If you’re reading this, I bet you’ve heard about the benefits CBD can have for athletes.
Chances are you’ve heard CBD can help you stay focused and alert during workouts, as well as improve your sleep and relieve pain after you’ve hit the gym, track, or field.
If that’s the case, you’re probably wondering when’s the best time to take this supplement to maximize its benefits for you.
In this article, I’ll cover the effects of CBD and whether you should be taking it pre or post workout.
The Effects of CBD on Sleep, Energy Levels, and Focus
CBD is a really interesting compound because it can have so many different effects.
You’ve probably already heard about CBD having anti-inflammatory benefits, reducing anxiety, and even calming seizures and tremors.
As I’ve discussed in previous articles, research is showing us that CBD also has direct effects on energy levels and sleep.
That’s because the endocannabinoid system (which processes plant-derived cannabinoids once they enter the body) is directly involved in regulating our sleep and energy cycles.
Studies show, for example, that cannabinoids can help us get to sleep as well as increase the total time we spend sleeping.
THC, for example, has been well-established as a sleep-inducing agent, especially when taken in larger doses.
For a long time, CBD was similarly thought to have calming and relaxing effects that could help induce sleep.
In fact, studies show that CBD can help treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.
In 1981, for example, the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reviewed the findings of different clinical trials using CBD on healthy volunteers, as well as people with insomnia and/or epilepsy.
In one particular trial, 15 patients with insomnia were given either CBD (at doses of 40, 80 and 160mg), 5mg of nitrazepam, or a placebo.
The patients found that the higher doses of CBD significantly increased their total sleep time.
They also noted that they had lower dream recall with all 3 doses of CBD, which is considered a sign of better, more restorative sleep.
However, recent research shows that cannabinoids may also help boost energy levels, depending on how they are administered and at what doses.
In 2004, for example, a team of UK researchers tested the effects of CBD and THC on sleep in 8 healthy volunteers.
The study was placebo-controlled and double-blind and lasted for a total of 5 nights.
The subjects were 4 males and 4 females, all aged between 21 and 34 years old.
The first night was labeled an “adaptation night,” during which the subjects were familiarized with the experiment.
Over the following 4 nights, the subjects were given 4 different treatments; placebo, 15 mg THC, a mix of 5mg THC and 5mg CBD, and a mix of 15mg THC and 15mg CBD.
All of the treatments were administered via an oral spray.
The researchers then used electroencephalogram testing to monitor the subjects’ brain activity during sleep.
In the morning, the subjects were also asked to self evaluate their mood and sleepiness, as well as undergo some performance tasks.
The researchers noted that THC clearly had sedative effects.
When administered in higher doses, it also impaired memory, and the subjects also reported increased feelings of sleepiness and effects on mood.
Larger doses of THC also decreased the subjects’ results in some of the performance tasks, such as a number memory test.
Meanwhile, CBD seemed to have clear alerting effects and actually counteracted some of the sedative effects of THC.
Other studies have also shown the alerting properties of CBD.
In 2006, FEBS Letters published an animal-based study by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
The study examined the effects of ICV administrations on lab rats during their normal sleeping period.
The rats were given CBD during either a “lights on” (7 am) or “lights off” period (7 pm).
The study found that CBD increased wakefulness within roughly 1 hour when administered during the lights-on period.
It also decreased the amount of time the animals spent in rapid eye movement sleep.
But CBD is not the only cannabinoid with wake-inducing properties.
Many cannabis users also find that THC, especially when taken in small microdoses, can also boost energy, concentration, and focus.
So, what does all of this mean for you as an athlete?
Well, it means that CBD can both help improve your focus and energy when you need it (such as prior to a workout or on game-day), as well as help you unwind and relax when you need to.
This is exactly why I use CBD.
Below I’ll take a closer look at how to use CBD for a pre-workout energy boost or to unwind post workout.
How to Use CBD Pre-Workout to Boost Your Energy
CBD is often marketed for having calming effects that help reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and more.
But did you know that CBD can also help you stay more alert and focused?
In 2014, the journal of Current Neuropharmacology published a review of the existing literature on CBD as a potential “wake-promoting agent.”
The paper looked at a wide variety of research and clearly highlighted the discrepancies of how some studies found CBD to be sleep-inducing, while others found it to be alerting.
The study mentioned that these discrepancies could be caused by differences in how the researchers administered CBD, as well as differences in the doses they used.
It’s also really important to realize that CBD and other cannabis-derived therapies tend to produce very individual results in different people.
You might find CBD makes you feel energized and focused, while your best friend might find it to be the perfect nightcap.
Nonetheless, the study highlighted a few different mechanisms of action of CBD that might help us better understand how it modulates sleep.
One of those mechanisms is that CBD increases the expression of c-Fos genes in particular brain regions such as the hypothalamus and the dorsal raphe nuclei.
Studies have shown that c-Fos genes, especially in these areas of the brain, play a key role in waking and alertness.
Then, they naturally decrease during sleep and are almost completely absent during the final REM sleep stage.
CBD has also been shown to enhance dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens.
Like c-Fos, dopamine has also been shown to play an important role in regulating our sleep and wake cycle.
In 2012, researchers from the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas in Madrid, Spain, found that dopamine receptors can interact with receptors for another hormone, norepinephrine.
When dopamine interacts with dopamine receptors, it can then inhibit the effects of norepinephrine, resulting in decreased productions of melatonin.
Melatonin, as you might already know, is a hormone produced in the pineal gland at night to help induce sleep and regulate the body’s metabolism as we rest.
The fact that CBD has been shown to increase dopamine levels (which can reduce the production of melatonin) might help explain another way CBD can induce waking/alerting effects.
Now, while the science behind CBDs alerting properties might not be completely clear, I can definitely say that I’ve experienced these effects for myself.
I usually find a small dose of CBD oil taken before a workout or even before game-day can help improve my energy and focus.
Now, I want to be clear:
Don’t expect CBD to boost your energy in the same way a strong cup of coffee or a can of Redbull might.
The effects are much more subtle.
Based on my experience, I find CBD to produce more of a calm state of focus, which many people relate back to its anxiolytic effects.
When I take CBD before a workout, I find that CBD helps cut out some of the “noise” in my brain and lets me direct my attention where it is needed most.
On game-day, on the other hand, I notice a significant decrease in those tell-tale signs of anxiety like short breathing, racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, and more.
I generally use CBD oil under my tongue as part of my pre-workout routine, but I’ve also seen people use chews and gummies before a workout, too.
Use CBD Post-Workout to Improve Sleep and Speed Up Recovery
As we saw earlier, CBD can help induce sleep and improve overall sleep quality.
In an article for the HuffPost, author of CBD Oil: Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide To Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness Gretchen Lidicker said that this could be due to CBD’s effect on GABA and serotonin receptors.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a really big role in regulating our emotions and mood.
When our bodies don’t produce enough serotonin, we may feel depressed or anxious, and so a common treatment for these conditions involves taking Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs).
These drugs help boost serotonin levels in the brain and therefore work to reduce the symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety disorders.
Having too much serotonin in the brain, on the other hand, can cause serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal condition that can cause severe symptoms like high body temperature, agitation, tremors, seizures, muscle breakdown, and more.
What CBD can do is temporarily increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can help reduce anxiety, stress, and worry, some very common symptoms in people with sleep disorders.
At the same time, CBD can also directly affect GABA activity in the brain.
GABA neurons have a wide variety of functions, one of which is to regulate brain activity.
CBD seems to directly influence GABA neurons in a way that can calm down excess brain activity, which is what researchers now believe to be the reason behind its anxiolytic and even antiepileptic effects.
Just like I’ve seen CBD work to boost my focus and motivation on game-day or pre-workout, I’ve also seen it help induce sleep.
My wife Sara, for example, regularly uses CBD supplements to get a better night’s shut-eye.
For a long time, Sara has dealt with anxiety and stress.
Any kind of stress from work or even her personal life could keep Sara up for hours, tossing and turning and mulling over things in her head.
She’d wake up feeling exhausted and frustrated, which only made matters worse.
Luckily, CBD supplements have helped Sara get to sleep faster, stay asleep for longer, and wake up feeling refreshed and motivated.
As an athlete, you probably know just how important sleep is for recovery.
If you want to improve the quality of your sleep and recover faster from the physical stress of training and performing, I highly recommend looking into CBD.
CBD oils and chews taken 1-2 hours before you hit the hay, for example, can be a great way to make you feel relaxed and calm in time for bed.
Also, make sure to look into topical CBD products like creams and ointments, as these can work wonders for relieving sore muscles and joints after a particularly hard workout.
Find the Best CBD Supplements for Athletes
As athletes, we’re always looking for new and improved ways to perform at our best.
Well, I can assure you that CBD has become my go-to supplement; it helps me sleep better, recover faster, and perform better.
If you’re interested in trying CBD supplements for yourself, make sure to check out my homepage for detailed reviews of different CBD products.
Finally, also read through the other posts on my blog for more information about the many benefits of CBD.