CBD Muscle Recovery: What You Need to Know

CBD and muscle recovery: woman stretching before a run

Posted on August 29th, 2021

If you’ve ever worked out hard, you’ve probably experienced stiffness and pain  24 to 48 hours later. And this soreness is normal, regardless of how fit you are or how frequently you exercise. In medical terms, it’s called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Now, there are several ways to help speed up your DOMS or muscle recovery, But can CBD help? 

What Causes Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

We believe DOMS is the result of tiny microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. And they’re caused by high-intensity workouts. Basically, your body reacts to this damage by increasing muscle inflammation. Then, as inflammation builds, you develop muscle soreness. Each time you work your muscles differently, or harder than they’re used to, you’ll likely experience DOMS.

While it can be uncomfortable, DOMS shouldn’t be a cause for concern. After all, it’s just part of the natural and healthy process in which your body adapts to new conditions. 

It’s also worth noting that by repeating the same routines with the same intensity, you’ll experience less soreness. This is because, eventually, your muscles grow more robust and resistant to the same degree of exertion. 

Common Treatments for DOMS

Depending on your body and workout intensity, DOMS can last for 3 to 5 days. Common treatments to speed up the recovery process include: 

  • Massage therapy
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
  • Getting enough rest
  • Ice packs

Today, cannabidiol or CBD is gaining attention as a popular post-workout inflammation product. (That’s especially true amongst professional athletes.) And, since most athletes don’t want to wait 3 to 5 days to resume training, they may look to CBD products to speed up recovery. 

Man pulling Tanasi CBD tincture out of bagWhat Exactly Is CBD? 

While you might not be familiar with the scientific term cannabidiol, you may have heard of CBD. (And its many potential benefits!) Cannabidiol is one of the better-known active ingredients present in the cannabis plant. However, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is another well-known organic compound, CBD doesn’t cause a ‘high’ as it doesn’t have the THC’s psychoactive properties. Due to this factor, CBD isn’t considered a drug in most countries around the world, but it is oftentimes regulated. It’s also a preferred option for many people who want to experience the benefits of the cannabis plant but don’t want the psychoactive effects.  

CBD is derived from a specific type of cannabis plant known as hemp. While it belongs in the same species as the marijuana plant, hemp plants produce a low amount of THC. And legally, CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC trace content. 

CBD products come in many different forms, such as oils, capsules, gummies, cookies, vapes, lotions, balms, coffee, etc. This means that there are diverse ways of consuming CBD; it all depends on your preference. 

CBD is known for its potential to help a wide range of conditions, including symptoms of depression and anxiety, pain, acne, inflammation, sleep problems, among others. But did you know that CBD may also help accelerate muscle recovery?

How Does CBD Work?

You may be wondering, how is CBD able to achieve all these suggested benefits? Basically, CBD works by interacting with a subsystem present in the bodies of all mammals rather than targeting a single organ. This subsystem is referred to as the endocannabinoid system.  

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating homeostasis in the body. This means that its purpose is to maintain balance within the body. Things like temperature, energy, and hormone levels need to be maintained within a certain range. If they aren’t within this specific range, then the body can suffer adverse effects. 

The body produces its own cannabinoids known as endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids bind to G-protein-coupled receptors/endocannabinoid receptors and help keep internal functions running more smoothly. They signal the endocannabinoid system to take a particular action. 

CBD works with these receptors and might alter their structure in such a way that it allows endocannabinoids to bind to them more effectively. Additionally, CBD inhibits an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which is responsible for breaking down anandamide, a key endocannabinoid. Thus, CBD helps the endocannabinoid system to work more effectively.

How Could CBD Help With Muscle Recovery?

CBD may help with muscle recovery in several ways including, reducing inflammation, relaxing muscle tissues, potentially enhancing satellite cell differentiation in the muscles, relieving acute pain in the muscles, improving the quality of sleep, and so on. 

Reducing Inflammation

This is probably the most significant way in which CBD may help with muscle recovery. While inflammation is meant to help in the recovery of damaged muscle fibers – by increasing blood flow to the area, thus providing oxygen and essential nutrients – it also affects larger muscle groups and joints that haven’t been injured. As a result, inflammation often causes collateral damage to these unaffected areas, which slows the recovery process. This is where CBD comes in.

CBD has the potential to minimize unwanted inflammation while still preserving the beneficial aspects of the inflammatory response. Various studies have found that it might achieve this by inhibiting various inflammatory molecules that tend to slow the recovery process without affecting useful molecules such as IL-10. IL-10 and other inflammatory markers tend to stimulate satellite cells in the muscles after damage, which helps to speed up the recovery process. It is also suggested that CBD may cause an increase in IL-10.

Women stretching and using CBD topicalsReducing Muscle Tension

Delayed onset muscle soreness is also characterized by muscle tension. Tension in the muscles around the damaged areas can intensify the pain.

While there are some types of prescription drugs used to ease muscle tension known as benzodiazepines, which include drugs such as Valium, these drugs have a high risk of side effects such as confusion, sedation, and depression. In addition, they are highly addictive.

These drugs work by targeting Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, which are essential in regulating muscle relaxation.

CBD may work in a similar way as benzodiazepines. However, CBD doesn’t come with the risk of adverse side-effects.

Relieving Pain

Anecdotal and scientific research suggests that CBD may have powerful pain-relieving properties. Pain in the muscles can deter anyone from engaging in their daily activities and cause great discomfort. It can prevent athletes from going back to the gym or training, which can put them at a disadvantage. However, with reduced pain, you might find more comfort between your workout sessions, and therefore, could get back to the gym faster.

CBD may help to alleviate pain in three key ways:

  • Minimizing transmission of inflammatory signals
  • Preventing the transmission of pain in the spinal cord and brain
  • Minimizing sensitivity to pain via vanilloid receptors

It May Enhance the Quality and Duration of Sleep

When it comes to muscle injury and various other conditions, sleep is always crucial for a speedy recovery. The body focuses more on recovery and repairing itself during sleep. This is why people are always advised to get sufficient and quality sleep, as it is a crucial time for the body to heal. 

The lack of quality sleep is often associated with issues such as an increase in cortisol levels, reduced testosterone, and a decrease in the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). An increase in cortisol levels can negatively affect protein synthesis. On the other hand, the testosterone hormone plays a key role in the muscle recovery process in both men and women. IGF-1 is crucial in the stimulation of the differentiation of satellite cells.

So, what processes happen in our bodies as we sleep?

  • Restoration of affected proteins such as myosin, actin, and troponin
  • Conversion of lactic acid into glucose in the liver
  • Removal of cellular debris in the affected regions
  • Differentiation of satellite cells into new muscle fibers

Do Competitive Sports Allow CBD?

If you are engaged in competitive sports, then you might be wondering whether the use of CBD for muscle recovery can put you in trouble. Well, you will be pleased to learn that as of 2018, CBD is no longer in the banned substance list of the World Anti-Doping Agency. CBD is neither a performance-enhancing drug nor is it an illegal drug. However, it is still important to refer to your local laws and regulations regarding the use of CBD. 

Final Thoughts

CBD has been found to be generally safe to use. In fact, according to a 2018 review published in Frontiers in Neurology, large CBD doses of up to 1,500 mg per day, though unnecessary, does not appear to cause any notable harm to the body. This also applies to its continuous use. As such, you should look for a high-quality CBD product from a reputable source.

However, it is always crucial to consult your healthcare provider before starting CBD. This is especially so if you take any medications. While CBD itself may be harmless, its interaction with other compounds can have some effects. 

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