Push the limits: How to use CBD for extreme sport?
Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.
Ready to feel your heart beating like mad and a rush of adrenaline shocking your entire body like electricity? Various extreme sports combine high speeds, tall heights, and real risks. Due to their popularity in media and film, as well as competitions with big-name sponsors, there are more than 100 types of extreme sports. Unfortunately, the inherent danger of some stunts and a lack of immediate medical care in some extreme sports can result in various injuries, some life-threatening.
Fueling the body with proper nutrition and supplements is always important, but becomes crucial when participating in extreme sports. Athletes can be incredibly hard on their bodies. Proper fuel helps to enhance exercise and athletic performance, and promotes proper recovery afterwards.
Cannabidiol and CBD-infused products became a wellness trend in the sports world. CBD is natural, non-toxic, and has many potential benefits for athletes. Numerous studies suggest CBD's benefits for the training-induced pain and inflammation, anxiety, lack of energy and focus. Hundreds of CBD products hit the shelves, so you can choose the most appropriate concentration and product for your extreme routine whether you perform Pop Shuvit on a BMX or Bikeflip tricks on a skateboard. Let's see how CBD consumption helps to stay fit and do whatever you love.
Our bodies have a unique system for dealing with cannabinoids, known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The primary purpose of the ECS is to maintain the inner balance (also known as homeostasis), which it accomplishes by adjusting the activity of neurons and keeping neurotransmitter levels in check (essentially regulating many of the brain’s chemical messengers). The system consists of cannabinoids, CB1 and CB2 receptors, and enzymes. CB1 receptors are located in the brain and spinal cord, while CB2 receptors are mostly found in the immune system.
Cannabinoids already exist in your body (known as endocannabinoids). However, when we think of cannabinoids, we are typically thinking of the ‘phytocannabinoids’ found naturally in the cannabis plant, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and can't cause any ‘high’ effect. Cannabidiol also does not bind to cannabinoid receptors, but still causes therapeutic effects in a different way. Consuming CBD helps to supplement and modulate the activity of the body's endocannabinoid system.
As an athlete, you may push yourself hard and experience significant stress, which may result in pain and inflammation. Adding CBD to your daily routine might be just the thing to help get your body back under control and maintain balance.
Extreme sports trauma
Involving breathtaking stunts, high speeds, and higher risk factors, one thing is for sure: extreme sports can lead to injuries. They can take place in remote locations and places where medical care is not easily available. Additionally, environmental factors, such as snow, can pose additional risks outside of human control. Here are the most common extreme sports, and the injuries associated with them:
- Mountain biking. This kind of extreme sport is often called 'the new golf,' as riders travel around the country in search of new trails. This racing sport is usually set on rough terrains, such as rocks, mountain or desert with specially designed bikes. Riders compete in various places, trying to stay on bikes. Off-road biking can result in abrasions and lacerations, pain in knees and lower back, shoulder and hands injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Climbing. According to the Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC), up to 1 million people climb independently indoors each year, and 100,000 people climb regularly. These numbers are growing by 15-20% a year. There are many variations of climbing, such as speed climbing, ice climbing, bouldering, and rope-free climbing. Although some are riskier than others, a fall from any height can lead to severe injuries. Some of the most common forms of trauma include tears in the shoulder muscles and partial dislocation of the shoulder, sprained fingers, as well as inflammation or irritation of tendons in the shoulders, elbows, and forearms.
- Skateboarding. A popular sport, recreational activity, and mode of transportation, skateboarding emerged in Los Angeles and spread all over the world. Skaters doing 'ollie' on their decks is more than skilful sport, but a lifestyle and artform. Skateboarding became such a popular sport that it was planned to be represented at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (rescheduled for 2021). Severe injuries are relatively rare. Skateboarding ‘concrete surfers’ may suffer from abrasions and lacerations, concussions, sprains and strains, broken bones, wrist injuries, broken noses, or broken jawbones.
- Skiing and snowboarding. Skiing is thought to be easy to learn, but hard to master. In turn, snowboarding is harder to learn but it is easier to improve. Research by the National Ski Areas Association in the USA has shown that snowboarding is less deadly than skiing. There are many variations of snowboarding, including snow scooting (when you slide down the slopes on a special scooter) and ski touring (which involves walking up hills with "skins" on your skis), or skijoring (which means skiing behind a horse, dogs or a skidoo). The most common injuries of these extreme winter sports include knee tears and sprains, fractures, and ‘skier's thumb’.
- Skydiving and parachuting. The latter involves some elements of skydiving, such as free-falling before using a parachute. Skydiving primarily involves jumping from an aeroplane. However, there may be variations to this, such as BASE, which involves jumping from a bridge or arch; and Earth, which includes jumping from a cliff or other natural formation lower than 500 ft above ground. These extreme sports combine an adrenaline rush with the chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery of nature. Most injuries happen upon landing, and include abrasions, lacerations, concussions, fractures, neck and back injuries.
- Surfing. Balancing the force of gravity while riding waves gained its popularity from films, music, and clothing. According to the International Surfing Association (ISA), there are up to 25 million surfers all over the world. Surfing has multiple variants and purposes, such as a recreational activity, a competitive sport, a lifestyle, or simply as a spiritual connection with nature. It gave birth to other boardsports, such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, kneeboarding, and skimboarding, all of which are considered part of the surfing family. Although surfing is considered one of the safest extreme sports, it may still result in injuries. The most common surfing traumas include lacerations, head injuries, shoulder strains, and back pain caused by wipeouts.
- BMX, which stands for bicycle motocross or bike motocross, is performed on BMX bikes. It is a way to explore some new territories on wheels and create your own adventure, while enjoying a great scene around you. There may be variations, such as competitive BMX racing, freestyle BMX, or on/off-road rides. Racing on BMX bikes is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. There are no suspensions on the bikes, and riders' bodies become the shock absorbers. It takes a lot of effort to maintain speed and control of your bike in the air. Additionally, BMX riding requires extreme mental focus. The most common injuries are concussions, fractures, sprains, and pain in the back.
- Martial arts. This includes a whole host of full-contact combat sports based on striking, grappling, and ground fighting. Popular disciplines range from stand-up to clinch and ground styles. Although martial arts look aggressive, they are not about promoting violence (if taught appropriately). Instead, the practice of martial arts helps to learn self-discipline and self-defence. Martial arts promote muscle strength, better balance, and self-esteem. The most commonly injured body region is the head, followed by the wrist and hands. The most frequent injuries you may experience while participating in martial arts include laceration, fracture, concussion, and nosebleeds.
A 2015 study published in the US Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine evaluated 4 million extreme sports injuries featured in the X Games. Scientists acquired data from 7 sports and over 4 million injuries between 2000 and 2011. The most prevalent traumas were head or neck injuries (11.3%). The four sports with the highest total incidence of such an injury were skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, and motocross.
This isn't meant to discourage participation in extreme sports. However, the awareness of these risks may encourage you to prepare thoroughly, seek medical attention in case of an accident, and wear protective gear where appropriate.
How can CBD benefit extreme sport athletes?
Inflammation and pain reduction
Extreme athletes often suffer from inflammation and muscle pain after training. But, when it comes to extreme sports, injuries and chronic pain are inevitable. Inflammation is a normal bodily reaction after intensive exercise. That helps to promote positive training adaptations. However, excessive inflammation in the body can slow down performance and recovery, and result in pain.
One of the most common types of pain athletes experience is inflammatory pain. This happens when you have worked your muscles and body to the max. Studies have shown that CBD may cause an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect. Cannabinoids have been shown to suppress immune responses by reducing inflammation. If you want to know more about how cannabinoids can alleviate swelling-induced pain, we suggest that you read this study.
CBD for extreme sports can be taken before or after exercising to manage swelling. However, you should experiment with different doses to find out what works best for you.
Drugs, commonly used for inflammatory pain, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can have many severe side effects. Therefore, CBD may be considered a more natural, less toxic way for inflammatory pain alleviation. In terms of muscle-specific inflammation, CBD may contribute to muscle strength and coordination, as well as a decrease in tissue degeneration.
To sum up, research has shown CBD's potential for reducing inflammation and pain, which is especially useful for extreme athletes and those who people train intensively.
Recovery time boost
Hard training can tear the muscles and fatigue the body. On the one hand, exercising promotes muscle growth. Overtraining can result in a longer recovery. Therefore, the body requires support so it can fully recover, and risks of injury are minimized. Cannabidiol may act as a natural support for the body's recovery process and help shorten the recovery time. The physical stress we undergo as a result of practicing extreme sports can increase oxidative damage, which can slow down recovery and hinder performance. CBD can help to reduce oxidative stress and possibly promote faster recovery; with the potential of decreasing the time it takes to recover from an accident or intense workout.
Stress and anxiety reduction
High-intensity training may overstimulate the central nervous system (CNS), which makes it more active. Chronic overtraining may lead to central nervous system burnout and slow down your performance. The recovery process helps to avoid CNS fatigue. Studies suggest that CBD may help balance neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, which helps to support it.
The highly competitive environment of extreme sports can lead to mood swings and feelings of anxiety regarding performance. If stress impacts motivation and concentration, it can suppress your ability to achieve goals. Due to its purported anxiolytic properties, CBD may also relieve stress, help with motivational disorders, and performance anxiety.
Therefore, if low mood impacts your performance, or you experience pre-competition worries, CBD may provide relief and help you get in the mood.
Improved sleep quality
Restful sleep is crucial for overall health, and one of the most effective ways to achieve greater training results. Some studies show that sleep deprivation can increase the stress hormone (known as cortisol). The lack of sleep can also decrease the production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are needed for energy during training. In brief, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of low energy, fatigue, poor concentration, and slow recovery.
Sleep disorders may be caused by many factors, such as stress, anxiety, coffee, certain medications, and some health conditions. All of it can interrupt your sleep cycle, keeping you awake at night. CBD has shown to possibly improve sleep quality by reducing stress and anxiety.
Research in 2019 considered the effects of CBD on sleep and anxiety. The study evaluated 72 adult patients with anxiety or sleep problems. Within the first month, 79.2% experienced reduced levels of anxiety, and 66.7% reported better sleep.
Excessive training and muscle overuse can lead to painful muscle spasms and slow down performance. Due to its reported antispasmodic properties, CBD may reduce the frequency and severity of muscle spasms. Additionally, CBD can perhaps improve recovery by supporting muscle relaxation. Whether you are a professional athlete or simply enjoy your exercise, it is common to experience muscle cramps and soreness that can challenge your daily routine. Fortunately, CBD may be just the thing to counteract the negative effects of intense excercise. Cannabidiol is thought to promote relaxation by affecting certain areas of the nervous system that can calm the body. To sum up, CBD can benefit muscle recovery, both before and after a workout. By fostering relaxation, you can alleviate muscle tension and spasms.
Energy boost and better focus
Extreme sports require a high level of physical energy and focus. So, if a person feels tired and lacks concentration, it may be difficult to perform and the risk of injury can increase. There is some evidence that CBD may help to maintain energy levels and keep better focus. Unlike coffee, CBD does not boost your energy through caffeine. Instead, it may support the areas of your brain that keep you juiced up, ready for reaching greater heights (especially if your sport of choice is rock climbing).
Researchers administered CBD to specific areas and have found that it might affect energy-inducing neurons. Animal studies have shown similar results, as CBD could induce drowsiness.
CBD has shown to bind with dopamine in the brain, which plays several important roles in the brain and body, such as focus, memory, and mental awareness. Additionally, CBD can help you to focus by interacting with serotonin (‘feel-good’) receptors and decreasing anxiety.
As you already know, CBD can also help you to relax and reduce stress, while at the same time it may keep you active. The thing is that CBD in low doses can stimulate you, while CBD in high doses causes a sedative effect. Some people have even started drinking CBD-infused coffee, which boosts energy without anxiousness.
A 2018 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that CBD does not seem to have the potential for misuse or dependence compared to other pain-relieving substances, such as THC and opioids. However, CBD can cause side effects, such as dry mouth, diarrhoea, appetite loss, and drowsiness. In 2020, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) released safety advice on CBD consumption for consumers and a strict warning to manufacturers. The FSA warns pregnant or breastfeeding women and those taking any medication against CBD products consumption. Healthy adults are recommended not to exceed 70mg of CBD per day, which is equal to 28 drops of 5% CBD, unless specifically directed to by a medical professional.
According to a 2018 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, women are not recommended to take cannabis products during pregnancy, considering that CBD may pass through the placental barrier and impose potential risks upon a baby's development.
In any case, if you consider using CBD oil to manage a health condition, make sure to consult with your doctor to ensure that it is the best option for you.
Is CBD legal for athletes?
In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances, mostly based on scientific evidence that cannabidiol is safe for human consumption, even at very high doses (such as 1500 mg per day). Other products, including cannabis, hashish, marijuana, and THC, are forbidden for use in competition. Regulators aim to prohibit cannabinoids that mimic the effect of THC.
WADA set a threshold of 150 nanograms per millilitre in urine for THC. There is no such threshold for other substances on the Prohibited List, which means that the detection of the smallest amount of THC in urine is considered an Adverse Analytical Finding.
As for the UK, CBD products are legal, and can be used at the athlete's own risk. Therefore, CBD products are regarded as dietary supplements. Despite its legal status, athletes must still consider the risk of accidentally taking a CBD product that contains a high THC concentration, or a high concentration of other cannabinoids prohibited in sport. This may happen if:
- a CBD product is contaminated with a THC-rich species of plant;
- manufacturers use the wrong part of the cannabis plant.
It is an important point that, if an athlete consumed a CBD product that resulted in an Adverse Analytical Finding for THC or any other illegal substances, the use of a legal CBD product would not mitigate the fault of the athlete and would not change the outcomes associated with any Adverse Analytical Finding.
How can I use CBD for performance and recovery?
CBD-infused products have already hit the shelves. Beyond CBD oils, there are many other forms, such as capsules, drinks, sprays, oils, and topicals to choose from. The choice is up to you! Before you make any choices, though, let's look at the facts.
The way you ingest CBD can affect how soon you experience the effects. For example, CBD oil, capsules and edibles take more time to absorb as compared to topicals, while tinctures can be taken sublingually (under your tongue) to be absorbed faster. CBD products for athletes also come in different forms:
- CBD infused-topicals. Muscle rubs and balms are the most practical CBD products in sport. Topical products can provide more targeted effects of hemp. Infused with plant-based extracts, moisturizers, and essential oils, they help to relieve pain, and soothe tired and aching muscles.
- CBD oils and tinctures are easy to take: you can take a few drops under your tongue, or simply add it to your favourite food and drinks. CBD oils can help to increase energy levels during training, and boost energy before a workout. Such products can also enhance your recovery and sleep, provide relief from tight muscles and joint pain, improve focus and clarity, and help boost your immune system.
- CBD protein. This supplement can be easily added to your daily diet. Protein powder infused with CBD may help to develop strong muscle, promote recovery, and potentially help when it comes to dieting. Usually, this powder tastes great, whether mixed with water or milk.
- CBD drinks for athletes vary from water to sports drinks with sugar and electrolytes. Besides its pleasant taste, these substances can help you to feel more active during your workout and stay hydrated. Due to their possible pain-relieving effects, cannabidiol drinks for athletes may help with muscle soreness. Taking a few sips of a CBD sports drink before sleep may help you to relax, prevent jitters, and rest up before the big game.
- CBD gummies and capsules usually contain a lower CBD dosage than other methods of consumption. CBD edibles can help with the same issues as CBD oils, such as inflammation and muscle soreness. They may also combine different additives, such as melatonin and turmeric, for faster recovery. Additionally, CBD gummies come in a rainbow of different flavours, so you’re sure to find something you like.
You can experiment with different CBD products to find what’s best for you, in terms of method and dosage. It is important to keep track of your CBD intake, typically using milligrams as a measurement unit. Being aware of how much CBD you consume every day, ensures you are taking the correct dosage for you, even if you are using multiple products at once. If you are new to CBD, try taking different products in isolation first, before mixing them. It's important to remember that CBD oil or tincture taken sublingually will have a different effect on your body than a CBD capsule. You should reduce your daily CBD intake if you start to feel nauseous or tired, and never take CBD without consulting your doctor first, especially if you are on mainstream medication.
What CBD type should I choose?
There are three major types of CBD available on the market:
- CBD isolate contains only cannabidiol, without other cannabinoids. It is a good option for newcomers and those who would like to take pure CBD, but cannot ingest any THC.
- Full-spectrum CBD includes all compounds naturally-occurring in the cannabis plant, such as terpenes, essential vitamins, fatty acids, protein, and THC (though THC should only be present in small concentrations and certainly never enough to get you ‘high’).
- Broad-spectrum CBD contains various cannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis plant, but has no THC.
Some research has shown that cannabinoids combined can produce the so-called entourage effect. This means that the medicinal effects of cannabinoids used together are more substantial than either cannabinoid used alone. If you would like to feel the full therapeutic benefits of the entourage effect, full-spectrum CBD may be the right option for you. If you're sensitive to THC or would like to avoid it, you may try broad-spectrum CBD. That is how you experience some benefits of the entourage effect but without THC. If you would like to enjoy pure CBD, with no entourage effect, CBD isolate may be your best product.
How much CBD should I take?
It may sound tricky, but there is no universal dose when it comes to CBD. Due to unclear regulations, there may be some inconsistencies in the CBD concentration in different products. It also depends on how you consume CBD in the form of oil, tinctures, gummies, cookies, or drinks.
The most precise way to ingest CBD is probably through capsules or gummies, as they are pre-dosed. Otherwise, you can calculate the CBD dosage of a tincture or oil, considering body weight, health condition, CBD concentration, and doctor's recommendations.
CBD can affect everyone differently. Therefore, if you're new to CBD, the general recommendation is to start with the lowest dosage suggested on the product instructions. Then you can increase the CBD amount gradually to figure out what benefits you most.
How to choose the best CBD product?
One big concern is the purity of CBD products. The best way to ensure you’re buying only high quality CBD is to ask for the Certificate of Analysis (COA). This document shows the exact composition of the products. It ensures that it is free from possible contaminants such as solvent residue, pesticides, or heavy metals; and that it has THC within the legal limit. A COA is often available by request or on the manufacturer's website.
It is also important to purchase CBD products from reputable brands. The best CBD products:
- are made from organic hemp and 100% natural ingredients without artificial flavourings or sweeteners;
- contain CBD taken with the use of precise extraction methods, such as supercritical CO2 extraction;
- do not exceed legal THC limits, according to the COA;
- pass the tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and moulds, according to the COA;
- are third-party lab-tested and have the relevant COA to show this.
Some other important factors worth considering when selecting an ideal CBD product include:
- list of ingredients;
- the manufacturer's certifications;
- CBD concentration;
- customer reviews.
Recently, CBD has been gaining attention in the world of extreme sports. More and more athletes have become curious about CBD's potential. When it comes to CBD for sports, there haven't been enough studies suggesting that CBD may be beneficial for athletic performance. On the one hand, CBD may help them relieve pain, reduce pre-workout anxiety, boost energy, and recover faster from exhausting workouts. On the other hand, no scientific evidence suggests that CBD can enhance athletic ability directly or alone. It is not a magic pill that will turn you into an unbeatable machine; only practice, a healthy lifestyle, and determination can do that.
To get the most out of cannabidiol, you should pay attention to the quality of the product. The best option is a hemp-derived, third-party lab-tested CBD product from a reputable brand. If you're new to CBD, start with a lower dose and do not use it before an athletic competition or workout being unaware of its effects on your body. If you become comfortable with CBD’s effects, you can increase your doses and take it before or after exercise. You can also experiment with various CBD products. Besides the well-known oils, tinctures and capsules, there are also CBD pre-workout drinks and muscle balms, specially formulated to supplement your workout routine.
Although CBD is of natural origin and is generally well-tolerated, you should seek medical advice before trying it. This is especially important if you have a specific health condition or take prescription medications. Stay fit, reach new heights, and be well.