Anytime you read reports on why people use CBD products, or receive CBD benefits daily, exercise rarely makes the list. But pro athletes across a diverse range of sports have adopted CBD into their strict exercise and muscle soreness recovery routines.
You put your body through a great deal of stress when you exercise. A number of systems work to bring the body back into balance. But CBD works with a network of cellular receptors that encourages the process of muscle soreness recovery.
James “Flex” Lewis serves as one of the best examples of how CBD benefits can help athletes maximize their training. The seven-time Olympia 212 champ swears by a few key cbdMD products. And there’s no better proving ground for CBD as a workout tool than Flex’s insane exercise routine.
In order to cover the topic of CBD benefits that support muscle soreness recovery, we need to answer some key questions. For instance:
- What is CBD, where does it come from, and how does it interact with your body?
- What happens to your body when you exercise, and how does CBD support muscle soreness recovery?
- What CBD products work best alongside your workout routine, and how should you use them?
Let’s get started.
CBD in a Nutshell
CBD to support muscle soreness recovery after exercise is the main topic here, and we’ll get to it soon. But first, let’s cover some of the ins and outs of CBD. We won't go into extreme detail here, but you can find in-depth information on our “What is CBD” page.
What is CBD?
CBD (full name: cannabidiol) is a chemical compound found in cannabis plants. It’s what scientists call a phytocannabinoid, which basically means:
- It derives from plants
- It interacts with the endocannabinoid system in humans (more on this later) and many animal species
The chemical structure of CBD means it interacts with the body differently than the dozens of other plant-based cannabinoids scientists have isolated so far. For instance, CBD does not cause a “high” like THC – the intoxicating substance in marijuana.
Where Does CBD Come From?
The CBD products for sale in online stores contain extracts from industrial hemp, which is a type of low-THC cannabis. It’s federally legal in the United States and, again, doesn’t cause intoxication.
Farmers grow and store the harvested hemp plants under strict standards to avoid illegal amounts of THC. It’s also worth mentioning that THC isn’t valuable for the purpose of muscle soreness recovery.
Specialized facilities process raw hemp to extract CBD, small amounts of other phytocannabinoids, essential oils, and similar plant substances. Labs refine these extracts to varying degrees for use in consumer products. You can learn more about the extraction process here.
How Does CBD Interact with Your Body?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is key to CBD’s ability to work with your body. The ECS is a system of cellular receptors found throughout the nervous, digestive, immune, and other systems. It primarily promotes balance, or equilibrium, in the body.
Cannabinoids, including endocannabinoids produced within the body and phytocannabinoids found in plants, bind with these receptors in unique ways to produce different results. There are different kinds of receptors too, which are more prevalent in certain bodily systems.
Scientists are still working out exactly how CBD benefits influence the ECS and other receptor types. But daily users report that the benefits of CBD include a sense of relaxation (and, by extension, improved sleep), recovery from muscle soreness and discomfort after strenuous exercise, and a sense of calm during common, everyday stress.
CBD’s Role in Muscle Soreness Recovery
Here’s where we are so far:
- The CBD in consumer products generally comes from low-THC hemp plants.
- CBD is federally legal.
- CBD interacts with the ECS and other cellular receptors.
- Daily users report benefits like a sense of relaxation/calm and enhanced muscle soreness recovery.
But let's dive a little deeper into how CBD relates to exercise and muscle soreness recovery.
Your Body During and After Exercise
When you get down to the basics, working out sort of tricks your body into thinking it needs to be stronger, faster, and generally better prepared to do – whatever. For instance, doing daily pull-ups to near exhaustion signals that you need to be able to do this kind of work day in and day out.
During the exercise itself, some of the muscle fibers suffer microscopic damage. Your body builds the muscle tissue back a little stronger during the repair process, enabling you to do more work at more resistance.
Over time, you build more and more muscle tissue and become noticeably stronger.
But all of this tearing and repairing of tissue puts the body under a lot of stress, which results in sore muscles (delayed onset muscle soreness, for instance), the release of stress hormones, and other issues related to recovery.
And it’s important to mention that your body does a lot of this recovery work while you’re sleeping.
Of course, there’s a lot of complex cellular biology going on here. And multiple systems contribute to the process of muscle soreness recovery.
How Does CBD Support Muscle Soreness Recovery?
Once again, we come back to the endocannabinoid system for CBD benefits.
CB2 receptors are throughout the immune and peripheral nervous systems. Both play a role in exercise recovery and how you feel during the process. As CBD interacts with CB2 receptors and other non-ECS receptors, it appears to help you maintain more normal function during the process.
Sleep is also a major factor in recovery. As we mentioned, your body does a lot of the “heavy lifting” while you’re asleep. And experts agree that people who train hard need more sleep than less active people to function at optimum levels.
CBD is known to provide a sense of relaxation, and taking it near bedtime can help you sleep better. By extension, it helps your body with muscle soreness recovery.
So You Use CBD for Pain, Right?
Not exactly. CBD isn’t currently recognized or approved for pain relief. The concept of using CBD regularly for muscle soreness recovery after exercise is not the same as using it specifically for pain. There are pain relief creams that contain CBD, but these products usually have an active, approved pain relief ingredient like menthol or similar.
Researchers are looking into CBD’s usage for pain, but studies are in the very early stages. As a result, experts and regulators cannot say with confidence that CBD directly affects pain or how humans perceive pain.
How to Use CBD for Muscle Soreness Recovery
We’ve covered some important points about what CBD is, what happens to your body when you exercise, and how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to assist with muscle soreness recovery.
But how can you use CBD in practice? We’ll break down with the following:
- What kind of CBD products are available (topical vs. oral)
- How and when to use them for muscle soreness recovery
- Ideal serving sizes
- What to look for in a CBD product
CBD Topical vs Oral CBD for Exercise Recovery
There are numerous CBD products available in a nearly endless variety of strengths, application methods, and even flavors. But there are really only two types that athletes typically integrate into their exercise recovery routines – topical and oral products. Each provides a completely different approach to muscle soreness recovery.
Let’s start with the CBD topical options. CBD creams and gels are popular for use before or after exercise, but there’s usually more here than meets the eye. While most of these products contain varying amounts of CBD, they usually have a medley of supportive substances and approved pain relievers.
For instance, cbdMD’s Freeze and Recover formulas use menthol and histamine dihydrochloride, respectively, as their active pain relief ingredients. But each also contains a choice of 300 mg to 3000 mg of CBD plus other ingredients that promote training recovery. It’s also worth mentioning that CBD doesn’t really penetrate deeply into muscles. But that doesn’t make these products any less useful for targeted use. In fact, Freeze is Flex Lewis’ go-to for post-workout soreness.
When people think about how to prevent muscle soreness with CBD, they typically think of oral CBD products. Oral or ingestible CBD comes in capsules, gummies, drink mixes, and classic CBD tinctures.
These products are intended to be used daily, not situationally or as needed. In other words, you should use them the same way you might use a daily protein shake or similar supplements. You can even incorporate CBD into those regular supplement routines for the best results. For instance, you can add CBD tinctures to a shake or take capsules and gummies alongside multivitamins.
How and When to Use CBD for Exercise Recovery
You can use CBD topicals on an as-needed basis, up to four times per day.
But there’s some debate among fitness enthusiasts about the best time to use oral CBD products.
CBD products you absorb through digestion (capsules and gummies) usually take one to two hours to disperse throughout your body. CBD tinctures can be held under your tongue for 30 to 60 seconds before swallowing. This method introduces CBD to your system a little faster – around 30 to 60 minutes.
It’s important to take this into account when you decide to take CBD for muscle soreness recovery.
Some people feel a little too relaxed to exercise after CBD begins to interact effectively with their systems. Those people prefer to take their daily servings just before or immediately after their workouts as part of a cool-down routine. Others might feel more comfortable using it about an hour before bed. This allows the body to utilize CBD for muscle soreness recovery while you sleep.
With that said, new CBD users should use CBD post-workout until they better understand how their bodies react.
How Much CBD Should You Take?
The question of serving size is a highly individual choice. Body mass, metabolism, workout intensity, and other factors dictate the optimal amount for each person.
Experts agree that there’s no reason to take more CBD than you actually need to accomplish your exercise goals. So it’s best to start with small serving sizes, evaluate how you feel after a few weeks, and adjust as needed.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to take your daily serving of CBD for muscle soreness recovery all at once, and you can use different products throughout the day. For example, you may find it more convenient to take a couple of CBD gummies just before or after your morning workout and a CBD and melatonin sleep formula each night before bed.
What Should You Look For in a CBD Product?
Quality and consistency in manufacturing don’t get enough attention in the discussion of CBD for muscle soreness recovery. And while it’s legal for these products to contain trace amounts of THC, you may not want to ingest any at all. That’s especially true for athletes who submit to frequent drug testing.
First, it’s important for you to know that very few CBD product makers provide any verification that they use good manufacturing practices (GMP) – a set of established rules for how certain products are made. In the United States, the standards for dietary supplements and topical pain relievers are set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure consistency across product batches and avoid spoilage or contamination.
You should always look for third-party verification of GMP. For instance, cbdMD’s GMP Registration for Dietary Supplements through NSF International provides independent certification that federal standards are met or exceeded.
You may also have concerns about ingesting THC in any way due to workplace restrictions, pre-competition testing, or similar. If so, the only way to be sure a product doesn’t contain detectable amounts of THC is through a third-party lab test. Reputable companies provide lab results for each product batch. These documents are sometimes referred to as certificates of analysis (COA).
This is all particularly important. As a health-conscious person who exercises frequently and wants to support muscle soreness recovery, you should know exactly what you’re putting into your body. Independent GMP verification and third-party lab tests make that possible.
Practical Exercise Recovery Options from cbdMD
We’ve nailed down plenty of valuable information about CBD as a tool for muscle soreness recovery, including:
- CBD derives from federally legal, low-THC hemp plants, and it doesn’t cause intoxication.
- CBD interacts with your endocannabinoid system to promote exercise recovery and a sense of relaxation at bedtime.
- New users should take CBD as part of a post-workout routine until they know how they react to it.
- Serving size depends on body mass, metabolism, and workout intensity.
- You’re better served by reputable CBD companies who make their products under the right conditions.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that cbdMD formulates their THC-free* products with fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes in mind. That’s why so many high-profile athletes trust them.
But which cbdMD products provide the most practical solutions for muscle soreness recovery? Here are four of the most popular options.
CBD tinctures are the most versatile and popular option. You can use them in the traditional way, held under the tongue for 30 seconds before swallowing, or numerous other ways. For instance, tinctures can be added to all manner of food and beverage recipes or simply added to your favorite post-workout drink. You can also more easily gauge precise serving sizes for muscle soreness recovery.
cbdMD CBD tinctures contain the innovative Superior Broad Spectrum hemp extract formula in concentrations of 300 mg to 1500 mg of CBD suspended in MCT oil. Alongside CBD, the extract also contains small amounts of cannabinol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBD), and select plant terpenes to encourage the entourage effect.
CBD PM (Winner: 2020 Product of the Year)
cbdMD’s CBD for sleep provides a two-pronged approach to help you get the restful sleep you need for muscle soreness recovery. First, CBD (500 mg or 1500 mg) provides a sense of relaxation at bedtime. Second, melatonin helps your body keep a natural rhythm.
As we mentioned earlier, good sleep (and enough of it) is crucial to an athlete's training recovery. You simply cannot perform to your potential if you fall into irregular sleep patterns or deprive yourself of sleep. As a result, CBD for sleep may be the most important muscle soreness recovery tool in your arsenal.
CBD PM is available as a mint or berry-flavored CBD tincture or as a softgel capsule.
cbdMD Freeze Roller (Winner: 2020 Product of the Year)
cbdMD’s Freeze roller is a favorite for anyone who experiences common muscle and joint soreness. You can use it at any point in your daily exercise routine.
While you can choose from concentrations of 300 mg to 3000 mg of CBD, menthol is the real star of the show here. It provides an almost instant cooling sensation to sore, achy spots. Pro athletes swear by it for muscle soreness recovery!
The Freeze roller won the award for Product of the Year - CBD Topical in 2020, but you can also opt for a squeeze tube that’s easily shareable between your workout buddies.
cbdMD CBD Gummies (Winner: 2021 Product of the Year)
That’s right. Another Product of the Year award winner!
You may balk at the sugar content of CBD Gummies. But if you have room in your diet for it, it’s the most flavorful way to enjoy the benefits of CBD for muscle soreness recovery.
It’s also worth mentioning that cbdMD’s CBD gummies are vegan. That’s because they’re made with plant-based pectin rather than gelatin. They’re also CBD-infused rather than coated, which ensures consistent serving sizes. And you can choose from 300 mg to 1500 mg of CBD per bottle in original or sour flavors.
Learn More About CBD Benefits and Muscle Soreness Recovery
cbdMD recently partnered with the CrossFit Games to help athletes better understand how athletes can use CBD in their training routines. Check out our CrossFit partnership page for more information about CBD for muscle soreness recovery, recipes, smart sleep routines for athletes, and more!