Do the pre-game jitters affect your ability to concentrate out on the field?
Do you wish there was a natural way to calm your game-day stress and anxiety so you can perform at your best?
Well, I’ve got great news:
By stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD can naturally help athletes reduce game-day stress and performance anxiety.
Read on to learn more.
Understanding the Difference Between “Good” and “Bad” Stress
As athletes, we experience all kinds of different stress.
The most obvious, however, is the stress and anxiety leading up to a big event.
Sometimes, this game-day stress can be fairly manageable.
In fact, I sometimes find that a little dose of stress can help me stay focused and motivated to perform at my best.
Unfortunately, game-day stress can also have the opposite effect on a lot of athletes, leaving them so anxious and nervous that they end up underperforming.
While we have come to think of stress as something negative, it’s important to realize that stress is actually inherently a survival mechanism.
Imagine, for example, that you’re out on a morning run.
As you go to cross a street, you notice a car in your peripheral vision and hear tires screech against the pavement
Your brain will naturally perceive the car as a threat and will react by pumping stress hormones into your blood and sending them around your body.
The main human stress hormones are cortisol and adrenaline, both of which cause different reactions in the body.
Cortisol, for example, increases the amount of sugar in the bloodstream and stops certain bodily functions which aren’t essential in a “fight or flight” situation.
Adrenaline, on the other hand, boosts your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as increasing energy supplies.
Together, these hormones can help you make rapid decisions to get you out of potentially dangerous situations.
In this particular situation, they might help you move quickly out of the way of the car or stop in time to avoid an accident.
In these kinds of situations, stress is a normal and potentially life-saving response to the world around you.
The stress you experience as an athlete leading up to an event is a little different.
Here, it isn’t so much the event that is making you stressed, but more so the way you think about it in the hours, days, and weeks prior to setting foot on the field.
As I mentioned earlier, some game day stress can be beneficial.
“In the right amount, stress helps you prepare, focus, and perform at your optimal level,” – Dr Patrick Cohn, a mental training expert and founder of Peak Performance Sports.
I personally find that a little bit of the pre-game jitters can help me get focused and motivated for an upcoming event.
However, I’ve also been in situations where the stress of performing has kept me from sleeping and eating properly.
On a few occasions, my nerves even affected my performance out on the track.
Unfortunately, I think there’s no such thing as a stress-free athlete.
I imagine that even the biggest sports stars get nervous before a game/event, regardless of their skill level or the years of experience they have.
Hence, the real key for athletes is finding a way to deal with their pre-game nerves in a productive and healthy way.
Sports Performance Anxiety – An Athletes Worst Nightmare
Most acute cases of sports-related stress and anxiety are no big deal.
However, anxiety and stress DO become a problem when they start having a serious impact on your health and ability to perform.
Some athletes can get so stressed before an event that they can’t eat, sleep, or even perform on the day.
The technical term for this level of game-day stress is performance anxiety, and it’s not unique to athletes.
Any person can suffer from performance anxiety, and it is particularly common among musicians, actors, and other performers who colloquially refer to it as “stage fright.”
If you or someone close to you suffer from performance anxiety, you’ll know just how crippling it can be.
Performance anxiety can have a huge effect on your career as an athlete, as well as severely damage your self-esteem and confidence, which in turn only worsens your fear of getting back out onto the field.
In the moments right before an event, performance anxiety can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including:
- A racing heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and/or vomiting
The cause of performance anxiety is usually psychological, but the physical symptoms are caused by your body kickstarting its stress responses (like in the scenario I mentioned earlier).
The only difference here is that your body misinterprets the event or the fear of performing as a potential threat.
The only way to beat this kind of performance anxiety is by teaching yourself to see performing in a different light.
This can take years of practice, and many athletes rely on therapy, meditation, and other similar treatments in order to overcome their fear of performing.
To better understand sports performance anxiety and how to beat it, I suggest reading this article:
The Endocannabinoid System: A Key Player in Managing Stress, Anxiety, and Fear
At the beginning of this article, I made a pretty big promise:
I suggested that CBD supplements could help athletes like you overcome game-day stress.
In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that I believe CBD can even help athletes deal with severe cases of performance anxiety.
That’s because the physiological system in your body that processes cannabinoids like CBD plays a key role in mediating our response to stress, anxiety, and fear.
This system is known as the ECS, or endocannabinoid system.
This system is made up of receptor cells (known as CB1 and CB2), endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, as well as enzymes and cells needed to metabolize and transport both of these compounds.
When we consume cannabinoids like THC and CBD, they interact with the receptors and specific communication channels that make up the ECS.
When this happens, cannabinoids can produce a wide variety of effects, the most obvious of which is the strong euphoria we associate with being high.
The main chemical responsible for making us high is THC, which is found in concentrations of up to 30% in some psychoactive cannabis varieties.
When THC enters the body, it fits directly into cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, at which point it starts delivering its array of effects.
Now, one of the first signs that the ECS is involved in anxiety and stress is this:
In some people, cannabis can produce some unpleasant side-effects, including paranoia, acute anxiety, and panic attacks.
Interestingly, cannabis can also have the opposite effect on other people, reducing feelings of anxiety/stress and instead it produces feelings of relaxation, happiness, and calm.
Over the last couple of years, more and more research has tried to look into the chemicals in cannabis and understand their effects on the human body.
Thanks to this research, we’re starting to get a better understanding of how cannabinoids like THC and CBD work and how we can use them in a beneficial way.
This research has also helped shine a light on the ECS itself and its many roles within the body.
Cannabis research has shown us that cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and the enzymes responsible for breaking them down are present in parts of the brain that play a key role in our management of emotions like stress and fear.
These include the amygdala, the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex, and others.
In fact, some studies even go so far as to suggest that endocannabinoid deficiency or hyperactivity could be the cause of conditions like schizophrenia, depression, and more.
Other research also suggests that the ECS could be a new, potential target for treating conditions like anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD, and more.
For a more detailed review of the endocannabinoid system and its role in stress and anxiety, make sure to check out this study:
How CBD Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety in Athletes
Unlike THC, CBD is renowned for stimulating the ECS in a way that reduces anxiety.
If you suffer from severe game-day stress or even performance anxiety, I bet you’re eager to find a way to put these symptoms to rest so you can focus on giving the best performance possible.
That’s where CBD can work wonders.
Here are some of the benefits of CBD for athletes dealing with anxiety and stress on game day:
1. Cannabinoids Can Positively Affect Neurotransmitter Activity
When we consume cannabis, the cannabinoids within the plant can affect the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t bind to either cannabinoid receptors.
Instead, it acts on other, secondary receptors which stimulate the endocannabinoid system indirectly.
The researchers described CBD as a “positive allosteric modulator” of the GABA-A receptor.
In layman’s terms, the study basically found that CBD can modulate GABA receptors in a way that increases their ability to bind to GABA.
GABA is responsible for managing the communication between brain cells and is able to either increase or decrease the firing of neurons.
When it decreases neuron firing, GABA has calming, sometimes sedative-like effects.
CBD is able to modulate GABA receptors in a way that naturally increases the calming effects of GABA.
Cannabinoids also directly affect the absorption of serotonin, sometimes referred to as the “feel good hormone.”
It does so by mainly acting on a specific serotonin receptor known as 5-HT1A.
In fact, this is the same mechanism by which many prescription anti-depressants/anxiolytics work to reduce anxiety and depression.
2. CBD Can Increase Anandamide Levels
Anandamide is a natural cannabinoid produced by the body.
Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word for bliss and joy thanks to its ability to increase feelings of happiness.
In fact, that heightened euphoria you feel after working out (what some people call “runners’ high”) is believed to be caused by increased levels of anandamide in the brain after exercising.
However, anandamide does much more than just make use feel better; research shows it also plays a key role in our perception of pain, appetite, metabolism, and more.
Like with serotonin, CBD can slow down the reuptake of anandamide in the brain, temporarily increasing its concentration.
Thanks to its natural mood-boosting effects, this boost of anandamide can help reduce feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety.
3. CBD Can Promote Neurogenesis
Another major way CBD can help reduce game-day stress and anxiety is by promoting the growth of brain cells.
This neurogenesis is very important for people with anxiety and depression.
In fact, thanks to their ability to promote neurogenesis, cannabinoids are attracting a lot of attention in the link between the endocannabinoid system and conditions like anxiety, depression, and more.
For a more detailed look at CBD, its effect on neurogenesis, and what this means for the future of treating anxiety, make sure to check out this article:
- Cannabinoids, Neurogenesis and Antidepressant Drugs: Is there a Link? (Current Nueropharmacology 2013)
Other Benefits of CBD for Athletes
CBD can do much more than just reducing anxiety and stress.
Research shows that the endocannabinoid system is involved in a plethora of bodily processes, including everything from pain management and inflammation to the way we metabolize energy.
Thanks to the widespread reach of the endocannabinoid system, CBD can have a wide variety of benefits for athletes.
- Improving sleep.
- Reducing pain and inflammation.
- Managing appetite.
- Stimulating metabolism.
You’re probably wondering why I know of all of this.
Well, I’m an amateur triathlete and I actively started using CBD after I saw it work wonders for my wife and her father.
My wife, Sara, suffers from skin problems and severe stress and anxiety.
She works a really high-pressure job and carries a lot of responsibility, often meeting with potential investors, clients, and high-profile people from her industry.
For years, I saw Sara suffer for days and weeks before a big deadline, presentation, meeting, or other work-related milestones.
Her anxiety would interfere with her ability to sleep, eat, and do her job to the best of her ability.
Plus, Sara also suffers from skin problems like acne which only get worse as she gets more stressed and anxious from work.
Luckily, using a combination of CBD products (including oils, gummies, and topical creams), Sara has been able to greatly reduce the impact of her stress/anxiety on her life.
Plus, CBD creams and balms have also worked wonders for her acne and other skin problems.
Sara’s Dad, Reggie, also uses CBD to fight inflammation and pain in his knee from arthritis.
After seeing how well CBD worked for Sara and her Dad, I quickly started researching how it could benefit me as an athlete.
Today, I use CBD as a daily supplement in the form of oils, gummies/chews, and even specially formulated workout supplements.
CBD is a Natural, Safe, and Legal Substance
If you’re reading this and worried about the legality and safety of CBD, don’t stress:
CBD is extremely well-tolerated and rarely produces side effects.
And in the rare case that it does, the side effects of CBD tend to be lethargy, diarrhea, and appetite changes, which are easy to manage with proper dosing.
Moreover, CBD was recently removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances, meaning it is now allowed by a variety of sports leagues around the world.
Find the Best CBD Supplements for Athletes
I’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, so let’s recap:
First, I took a look at anxiety and stress and how they can affect your performance as an athlete.
Then, I looked at how CBD can activate your endocannabinoid system and reduce game-day stress or symptoms of performance anxiety before you step out onto the field.
If you want to learn more about CBD and its potential benefits for athletes, make sure to read through the other articles on my blog.
Finally, for detailed reviews of the best CBD products for athletics, make sure to check out my website.