CBD and Muscle Recovery: A Deep Dive
Today, we understand that proper recovery from strenuous exercise yields enhanced results. But people of a certain age may remember a time when fitness routines were less sophisticated.
Fitness is a science now, and exercise buffs constantly seek the latest routines, methods, and supplements to maximize gains.
But is there a connection between CBD and muscle recovery?
Pre-clinical trials and case studies imply that using some form of CBD post-workout may help the body recover, rebalance, and ultimately build muscle. Unfortunately, scientists and physicians haven’t reached a consensus on CBD for athletic recovery. There are still years of research to be done.
While researchers continue their work, a number of active and retired professional athletes endorse CBD oil for workout recovery. Some use topical pain relievers with added CBD while others opt for a specially formulated CBD oil tincture for sleep.
But what is CBD exactly, what happens to your body when you exercise, and what are scientists studying when it comes to the use of CBD for muscle recovery?
CBD: The Quick and Easy Version
CBD, or cannabidiol if you’re feeling fancy, is one of over 100 substances found in cannabis plants that can interact with specialized cellular receptors in the body. CBD is most abundant in hemp, a non-intoxicating variety of cannabis.
Under U.S. law, hemp must contain 0.3 percent THC or less. THC is the substance that causes the “high” marijuana users seek. When a plant contains more THC than that threshold allows, it’s considered illegal marijuana.
As a result, the vast majority of CBD products available in the United States derive from hemp extracts and do not cause impairment.
Consumer CBD products come in many forms, such as CBD oil tinctures, capsules, gummies, balms, lotions, gels, and bath products. The type of hemp extract companies use in those products also varies.
Full spectrum extracts contain tiny (but detectable) amounts of THC. Broad spectrum and isolated CBD products contain no detectable THC.
Anecdotes from consumers and athletes report a wide range of possible benefits. The prevailing line of thought sees CBD as a general fitness support tool.
What’s certain is that medical professionals and researchers show great interest in CBD’s potential, and they have started to study the substance in earnest. But definitive results from clinical trials may take years to come to light.
You can learn more on our "What is CBD?" page.
Strenuous Exercise Builds Muscle Through Recovery
Building muscle tissue (or muscle hypertrophy for word nerds) through exercise starts with breaking it down. For instance, intense resistance training causes trauma to muscle fibers – essentially microtears to the tissues. After your workout, your body figures out that some damage occurred, and starts to address the problem.
This begins the recovery phase.
With all this muscle trauma going on, cell organelles stop working properly. When this happens, nearby cells start making repairs. With the aid of natural growth hormones, hypertrophy begins.
A great deal of exercise recovery happens during sleep. Sleep lets your body and mind focus on recuperation in ways that just aren’t possible while you’re awake and doing things – like scrolling through endless Netflix menus or making fitness memes to share on Instagram.
Of course, the process of building muscle is a little more complicated than the description above suggests. After all, we’re talking about complex molecular and cellular biology. But you get the idea. And it’s important to note that this doesn’t happen quickly. That’s why it takes time to build muscle.
Post-Workout Pain is Inevitable
Now that you understand that muscle gains are a product of breaking down and rebuilding muscle fibers, the old saying “no pain, no gain” probably makes a little more sense.
There are two types of muscle pain you’ll encounter during and after your workouts.
Acute muscle soreness, or AMS, occurs during or right after your workout. It’s that tight, fatigued, burning feeling in your muscles. AMS usually fades quickly, and shouldn’t interfere with the rest of your day or your next exercise session.
Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS to the hip crowd, will ruin your day – or more accurately, the day after your workout. And maybe the next day after that too.
DOMS sucks. It’s the aching, nearly crippling soreness you begin to feel 12 to 24 hours after vigorous exercise and lasts forever. Okay, DOMS doesn’t last forever, but it can certainly feel that way. And this type of muscle pain can affect anyone – from people just starting to work out to elite athletes stepping up their training regimen.
Eccentric exercises, where you both contract and lengthen a muscle, cause the worst cases of DOMS. And since many weight training exercises fall into this category (bicep curls, anyone?), you can see why so many people find themselves moaning and groaning through the pain of DOMS.
Issues with AMS and DOMS, plus joint fatigue are some of the most common reasons fitness buffs seek out products with CBD oil for recovery.
CBD and Muscle Recovery Overview
It’s important to note that preliminary studies and medical experts aren’t prepared to assert that early evidence conclusively proves the benefits of CBD. In short, the rapid adoption of products with CBD oil for muscle recovery outpaces science.
But a growing number of pro athletes, from PGA Tour golfer Bubba Watson to UFC great Daniel Cormier, tell success stories about CBD oil and exercise recovery.
Today, there are two primary options for fitness buffs when it comes to recovery products that contain CBD – topical and oral.
Topical formulas come in creams, balms, lotions, and gels. These products often include pain-fighting ingredients, like over-the-counter drugs or soothing herbal extracts for relaxation. So if you have a sore knee, that’s where you would apply it. CBD bath bombs and salts also fall into the topical category, and most athletes use them for a sense of overall relaxation.
Oral hemp-extract products include CBD oil capsules, edibles like CBD infused gummies, and CBD oil tinctures. Users tend to think of oral products as being like health supplements for general fitness purposes.
Should You Use CBD Before or After Workout? Which is Best?
As we mentioned above, sleep is a huge factor in recovery and building muscle. Some sports scientists even call sleep the ultimate performance enhancer.
So if you exercise first thing in the morning, your nightly routine doubles as your pre-workout routine. Sleep formulas with added CBD can help you get the rest you need to give your all when the sun rises.
You also have to consider how long it takes for CBD to begin doing its work. For example, oral products like capsules and gummies take take time to digest.
With that in mind, you may wish to take CBD as part of your pre-workout routine.
It’s also worth noting that joint or muscle pain can make it harder to start a workout. Pain-relief topicals with added CBD for support can also become an important part of your pre-workout routine.
However, CBD post-workout is a more popular option, and nearly all CBD products are suitable for use after your training sessions.
Recovery Options from cbdMD
cbdMD formulates CBD products with athletes and fitness enthusiasts in mind. Let’s take a closer look so you can choose the right product for your unique circumstances.
Provides support for: DOMS, AMS, and joint pain associated with minor injuries.
cbdMD Freeze is a topical gel formulated with pain-fighting menthol and varying concentrations of CBD for support. The Freeze product comes in two different packaging options – a squeeze tube and an award-winning CBD topical roller.
The directions for use are easy – simply apply cbdMD Freeze to the affected area up to four times per day.
Along with easy application of CBD oil for general support, menthol provides an almost immediate cooling sensation to muscles and joints.
Provides support for: DOMS, AMS, and joint pain associated with minor injuries.
cbdMD Recover is a topical cream that combines broad spectrum hemp extracts for support with histamine dihydrochloride, an FDA-approved topical pain reliever. cbdMD makes the product available in CBD concentrations of 300, 750, and 1500 mg per three-ounce container. You can also choose between a squeeze tube or tub.
Like cbdMD’s Freeze formula, cbdMD Recover is recommended for use on affected areas up to four times per day.
cbdMD’s CBD PM
Provides support for: General exercise recovery through better sleep.
CBD PM with added melatonin serves as a terrific option for those looking to experience training recovery through better sleep.
First, we have the mint-flavored CBD PM tincture, winner of the 2020 Product of the Year Award in the CBD sleep aids category. Simply hold your desired serving under your tongue for 30 to 60 seconds, and swallow the rest.
Next, CBD PM softgel capsules provide an oral option for those who do not care for the taste or feel of oils. As with any other supplement that comes in a tablet or capsule, users simply swallow the softgels for absorption through the digestive system.
Like all cbdMD tinctures and capsules, CBD PM utilizes cbdMD’s Superior Broad Spectrum hemp extract formula.
cbdMD Bath Bombs
Provides support for: General muscle recovery through relaxation
cbdMD offers six CBD bath bomb blends that combine epsom salts, a range of essential oils, fragrances, and 100 mg of premium CBD.
If you’ve never used a bath bomb, or don’t know how they work, that’s okay. You only have to draw a warm bath, drop it in, and hop into the tub.
You can use CBD bath bombs at any point of the day, but many report positive experiences by using them an hour or two after workouts or just before bed.
Other CBD Post Workout Options: Tinctures, Capsules, and Gummies
Provides support for: General wellness and fitness support
Unlike topical formulas for pain relief or specially formulated supplements for enhanced sleep, CBD oil tinctures, capsules, and gummies are best for general support and wellness.
CBD routines with these products can take any number of forms. For instance, some users take their preferred CBD product at specified times of day, like morning, night, or both. Others may mix and match products, using a tincture every morning, but also snacking on gummies as part of their CBD post-workout routine.
It’s also possible to use CBD oil tinctures in a smoothie, protein drink, or snack bar as a way to ingest CBD post-workout.
Using CBD for Other Kinds of Muscle Recovery
So far, we’ve focused on exercise. But of course, there are many ways you can bring on the same issues.
Maybe you have a job that involves heavy physical work, like construction or moving services. Heck, even jobs that don’t seem that physically demanding can have hidden strains. Checkout clerks in grocery stores can stress their shoulders by lifting products over the scanner for eight hours at a stretch. Jobs involving intense typing, like transcription, can bring on neck and shoulder stiffness.
When using CBD for work-related recovery, it’s important to pay attention to how it affects you mentally. Many people find that taking CBD internally before work helps them stay calm and focused. In that case, popping a capsule or sipping some CBD coffee in the morning might be a great way to start the day. But others feel it relaxes them a little too much, and they might feel sleepy.
Obviously, if you’re at work, especially at a job involving heavy machinery, you don’t want that. So you might want to focus on using a CBD and melatonin blend in the evening to help you get good sleep, which will both aid recovery and improve alertness. And of course you can use topicals in the same targeted way as you’d use them for exercise recovery.
CBD Oil and Muscle Recovery in Practice
Let’s take a look at how a person returning to exercise after a long bout of inactivity may use products containing CBD oil for muscle recovery. We’ll call him Hunter.
Hunter is a former college football player. He was never a regular starter, but he skips over that part when he’s telling stories about his glory days. His only serious injury in college happened at an off-campus party – the result of an act preceded by the words, “Hey, Josh! Watch this!”
He’s in his early 30s now, and works as a mortgage consultant at a local bank branch. He spends most of his work days at his desk and hasn’t exercised regularly in a few years. He gets occasional bouts of minor knee pain he blames on his football days, and tried CBD Recover after a friend recommended it. It worked for him.
His doctor expressed concern about his weight, so Hunter decided to get back into shape. He teamed up with a friend who had recently worked with a personal trainer in order to begin a similar fitness routine. It includes two days of cardio and two days strength training per week.
The morning of day one went smoothly enough – 30 minutes of light to moderate work on an elliptical machine. But the next day, he succumbed to the horrors of DOMS, and complained all day.
Hunter was intolerable.
But if the cbdMD Recover worked for his occasional knee pain, could it work for his sore muscles? Indeed it can. And his coworkers were thankful for this development.
Hunter started to research other products containing CBD, and came across some incredible articles on the cbdMD blog. He’d always had trouble sleeping, and found the articles on CBD and sleep and the pro athletes who use CBD particularly interesting.
Four weeks later, he settled into a CBD oil and workout recovery routine.
Morning: cbdMD Recover as needed, particularly after days when he really challenged himself in the weightroom.
Late Morning: Protein shake with berry-flavored CBD tincture after his workout.
Evening: CBD PM softgel capsule 30 minutes before bed as part of a new, healthier evening wind-down routine.
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