CBD and Top Athletes – Why are they so connected?

CBD and Top Athletes - Why are they so connected?

Why are so many more athletes using CBD? Does it improve how they play their sports? Should the average person begin using CBD supplements? If so, what’s the best method of ingestion?

These are just some of the questions and angles we’re going to be looking at today as we investigate CBD and athletes.

Find out more about why CBD could benefit the top athletes in the world and maybe yourself, too.

CBD and Sport – A match made in Heaven

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that athletes put their bodies under an unbelievable amount of strain.

A lot of athletes have been training their bodies their entire lives in order to compete at the highest level. That’s years upon years of stress that yields so much strain on the body it’s actually difficult to quantify.

Have you ever gone to the gym and the next day you found your body stiff and tired? Elite athletes, while not as stiff and tired as me and you, suffer from pain and stiffness every day. That’s just part of being an athlete. For them, pain is just something else they have to put up with.

To combat this, top athletes use a range of over-the-counter (OTC) medications like ibuprofen as well as stronger stuff like opioids. Opioid-based medication is often used to treat chronic pain issues as well as post-surgery recovery. (It should go without saying that a lot of athletes have to undergo surgery because of the strain they put on their bodies.)

What is CBD?

If you’re reading this article you probably already know about CBD and what it does. In that case, feel free to skip ahead to the next section where we talk about why athletes should use CBD.

But if you’re interested in learning a little bit about this relatively new-found substance, here’s a bit of information.

CBD (cannabidiol) is a compound found within the cannabis plant. Unlike regular cannabis it is not psychoactive nor does it produce any euphoric feelings. It doesn’t leave you feeling fuzzy, essentially.

For this reason, it’s become a popular alternative therapy for many people from all walks of life. You can take CBD in whatever form you like and just carry on with your day as normal.

The Endocannabinoid System

If you don’t know about the endocannabinoid system (ECS) don’t feel too ashamed. It was only discovered only thirty years ago in the early 1990’s. Three decades is only a short blip on the scientific knowledge scale so unsurprisingly we still don’t know all there is to know about it. Including, how CBD interacts with the system.

You might be most surprised to learn that even if you have no interest in cannabinoids – they live inside you. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are made inside (endo) your own body. These keep a variety of bodily functions running smoothly.

The ECS is composed of two kinds of receptors that are present throughout your body. These are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. You can find CB1 receptors mostly in your brain and spinal cord. Your CB2 receptors are found in your immune system.

As we mentioned we don’t know everything there is to know about the endocannabinoid system. What we do know is that generally speaking it keeps our bodies in check. The ECS has a part to play in bodily functions such as sleep, digestion, memory, mood and so much more.

CBD Research and Studies

There is a lot to learn about CBD still. However, preliminary clinical trials, as well as anecdotal evidence, show that CBD might be helpful for a number of reasons. We’ll delve further into those benefits below but in summary, CBD is known as an anti-inflammatory, a pain reliever, and helps individuals deal with anxiety.

Is CBD Legal for athletes?

The short answer is, of course, Yes. CBD is legal for athletes to use.

Since 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has taken CBD off of its list of prohibited substances. If you want to peruse the list for yourself you can do so here.

Similarly, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) did the same. On their Marijuana FAQ page, they state: “All synthetic and naturally occurring cannabinoids are prohibited in-competition, except for cannabidiol (CBD).”

Generally speaking there is absolutely no legal prohibition on consuming CBD if you play sport. That said, there are still those who frown upon its use. This may be connected to issues such as the presence of THC in some CBD products. For this reason, it’s best for professional athletes to stick with CBD isolate products.

CBD isolate, as the name suggests, contains absolutely zero amounts of THC and other cannabinoids. Pure CBD for maximum safety.

So if you plan on taking CBD, make sure you exercise as much caution as possible. Also, purchase your CBD from the best retailers available. Don’t skimp, especially if your career is on the line.

What athletes are using CBD?

So if CBD is so great, what athletes are using it? Here are just a few athletes who have spoken publicly about their use of CBD.

Nate Diaz – Mixed Martial Arts

UFC main attraction and mixed-martial-arts bad boy (which is saying something) Nate Diaz loves cannabinoids. He has spoken at length, including in a post fight press conference, about his passion for CBD. He stated at the time that CBD to help with recovery and pain relief.

Even if you don’t watch mixed martial arts or have any interest in it, you can imagine how tough it is on the body. The fact that one of its top stars uses CBD rather than mainstream treatments for his recovery is very telling.

Dominic Day and George Kruis – Rugby

Like MMA, rugby is an incredibly demanding sport on the body. Players suffer from a variety of issues including inflammation and more serious injuries. Dominic Day and George Kruis (Saracens teammates) have both stated that they use CBD to help them recover from their injuries. Speaking to the BBC, the two claimed that CBD helped them “put their bodies back together.”

Lucas Glover – Golf

Unlike MMA and rugby, golf doesn’t have quite the same reputation as a physically demanding sport. That said many people have come from the golfing world to say that CBD has helped them with their games. This includes Lucas Glover, the winner of the 2009 US Open. He claims that one of the greatest benefits that can be gained from CBD is the sense of calmness.

This is only a small sample of the number of athletes who are taking CBD to improve their game. However, as you can see there are many benefits to be had; recovery times, stress, and anti-inflammatory pain. So let’s look at what else makes CBD so popular – the benefits.

Why is it so popular? – CBD Benefits

There are quite a lot of reasons why athletes are beginning to turn towards CBD flower. Generally speaking, there’s been a major turn towards more holistic styles of treatment.

CBD has the ability to interact directly with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a system of cannabinoids within the body. There are two kinds of endocannabinoids:

  • anandamide (AEA)
  • 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)

Though scientists only discovered the ECS in 1992, it plays a crucial role in a variety of bodily functions and processes, including:

  • Metabolism
  • Sleep
  • Digestion
  • Memory
  • Reproduction
  • Liver function
  • And many more

You can find receptors for the ECS all over the body. CB1 receptors, for example, are typically found within the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system.

By ingesting CBD in whatever manner you choose (more on that below) you can harness the benefits easily. Here are just some of the benefits of using CBD for athletes:

1. Pain relief

Professional athletes deal with a lot of pain and cannabinoids have been known to deal effectively with it. While there is a growing amount of clinical evidence, anecdotal evidence also suggests that CBD can help deal with pain.

In the past, professional athletes (particularly in the United States) have relied upon opioid-based medications in order to deal with pain. However, this is a dangerous and problematic route. Widespread addiction has forced many doctors and professional athletes to reconsider the use of opioid-based medications.

Cannabinoids have been shown to prevent and suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain. What’s more, is that there is very little danger of addiction to CBD so athletes do not have to worry about needing larger and larger doses.

2. Inflammatory relief

Along with pain, inflammation of muscles and tissue fibres is just another part of the job for most athletes. Though it’s not just athletes who suffer from inflammation, anyone can suffer from chronic inflammation. This, in turn, leads to sickness.

When athletes get injured (which is unfortunately unavoidable) their body’s natural response is inflammation. This needs to be sorted quickly and effectively. Prolonged inflammation can lead to a huge impact on an athlete’s training schedule.

A study from 2010 showed that, “cannabinoids have been shown to regulate the tissue response to excessive inflammation in the colon, mediated by both dampening smooth-muscular irritation caused by inflammation and suppressing proinflammatory cytokines, thus controlling the cellular pathways leading to inflammatory responses.”

In simpler terms, cannabinoids could potentially be a powerful therapeutic tool for the treatment of inflammation.

3. Improved sleep

It’s not just athletes who need better sleep, it’s everyone. According to Aviva, about 16 million people in the UK suffer from insomnia. Additionally, over two-thirds of the population claimed to suffer from some form of interrupted sleep patterns.

But if you’re going to perform at your absolute peak, you one hundred percent need to have adequate periods of rest.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD helps people feel calm and relaxed. While not psychoactive in the same manner as THC, CBD can relax someone without making them feel fuzzy.

If you’re looking for more clinical evidence we have a report from 2018. This report demonstrated that CBD is a useful therapy for a multitude of diverse conditions including sleep disorders. Better sleep creates a more relaxed athlete which helps athletes perform at their best every time.

4. Faster recovery

Need to recover from injuries fast? Want to get back in the game as soon as possible? Then CBD might be able to help. As we mentioned before, CBD can help athletes deal with and overcome pain and inflammation. By using topical creams or tinctures on problem areas athletes can speed up their faster recovery times and spend more time training.

5. Immune system boost

As we mentioned at the top, CBD interacts effectively with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system, in turn, helps with a lot of bodily functions and processes such as memory, digestion, sleep, and inflammation.

CBD allows these things to run more smoothly and effectively. Additionally, CBD works as an immunosuppressant and immunomodulator. Essentially, giving your immune system a boost of protection.

6. Endurance

CBD has a cumulative effect on the health of those who use it regularly. As we’ve seen CBD can help reduce the inflammation and pain that athletes endure. By helping athletes recover from their injuries quicker and helping them sleep at night their performances will improve. Because of these positive factors, an athlete will see significant improvements in endurance for both competitions and training.

7. Muscle gain

Did you know CBD can help you gain muscle? It might sound funny but it’s true. CBD acts to reduce cortisol levels in the body during stressful workouts. For athletes looking to put on a bit more muscle this is good news. By taking CBD your muscle tissues can grow with greater ease. CBD helps your gains. Who knew?

8. Stress

To compete at the highest level you have to learn to deal with an extraordinary amount of pressure. It’s no wonder that athletes would need a way to unwind. When you’re stressed out, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. CBD is an anti-catabolic so it can regulate the levels of stress within your body.

CBD has long been touted for its anti-anxiety effects on the body and mind. As well as providing you with peace of mind at night for better sleep it can calm you down before big tournaments and events.

What are the side effects of CBD?

When it comes to CBD there aren’t too many side effects to be worried about. For most people, the worst you can probably expect is a slight feeling of nausea. This happens sometimes to first-timers who ingest a strong dose of CBD.

However, for the few who may be more sensitive to the effects of CBD than others, there may be some stronger side effects. In a study published in 2017, these were the most commonly reported side effects:

  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight changes

The study outlined that there needs to be a more in-depth look at the “toxicological parameters’ of the drug.

Best ways to take CBD

There are a number of ways to use CBD. You can try edibles, tinctures, vapes, gummies, and a lot more besides. Usually, people choose the option that is easiest for them, based on how discreet an option is or how quick and effective it is. These options fall under these categories:

  • Tinctures
  • Edibles
  • Vapes
  • Topicals

CBD Oil Tinctures

CBD oil tinctures are a very popular and effective way of ingesting CBD. You don’t need any fancy equipment and the tinctures themselves are easy to store and transport. To take, you simply dropper some under your tongue (sublingually) or into food or beverages. It can be done discreetly and easily wherever you are.

For some people, the natural taste of CBD can be a bit too bitter. But never fear, you can find CBD tinctures in a range of different flavours to suit you. As we said, you can put the CBD oil into your favourite foods and

CBD Edibles

CBD edibles are becoming super popular these days and it’s no surprise why. These provide a measured dose of CBD in a convenient to take form. In particular, people love CBD gummies. Who doesn’t love chewing on a delicious sweet?

A possible drawback for some people might be the longer ingestion time. CBD gummies and other edibles need time to break down in your digestive system. If you’re looking for a dose of CBD over a long period of time then this is what you need.

CBD Topicals

Love to take care of your skin and your health at the same time? Then topicals might be the choice for you. CBD topicals are, as the name suggests, applied directly to the skin so it can be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

You can find a range of CBD topicals like lotions and moisturisers from sports brands as well as beauty brands like Poko.

CBD Vapes

Vaping CBD is extremely popular and one of the most effective ways of ingesting CBD. It does require you to invest in a vape pen or vaporizer. Some of these are expensive but there are many affordable options, too.

The benefit of vaping CBD is that it goes straight to your bloodstream. This means there’s very little wait time for it to take effect. On average, you can expect the CBD to start acting in your system in around ten minutes from the moment you vape.

Vaping is often seen as much safer than regular smoking. While that is generally true you still need to be careful about it is you’re vaping. We recommend avoiding any vape juice made with MCT, propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. There have been reports that these can be incredibly damaging to your lungs.

How much CBD should athletes use?

Figuring out what the ideal dose to take as an athlete can be a difficult task. Generally speaking, the more intense your exercise regimen the greater quantity of CBD you want to be taking. This is mostly because the greater intensity of an athletes regimen will lead to problems such as inflammation and pain.

Our advice for when it comes to how much CBD for an athlete to use is the same as it would be for a general user – as much as you think. We know that’s a bit of a cop out but it’s true. Everyone responds to CBD differently.

If you’re unsure always start off low and work your way towards larger doses. Starting off with a smaller dose decreases your chances of feeling nauseous or suffering other unwanted side effects.

For professional athletes who exercise every day a dose between 10mg and 20mg CBD would be ideal. Depending on how you feel, increase or decrease your dose. If you find you need greater and greater doses throughout the day consider using a CBD topical at night before bed.


In conclusion, we think any athlete, not just professionals, could benefit from using CBD. There is an ever-growing list of people who are turning to CBD so they can achieve their best that much easier. Everyone from professional golfers like Bubba Watson to soccer players like Megan Rapinoe are realising that a simple, easy to buy substance like CBD can add a whole extra dimension to their game.

Try CBD today and see for yourself.