Fitness & Nutrition

Is CBD effective for pre- and post-workout?

Medically reviewed by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Written by Melena Gurganus
Victor Freitas

Eating protein-rich foods and taking pre-workout supplements are common practices that have long been used by those looking to get the most out of their workouts.

In addition to these more conventional workout-boosting habits, some fitness enthusiasts have started using CBD before or after they exercise as a natural way to improve exercise performance and enhance recovery.

While CBD is not classified as a health supplement by the FDA, people far and wide are taking CBD products to promote exercise performance, enhance muscle building, and to speed recovery after intense workouts.    

However, it’s unclear if CBD is as effective for these uses as some people claim. This article breaks down the latest science and explains how CBD may benefit those looking to elevate their fitness routine. 

Using CBD Before Exercising

Research shows that CBD has relaxation-promoting and anti-anxiety effects, which is why many people take CBD as a natural way to encourage restful sleep and reduce anxiety symptoms.

However, the stimulating potential of this compound is too often overlooked. CBD with THC has been shown to increase wakefulness and alertness when administered in lower doses, while the sedating effects are typically associated with higher doses. For those looking to increase focus and energy by introducing CBD into their active lifestyle, this is a plus.

But before you try CBD as a pre-workout booster, first consider what results you are hoping to achieve. The type of delivery method and when you choose to take CBD can play an important role in how you respond to the hemp extract. For instance, your body will absorb CBD more slowly if you ingest a capsule or edible when compared to other application styles, like inhalation or sublingual drops, which take effect much more quickly.

You can choose a product that you like, and adjust the time at which you take it depending on when you hope to see the CBD take effect. Additionally, you’ll want to start with small doses of CBD if using it before a workout, especially since too much of the compound may hamper your motivation to exercise.

CBD for Post-Workout Recovery

The phrase “no pain, no gain” comes to mind when we think of building muscle, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the common culprit. The aches and pains that follow an intense workout are caused by the body’s response to heal microtears in the muscle fibers, which are a result of muscle tension and strain. While this sensation may be uncomfortable, it’s a good sign that your muscles are recovering and building stronger fibers that are more resistant to damage.

But it’s not always easy to move past the joint pain, muscle soreness, and old injury flare-ups that can hinder many people from reaching the full scope of their physical capabilities.

Enter CBD

As CBD becomes more widely recognized as a pain-relieving substance, more people are starting to use CBD after physical activity to counteract exercise-induced muscle soreness and reduce inflammation. This is often done to help reduce some of the painful side effects caused by muscle recovery, without inhibiting the ability of the muscle fibers to heal themselves. Although CBD holds promise as a muscle pain-relieving natural remedy, more research on the potential ability to ease pain and promote muscle recovery after exercise is needed.

Moreover, CBD appeals to a variety of consumers since there are a wide range of different application methods. CBD-infused lotions and creams can be applied topically for targeting localized pain, or sublingual tinctures or ingestible capsules can be of use when seeking whole-body effects.

Why Athletes are Increasingly Turning to CBD

Professional athletes like UFC fighter Nate Diaz and former NFL offensive tackle Eugene Monroe are known to promote the use of CBD, as they’ve personally experienced benefits from using the compound for pain management and muscle recovery.

In comparison to other common substances used to help people cope with pain, chronic use of over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Aspirin can have damaging long term effects, such as:

  • Development of kidney damage and progression of kidney disease
  • Increased risk for heart problems
  • Gastrointestinal damage, including ulcers and internal bleeding
  • High blood pressure

Not only can NSAIDs have these potentially harmful consequences, but your body can build up a tolerance to these drugs and reduce their effectiveness—and ultimately make it more challenging to deal with inflammation.

As one study published by the Annals of Long Term Care noted, “The NSAID should be used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time.” Essentially highlighting that these substances may be helpful but are not a solution to chronic pain issues. 

Why This Matters

As more and more people grow curious about using CBD to promote exercise performance and workout recovery, it’s important  to analyze both the scientific and anecdotal evidence that supports this idea. Although some research suggests that the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD—along with its potential ability to enhance alertness—more research on the effects of CBD on exercise performance is needed to fully understand how this compound may benefit both elite athletes and everyday gym-goers. 

Scientific research has been able to lay the groundwork for outlining possible benefits that CBD may have to offer, but more clinical studies are necessary to fill in additional blanks. Yet even with a lack of evidence, we’ve seen the emergence of several advocates who regularly use CBD to aid in the various side effects of muscle growth and recovery. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the best CBD for pre- and post-workout, check out Remedy Review’s guide to best CBD products for athletes

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