Using CBD to Optimize Your Fitness Performance

Using CBD to Optimize Your Fitness Performance

The use of CBD products among high-level athletes is rising. Learn more about how CBD topicals & tinctures can improve your fitness & overall well-being.

Getting the right amount and the right kind of exercise provides numerous benefits for physical fitness and overall health. Alongside a smart diet, exercise canimprove cardiovascular health and improve mood.


But can CBD and working out make the right combination? The simple answer is yes.


CBD, in its various formulas and delivery methods, can help you maximize your workouts. And some topical CBD products contain approved, active pain-relief compounds for sore muscles and joints.


A growing number of fitness enthusiasts and athletes turn to CBD topical lotions and gels, tinctures, edibles, and capsules for faster recovery from strenuous activities, better sleep, and many other reported benefits.


It may seem strange to mix a cannabis derivative like CBD and exercise, so let’s look a little closer at what CBD is, what it isn’t, and how it might enhance your training experience.

Dark-haired woman in black workout pants and tee squats with kettlebell in gym with man in gray shirt squatting with kettlebell in background

CBD is Not Pot

One of the reasons some people have difficulty imagining the connection between CBD and working out is the substance’s origins. Yes, CBD derives from the cannabis genus of plants.


No, federally legal CBD products will not get you high or otherwise cause impairment. That’s due to U.S. federal laws regarding hemp, a non-intoxicating strain of cannabis. Under legal definitions, hemp contains high CBD content, but trace levels of THC – the substance makes marijuana users feel high.


High CBD hemp is a federally legal crop in the United States, which is why there are so many CBD tinctures for sale across the Internet and in stores. On the other hand, high THC marijuana is still illegal.


CBD and THC are just two of the many substances found in cannabis plants that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). In essence, the ECS is a cell signaling network throughout the body. At its core, the ECS helps the body maintain physiological balance.


The cellular receptors that make up the ECS react to substances called cannabinoids, which synthesize in the body (endocannabinoids), in plants (phytocannabinoids), or a lab (synthetic cannabinoids). Each cannabinoid has a different molecular structure, causing different results when they interact with ECS receptors.


For instance, one cannabinoid may fit well with a receptor and cause a direct effect. Another cannabinoid molecule might not fit (think about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole), but it may effectively block other substances from interacting with the receptor.

Fit man with dark hair and beard using bicep curl machine in gym

CBD is Not Considered a Performance Enhancing Drug

Various international anti-doping agencies and some of sports’ top governing bodies have weighed in on the subject during the past few years. While CBD oil and working out may have combined benefits, CBD is not considered a performance-enhancing drug (PED) the same way as stimulants or anabolic steroids.


Anabolic steroids, primarily synthetic testosterone, directly affect muscle repair and growth, which gives athletes an unfair advantage. Similarly, stimulants can artificially improve endurance and sharpen focus.


Early evidence seems to suggest that CBD can support the body’s ability to recover after strenuous work or exercise. This is particularly valuable for anyone who makes fitness a priority. But it’s important to understand that early investigations into how CBD works with the body may not tell the whole tale due to small sample sizes, dosage variations, and other issues. In other words, researchers have a lot more work to do to determine the full benefits of CBD and exercise.


But even with confirmation of those results after a robust study, CBD still wouldn’t affect performance in the same way as steroids or stimulants.


In fact, CBD may have the opposite effect of stimulants, so large servings of CBD before or during exercise may not work well together.

bdMD Athlete Lolo Jones in red top and bandanna with black shorts in gym with squeeze tube bottle of 1500 CBD Recover topical resting on right knee

Many Pro Athletes Combine CBD and Working Out

If you’re considering using CBD to maximize your workout routine, you’re not alone.

A growing number of athletes have stepped up to discuss CBD and exercise.


Athletes like Lolo Jones, Rampage Jackson, Daniel Cormier, and Jorge Masvidal report using CBD in their sleep and recovery routines.


Cormier talked to Uproxx Sports about how CBD provided needed support before a short-notice heavyweight championship defense against Derek Lewis.


“I took that fight on three weeks. Three weeks into a fight camp, I’m so sore I can barely walk down the stairs. I give a lot of credit to the CBD product to get me where I am and able to defend the title in New York.”


He also said, “Since I started taking the [CBD] product, I’ve been able to rest more, I’ve gotten better sleep, and I’ve recovered better.”


Cornier was 39 years of age at the time he began his CBD oil and exercise routine. He won his fight against Lewis decisively and became the first fighter in UFC to have held and defended two separate weight class championships simultaneously.

Man in black sleeveless workout shirt holding plank position with man in gray shirt doing plank in background at gym

CBD and Working Out: FAQs

Let’s look at some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from those interested in adding CBD to their exercise routines.


Q: Is CBD oil good for fitness?


A: It’s best to think of CBD oil, particularly CBD tinctures and capsules, as a wellness and recovery supplement. Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts report that CBD provides support for tense muscles, relaxation at bedtime, and other benefits. But there’s still a great deal of research needed to understand how CBD and exercise can enhance health and fitness. There are also a lot of variables – like serving size, time of day, body mass, metabolism, diet, and possible interactions with other supplements and drugs – that can affect how CBD works with the body.


Most experts suggest that people who are new to CBD and working out should start with small serving sizes and slowly increase servings until reaching their desired effects.

cbdMD Freeze

Q: Why do athletes use CBD?


A: Relaxation at bedtime, and faster training recovery top the list for most athletes. Many also prefer to supplement their workouts with plant-based products rather than synthetic options.


When most people think about CBD, they often think of oils intended for oral use. But there is a wide range of products that are particularly suited for CBD and working out. To find the perfect product for your CBD and exercise routine, you may want to consider a specialized product.


If recovery tops your list of needs for the combination CBD and working out, a CBD oil with melatonin for sleep is a great option.


Sleep is one of the greatest recovery tools serious athletes have at their disposal. Lolo Jones and Kerri Walsh Jennings, both Olympic athletes, use CBD PM to help them get the rest they need to recuperate from their grueling training days.

Woman with black curly hair in bun holds workout rope in squatting position wearing white workout top and shorts

Q: What does CBD do for your muscles?


A: CBD may assist in muscle recovery, which in turn may help build muscle. However, this effect needs more investigation.


But one thing is certain. It’s tough to complete your full workout if you’re in pain.


If you want guidance about how CBD and exercise go together for building muscle, look no further than James “Flex” Lewis – winner of seven Olympia 212 titles.


When you’re lifting weights, you’re going to strain muscles and joints. Pain is unavoidable, but you don’t have to let it interfere with your training. Lewis is no exception to this rule, which is why he chooses cbdMD Freeze with menthol for his overworked joints.

Squeeze bottle of 750 Recover CBD topical by cbdMD on table next to notebook with white towel and large plant leaf in the background

Topical pain relief formulas like cbdMD Freeze and cbdMD Recover make particularly great choices for people who are prone to common joint soreness. Both utilize well-known, FDA-approved topical pain relievers. These provide highly-targeted relief where you need it most at any point in the day.

Group of people in various gym attire on stationary cycling bikes at gym


Q: Should I take CBD before or after working out?


A: Generally speaking, CBD products work best as part of your post-workout and sleep routine. But some products, like topicals, work well at any point in your workout routine. And many athletes take a small, supplemental serving CBD in the form of CBD capsules, CBD oil tinctures, or CBD gummies as part of their morning routine.

Pyramid stack of four CBD bath bombs by cbdMD including Rejuvenate, Rise, Romance, and Relax

But if you genuinely want to recover like the pros, you’ll want to try CBD bath bombs. And you might find yourself a little surprised by the types of athletes who use them the most.


Rampage Jackson, like many other mixed martial artists, swear by the soothing power of these sweet-smelling beauties. With a combination of CBD, essential oils, and Epsom salts, you can tame those overworked muscles and joints while giving your mind a rest as well.


Q: Are athletes permitted to use cannabinoids like CBD?


A: Today, many governing sports bodies and policymakers permit the use of CBD for training purposes. But only a few years ago, that wasn’t the case.


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which sets drug policy for the Olympics and other major international sporting events, made the first big move towards cannabis acceptance for athletes when it removed CBD from its list of banned substances for the 2018 season. Since then, some others have followed WADA’s lead.


However, THC and other cannabinoids remain banned by WADA and some other sports authorities. Therefore, athletes must only choose cannabis extract products that are THC-free*.

A Day in the Life: CBD and Working Out

If you want to make CBD and exercise part of your daily fitness routine, here are a few options.


Morning: If you prefer to work out first thing in the morning, you can begin the day with a light breakfast. You don’t want to start strenuous cardio or strength training exercises on either a full or empty stomach.


Once you’ve completed your workout, you can have a more substantial breakfast. To replenish the simple sugars burned off at the gym while getting a supplemental serving of CBD, mix your favorite flavored CBD oil into a fruit smoothie!

Team cbdMD Athlete and former football pro Nate Burleson wearing black cbdMD shirt showcasing roll-on bottle of 1500 mg CBD Freeze topical with cap removed and football at side

If you usually wait until later in the day to exercise, a CBD capsule can quickly become part of your morning routine.


Afternoon: If you’ve already completed your morning workout and muscle discomfort becomes a distraction to your work, a CBD topical can help.


If you hit the gym during lunch, you may want to eat a homemade CBD protein bar before or after your workout. You can also add a serving of CBD to your shake or smoothie. Either option is a great way to get a daily serving of CBD.


Evening: If you’ve already completed your workout, great! Relax for a while. Enjoy your dinner.


If you usually exercise after your workday, you can easily add CBD bath bombs to your evening routine. There’s no better way to ride that “runner’s high” while soothing your muscles and joints. But don’t eat dinner too late in the evening.


Of course, restful sleep (and plenty of it) is the ultimate recovery tool. Our mint-flavored CBD PM marks the perfect start to your 30-minute evening wind-down. Just hold the tincture under your tongue for 30 to 60 seconds before swallowing. You can also choose CBD PM in convenient softgel capsules. From there, turn off the screens, turn down the lights, breathe deeply, and slip off to dreamland.

Want to Learn More?

If you’re ready to try the combination of CBD and exercise, our CBD buyer’s guide is a great place to start. You’ll also find comprehensive information throughout our cbdMD blog, including important announcements that can help you stay up to date on new products and developments.

Disclaimer: The cbdMD page contains general information about health, diet, lifestyle, and nutrition. Any information provided should not be considered or treated as medical advice and always consult a medical professional before making any lifestyle changes. Products and information mentioned on the cbdMD blog are not intended to be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Any links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience only and cbdMD is not responsible for their content.