind study was published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, showing that CBD could significantly reduce cortisol levels by interfering with the secretion process.
Even more importantly, CBD modulates cortisol levels rather than totally stopping production. Cortisol is a critical hormone which helps to flush out toxins in the liver. Cortisol is also an essential component of the ‘fight or flight response’, which is activated when the body detects a dangerous situation and possible threat to survival. This response can temporarily improve peak mental and physical performance, which explains stories of superhuman strength. But back to CBD and cortisol: the cannabinoid simply regulates production so that it’s available in concentrations helpful for the body.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone and causes muscle tissue deterioration. This can be detrimental for those looking to build muscle, as high concentrations of cortisol can negate the benefits of strength training – hitting the gym regularly and following all the muscle-building routines, only to end up with no growth can be rather depressing. However, since CBD lowers cortisol, it could have great potential for bodybuilders and those just trying to bulk up.
Strength training and hormones
Testosterone is a vital hormone for muscle and bone growth, and levels of this hormone are briefly boosted during strength training routines. But this type of workout also increases cortisol levels, which threaten to cancel out the muscle building facilitated by the testosterone.
Cortisol is always going to be produced when working out, but the downsides of this are manageable providing that stress levels are generally kept low. However, it’s when this doesn’t happen that strength training becomes a fruitless endeavour.
Harnessing CBD’s anti-catabolic effects with CBD vape oil and e-liquid help ensure those sets and reps don’t go to waste. Vaping is recommended for reducing cortisol because it starts doing so just minutes after consumption – this is really convenient, as one can vape before a training session, and then receive the benefits for the duration. However, for those who have reservations about vaporizing, the onset of action is only slightly slower with CBD oil, which is absorbed into the bloodstream by tissues under the tongue.
Post-workout uses for CBD
CBD has some useful sleep-regulating properties, which can help to reduce stress and fatigue, increasing energy levels for a workout. CBD edibles are a common choice for increasing sleep duration, as the sedative effects typically last throughout the night. People who exercise strenuously several times a week need the rejuvenation that deep sleep provides for muscles and various body tissues. Moreover, a healthy and consistent sleeping pattern can also have a neuroprotective effect, as neurotoxins can be more easily cleared from the brain by cerebrospinal fluid, which enters the organ during deep sleep.
Many sportsmen and women experience muscle spasms due to nerve damage or muscle strains. Recovery time varies from a few days to a few weeks depending on the muscles affected, but CBD has valuable antispasmodic properties which hasten the process.
Mild aches and pains can usually be handled by resting up and soothing the muscles with an Epsom salt bath, or perhaps even a massage. However, more severe pain may require further treatment. However, there are good reasons to avoid opioid-based painkillers, as they can cause physical dependence and tolerance. Over time, increasingly stronger medication is often necessary to deliver the same relief, and with opioids, overdoses are concerningly common. Thankfully, opioids are not the only way to reduce pain levels.
CBD’s pain-relieving properties are complex but can be boiled down to the CB1 receptor and the vanilloid receptor, both of which can be found in the skin. By making more anandamide available, CBD indirectly helps to alleviate pain via the CB1 receptor, while directly reducing pain at the vanilloid receptor as a partial agonist. Anandamide is also an agonist of the vanilloid receptor.
As these receptors are present in the skin, topical products infused with CBD can have a potent analgesic effect on localized pain. Activating receptors in sensitive areas by rubbing in a CBD cream or salve helps ease the pain, minus side effects and intoxication.
Cannabinoid research is developing fast, and one key takeaway from the new science is that cannabis doesn’t just have value as a medicine, but as a plant that promotes general wellness. Combine this with the innovation of CBD and whole-plant cannabis companies, and the result is a rapidly-growing industry with a long list of exciting products that fully capitalize on the herb’s endocannabinoid system-regulating features.
For instance, when quick pain relief or fast cortisol reduction is required, CBD e-liquids and tincture oils can be very effective. But when long-lasting relaxation is needed, CBD edibles are on hand. Meanwhile, in addition to reducing pain, CBD topicals also provide protection to the muscles by minimizing any microdamage.