When it comes to inflammatory pain, no one knows that feeling better than athletes, especially endurance athletes like runners. Almost every runner out there is practically married to ibuprofen in a desperate attempt to calm their bodies’ aches. But, there are many long-term side effects of anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Enter CBD for runners, a more natural approach that might be the answer to every runner’s prayers.
CBD is the non-psychoactive compound derived mostly from the hemp plant, with minimal (almost none, about 0.3-0.5%) THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. CBD triggers cannabinoid receptors in our system to help our bodies regulate physiological processes like stress, inflammation, pain, and even energy levels.
For runners, these benefits are precisely what the doctor ordered. However, before running off with excitement, there are a few things you need to know.
Are CBD and Runners Meant to Be Together?
Runners undergo a lot of stress, both physically and mentally. But, after decades of turning to over-the-counter pain killers and performance-enhancing drugs, athletes are looking for safer, natural, and legal alternatives to keep their running shoes.
CBD helps runners’ bodies to naturally respond to its own endocannabinoids, stimulating those receptors that play a part in temperature, pain, and inflammation.
Runners endure constant trauma to their lower bodies, resulting in stress that can accumulate over time, which can lead to painful conditions. One to two-thirds of competitive cross-country and long-distance runners say they have experienced bones stress injury (CSI) at least once. But, runners suffer from much more than that, including:
- Knee injuries
- Shin splints
- Plantar fasciitis
- Morton’s neuroma
- Achilles tendonitis
- Sprains and stress fractures
- Muscle cramps
- Chronic lower back pain
Beyond relieving pain and inflammation, CBD is a natural alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as well as an alternative to opioids, which is a win on its own.
Early research has found that CBD may help relieve pain and inflammation often paired with these conditions as well as other pain points runners experience. A controlled trial looked at the analgesic effect in cannabinoid treatment when used for chronic neuropathic pain, another common runner’s nightmare. The trial reported a small benefit in those with chronic neuropathic pain, yet more extensive studies are needed to evaluate the results better.
Also, there’s a rather embarrassing problem most runners face – an upset stomach. For their benefit, research suggests that the endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in gut motility, giving runners hope. Another study on ulcerative colitis found that cannabidiol did reduce intestinal inflammation, adding more evidence to this CBD benefit.
Things All Runners Need to Know
There have been plenty of promising studies regarding the benefits of CBD, but research on CBD is still in its infancy. Optimal dosage, best delivery method, and short-term versus long-term effects are yet to be pinpointed. The more runners learn about CBD and its effects, the more ways they can find to incorporate them into their routines to help them improve their performance and health.
Is It Legal?
Yes. At the beginning of 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. However, there’s a caveat, only CBD was removed from the list. THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, is still banned in competition as are synthetic cannabinoids.
As for legality outside of sports, that’s a bit more complex. Federal, state, and local legality of cannabis products continue to evolve, which is why runners must check the laws in their areas before consuming any CBD products.
Is It Legit?
To an extent. Relying on CBD to relieve pain pre, during, and after running shouldn’t be considered a cure for pain. Just like taking ibuprofen isn’t either. CBD can help with pain relief and inflammation, but it won’t be a miracle worker and cure an injury like runner’s knee or a sprain. When runners suffer injuries, they still need time to heal, just as masking chronic pain with any type of pain reliever is a recipe for disaster as well.
How to Incorporate CBD into Your Running Routine
There’s no right or wrong way to incorporate CBD into your running routine, the best one will always be the one that fits your needs. Some runners opt to incorporate it into their warm-up session, while others use it as a post-run recovery treatment.
When to Take It?
At first, it will be a trial and error process until you find what works best for you. If you decide to take it before your running session, its benefits can help make sure you’re more balanced, especially if you’re running a long distance trek or an intense fartlek. If you instead take it as part of your recovery session, along with hydration and stretching, its benefits will help your body functions to go back to homeostasis.
How to Take It?
CBD products are available as capsules, lotions, balms, gummies, oils, and more – there’s no right or wrong way to take it. Runners often find that creams and lotions can help with localized pain, which is perfect for soothing any aches before or after a big run. Others prefer to use drop tinctures instead to take a small serving before or after runs.
No matter what form of CBD you choose to use to power your running routine, remember to always check for products using high-quality products with third-party laboratory reports. And lastly, keep in mind no two bodies are alike; always check with your health care physician before incorporating any new substances into your routine, to make sure you’re choosing the right products for your body’s unique needs.