The internet has had a mind-boggling effect on how we live our lives – we are now in the information age, and knowledge is at our fingertips. It’s therefore no surprise that people are looking for new ways – or “life hacks” – to improve their general wellbeing and make life a little bit easier.
Perhaps nowhere are these unconventional tricks more in demand than with fitness and exercise. We’re all looking for an extra edge so that sweaty and strenuous work doesn’t go to waste, and so that we don’t feel as stiff as a board after a workout. You may be surprised to hear that, providing it’s used wisely, cannabis could become an integral part of your fitness regime.
“How?” you may be wondering. In a nutshell, cannabis science has evolved at an unprecedented level in recent decades and the industry has greatly expanded the range of products available – cannabis isn’t just a plant to be smoked anymore. Nowadays, there are healthier ways to receive its benefits, such as cannabis oils, and products that are especially helpful for post-exercise self-care, like massage gels.
Furthermore, taking cannabis no longer has to be a psychoactive experience, thanks to the introduction of cannabidiol (CBD) products. These are made with cannabis or hemp extracts that are rich in CBD and low in intoxicating delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Now users can avoid the “high,” those who once would have baulked at taking cannabis are giving it a second look.
In this post, we will investigate the therapeutic properties of CBD and the advantages of regulating the endocannabinoid system (ECS), with the spotlight on exercise and fitness.
What is CBD?
CBD’s medicinal properties are not a recent find, but for decades they remained mysterious – this has changed somewhat with the discovery of the ECS, as researchers can now see how CBD impacts the system’s receptors, endocannabinoids and catabolic enzymes. Another reason why CBD’s properties have taken so long to emerge is because THC has received most attention, even among medical researchers. THC was critical to the finding of the ECS, as anandamide is the endogenous analogue of THC.
CBD is an antagonist of both cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). This explains why CBD is non-psychoactive, as these effects are produced by agonists of the CB1 receptor. Therefore, CBD is not a replacement for endocannabinoids; instead, it props up concentrations of endocannabinoids, helping the ECS to function naturally.
Regulating the ECS helps to control the body’s perception of pain, keep the immune system balanced, promote good cognition and memory and more. Cannabinoid receptors are located all over the body, with CB1 receptors primarily in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors mostly in the peripheral nervous system, and specifically immune tissues and white blood cells.
While THC continues to be highly restricted in countries without pro-cannabis legislation, CBD is widely available. Hemp-derived CBD oils, edibles and e-liquids contain either no THC or mere traces in products described as full or broad-spectrum. The amount of THC permitted in the latter varies from country to country, but in the United States, this limit is set at 0.3 percent.
Examples of how CBD regulates the endocannabinoid system
Let’s delve into how CBD helps to manage pain, boost mood and fight fatigue, all of which can be helpful for exercise.
Pain management with CBD
Coping with aches and pains is a harsh reality of keeping it, but there’s no need to sit and suffer. With the help of CBD, this discomfort can be blissfully dissolved, making exercise much more satisfying.
The analgesic properties of CBD come from how the cannabinoid indirectly activates both the CB1 receptor and the vanilloid receptor – the latter is not part of the ECS but is known to influence the body’s sensitivity to heat and pain.
Stopping the catabolic enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) from breaking down anandamide is the mechanism which makes CBD an analgesic. Anandamide then binds with the aforementioned receptors to alleviate pain.
Boosting mood with CBD
Getting the motivation to dive into a high-intensity workout can be a challenge – some days we wake up and just don’t feel up to it. However, CBD vape oil and e-liquid can positively realign mindset, providing the necessary motivation to push ourselves to the limit.
Once again, anandamide is integral to this process. It turns out that this neurotransmitter is behind the slightly euphoric effect that comes from breaking through the pain barrier while exercise, which is commonly referred to as the “runner’s high.” Mood is regulated via the CB1 receptors in the brain that anandamide binds to. Moreover, CBD is an agonist of the 5-HT1A receptor. Also involved with mood regulation, this receptor is targeted by many antidepressant drugs.
Scientists still have much to learn in regard to how mood levels are affected in the body, but most importantly, CBD is safe, non-addictive and helps to put us in good spirits.
If you haven’t got the energy, then you can’t hit the gym or go for a run at full tilt. That’s why getting a full, quality night’s sleep is essential, where muscles and tissues can heal, and the body can restore its energy levels for the day ahead.
In large doses, CBD can be a potent sedative, promoting the deep sleep required to carry out that healing and energy-boosting work. The most useful CBD products for sleep are those which are ingested, as these stretch out the duration of effects from two to three hours, to seven or eight. For sleep purposes, the lengthier relief is more suitable than a shorter burst.
Building muscle with CBD
The hormonal effects of lifting weights to build muscle are complex, and the combination has to be just right for significant muscle growth to occur. When strength training, the body enjoys a spike in testosterone, which facilitates bone and muscle building, but levels of the stress hormone cortisol unhelpfully increase as well. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, and its reductive impact on protein synthesis inhibits the muscle growth process.
But the anti-catabolic properties of CBD help to block the negative effects of cortisol. CBD interferes with cortisol secretion, as initially confirmed by a study conducted in Brazil in 1993. This finding that CBD can reduce levels of cortisol means that taking CBD prior to a training session will help to boost total muscle growth.
If using capsules, edibles or CBD drinks, then dosing up an hour or two before working out will yield the most benefits. If vaping, then do so a few minutes before starting to lift.
Advantages of various CBD products for exercise
In this section, we’ll look at the fitness uses for CBD vape juice, CBD edibles and CBD topicals (e.g. lotions and creams).
CBD vape juice
Vape juice is perfect for when an instant hit of CBD is required. This could be just before going cycling or strength training, or to provide rapid relief from aches and stiffness after working out.
Unlike with THC, CBD users can happily consume large quantities without having to worry about short-term impairment, as CBD is well-tolerated by the body, poses no overdose risk and does not affect mental clarity.
Non-smokers may have reservations about vaporizing, even though no lung-damaging carcinogens are formed during the heating process. However, a good alternative for those steadfastly against vaping is CBD oil, which is only slightly slower to take effect.
CBD edibles are more effective at treating chronic pain than acute pain and are therefore ideal for lingering discomfort. However, edibles can also be used for the above purposes, so long as they are taken an hour earlier.
The expression of cannabinoid and vanilloid receptors in the skin means that CBD creams can be used to manage localized pain, muscle stiffness and general aches.