CBD for Post-Workout Recovery: Does it Work?

CBD for Post-Workout Recovery: Does it Work?

Explore the benefits of using CBD for post workout recovery. Learn more about CBD and muscle recovery & how CBD topicals reduce inflammation here.

Today, we understand that proper recovery from strenuous exercise provides enhanced results. But people of a certain age may remember a time when fitness routines were less sophisticated.


You just lifted as much as possible as many times as you could, or you ran as far as you were able. To recover, you may have downed a sugary sports drink, showered, eaten steak and potatoes for dinner, and fallen asleep in your recliner with an empty bourbon glass in your hand while a lit cigarette burned away in the ashtray.


Or your doctor prescribed amphetamines to help keep you trim. Yeah, that actually happened.

Light-haired woman lays on blue yoga mat with black workout shirt while holding green dumbbells

But fitness is a science now, and exercise enthusiasts constantly seek the latest routines, methods, and supplements to maximize gains.


CBD recovery tools are the latest to hit the scene. Some weightroom superstars choose a CBD oil topical for pain while others may opt for a specially formulated CBD oil tincture for sleep.


Pre-clinical trials and case studies indicate that using some form of CBD post-workout may help the body recover, rebalance, and ultimately build muscle. Additionally, the number of active and retired professional athletes who endorse CBD oil for muscle recovery, particularly for issues pertaining to pain and inflammation, grows every day.


But what is CBD exactly, what happens to your body when you exercise, and how can CBD post-workout affect 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 found in the body. CBD is most abundant in hemp, a non-intoxicating (lacking the psychoactive properties of THC) variety of cannabis.


By the legal definition set forth in federal law, hemp contains 0.3 percent THC or less. THC is the substance responsible for the “high” marijuana users experience. As a result, the vast majority of CBD products made available to consumers in the United States derive from hemp extracts and do not cause impairment.


Consumer goods such as CBD oil tinctures, capsules, gummies, balms, lotions, gels, and bath products include a range of hemp extract types – from full plant extracts containing incredibly small (but detectable) amounts of THC to broad spectrum and isolated CBD products containing no detectable THC.

Dark-haired man with short hair and beard massages shoulder in gym wearing gray workout shirt

Anecdotes from consumers and athletes report a wide range of possible benefits. One prevailing line of thought sees CBD as a general fitness support tool.


On the other end of the spectrum, some people claim that CBD is a viable treatment for all manner of ailments including anxiety, PTSD, conditions associated with chronic pain (fibromyalgia, arthritis), and many others. Unfortunately, these claims remain unproven for now. As a result, it’s illegal for CBD makers and sellers to make drug claims.


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 studies may take years to come to light.

Man with short hair in green shorts and shirt sits against glass window looking out at city

You can learn more on our What is CBD page.

Strenuous Exercise Builds Muscle Through Recovery

Every time you train, you tear your muscles.


Okay, maybe the most literal way of describing what happens to your muscles when you exercise isn’t the best way of explaining it, even if it’s technically true.


But the building of 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 starts to figure out that some damage occurred, and starts addressing the problem.


This begins the recovery phase.

Older man and woman with gray hair sit on workout benches holding weights while in gym

With all this muscle tearing going on, cell organelles stop working properly. When this happens, nearby satellite cells go to work and make repairs and, with the aid of natural growth hormones, hypertrophy begins.


A great deal of exercise recovery happens during sleep. Sleep allows your body and mind to actively concentrate 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 indicates. 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.

Older woman with light hair sits on aqua yoga mat in pink sleeveless shirt and gray workout pants while massaging knee

Post-Workout Pain is Inevitable

Now that you understand that muscle gains are a product of breaking down and rebuilding muscle fibers, the old expression “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 immediately after your workout. It’s that tight, fatigued, burning sensation you feel in your muscles. Generally speaking, AMS subsides quickly, and shouldn’t interfere with the rest of your day or your next exercise session.

Woman in gray workout attire sits on bench at gym while massaging lower back

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.


DOMS sucks. It’s the aching, nearly debilitating 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 problems and minor injuries, represent some of the most common reasons fitness enthusiasts seek out CBD oil for recovery.

Fit woman with long curly brown hair rests arms on railing and looks at phone while wearing headphones and surrounded by city skyline

CBD and Muscle Recovery Overview

The primary research projects relating to the topic of CBD oil for muscle recovery center around better sleep, reducing inflammation, pain relief, and inhibiting the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. But it’s important to note that these are preliminary studies, and medical experts aren’t prepared to assert that this early evidence provides conclusive proof of CBD’s benefits. In short, the rapid adoption of CBD oil for recovery and other purposes outpaces science.


But there are a growing number of professional athletes, from PGA Tour golfer Bubba Watson to mixed martial artist Daniel Cormier, who tell their success stories about CBD oil and exercise recovery.

Fit woman with blonde hair sits criss-cross on light blue yoga mat at the beach looking at phone while wearing headphones and surrounded by water

Today, there are two primary options for fitness buffs when it comes to CBD recovery products – topical solutions and products intended for oral use.


Topical formulas come in creams, balms, lotions, and gels. These products often include other pain-fighting ingredients, ranging from over-the-counter drugs to herbal remedies. Topicals generally fight pain and inflammation, or provide general support locally. So if you have a sore knee, that’s where you would apply it. CBD products such as bath bombs and salts also fall into the topical category, and most athletes use them for a sense of overall relaxation or to soothe overworked muscles and joints.


Oral hemp-extract products include CBD oil capsules intended for daily use, edibles like CBD infused gummies, and CBD oil tinctures that utilize sublingual (under the tongue) absorption to reach the bloodstream quickly.

CBD Recovery Options from cbdMD

cbdMD formulates CBD products with athletes and fitness enthusiasts in mind. Let’s take a closer look so you can more easily choose the right product for your CBD post-workout routine.

Squeeze tube of 1500 mg CBD Freeze by cbdMD on wood table with multi-colored yoga mat in background and purple rubber balls

CBD Freeze

Provides support for: DOMS, AMS, and joint pain associated with minor injuries.


CBD Freeze is a topical gel formulated with pain-fighting menthol and hemp extracts with CBD concentration options of 300, 750, and 1500 mg per three-ounce bottle. CBD Freeze also comes in two different packaging options – a squeeze tube and an award-winning CBD topical roller.


The directions for use are easy – simply apply CBD Freeze to the affected area up to four times per day.


Along with easy application of CBD oil for recovery, menthol provides an almost immediate cooling sensation to muscles and joints.

Squeeze tube of cbdMD's 750 mg Recover stands on multi-colored mat

CBD Recover

Provides support for: DOMS, AMS, and joint pain associated with minor injuries.


CBD Recover is a topical cream that combines broad spectrum hemp extracts 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, plus packaging options of a squeeze tube or tub.


Like CBD Freeze, CBD Recover is recommended for use on affected areas up to four times per day.


CBD Recover 300 mg CBD topical cream for pain relief provides a great option for those looking to start a routine that combines CBD oil and exercise recovery.

Bottle of CBD PM 1000 mg softgels by cbdMD on bedside table next to clock with softgel capsules resting on table


Provides support for: General recovery through better sleep.


CBD PM with added melatonin serves as a terrific option for those who wish to use CBD oil for muscle recovery.


First, we have mint-flavored CBD PM tinctures, winner of the 2020 Product of the Year Award in the CBD sleep aids category. Like other CBD oil tinctures, the product works primarily through sublingual absorption. Simply hold your desired serving under your tongue for 30 to 60 seconds, and swallow the remaining portion for absorption through the digestive tract.


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.

Variety of four cbdMD CBD bath bombs sitting in a small-sized bath tub on bathroom counter with white towel bundled up in background

CBD 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 and fragrances, and 100 mg of premium isolated 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. We can assure you, cbdMD bath bombs do not explode.


You can use CBD bath bombs at any point of the day, but many report positive effects 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 applications


Unlike topical formulas for pain relief or specially formulated oils for enhanced sleep, people generally use CBD oil tinctures, capsules, and gummies for general support and wellness.


CBD routines with these products can take any number of forms. For instance, some individuals take their chosen 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.


However, 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.

CBD Oil and Exercise Recovery in Practice

Let’s take a look at how a person returning to exercise after a long bout of inactivity may use CBD oil for recovery. We’ll call this individual Hunter.


Hunter is a former college football player. He never really played much, but he skips over that part when he’s telling stories about his glory days on the gridiron. The only serious injury he ever sustained 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 experiences occasional bouts of minor knee pain he attributes to his football days, and tried CBD Recover after a friend recommended it. It worked for him.


On the advice of his doctor, who expressed concern about his weight, Hunter decided to get back into shape. He teamed up with a friend who had recently spent some time with a personal trainer in order to begin a similar exercise 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 CBD Recover formula worked for his occasional knee pain, could it work for his sore muscles? Indeed it can. And his coworkers were thankful for this development.


But if a CBD cream can help with his sore muscles, what else can it do?


Hunter started to research the possibilities further, and came across some incredible articles on the cbdMD blog. He’d always had trouble sleeping, and found articles on CBD and sleep and the pro athletes who use CBD particularly interesting.


Four weeks later, he settled into a CBD oil and exercise recovery routine.


Morning: CBD Recover as needed, particularly after days when he really challenged himself in the weightroom.


Late Morning: Protein shake with berry-flavored CBD post-workout.


Evening: CBD PM softgel capsule 30 minutes before bed as part of a new, healthier evening wind-down routine.

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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.