In a world filled with testosterone, protein shakes, and a myriad of supplements, is there room for one more? Can CBD work for bodybuilding? Judging by the various infomercials marketing weird and occasionally wonderful ways to build muscle, the answer is a definite ‘YES.’ The size of the health and fitness industry means it’s no surprise that CBD and bodybuilding are a potential match.
This article explores the evidence that suggests CBD could help improve your rate of muscle growth. It also delves into other possible benefits for bodybuilding, including faster recovery time and decreased post-workout pain.
Is CBD Good for Bodybuilding?
Those who use CBD for bodybuilding believe it helps them in a wide variety of ways. That a growing number of gym-goers want to try cannabidiol is no shock. After all, it is an industry notorious for selling an array of supplements. Some, like creatine, are backed by science. Others are utterly ridiculous with no apparent benefit other than the bank balance of the creators.
For those seeking an edge, bodybuilding and CBD is a combination that makes sense. Unlike THC, the intoxicating compound in cannabis, CBD does not produce a ‘high.’ It impacts the cannabinoid receptors found in the human body and brain. The primary receptors are CB1 and CB2.
Although CBD doesn’t directly bind to receptors like THC, it has an indirect effect. This appears to provide users with an array of benefits. From a bodybuilding point of view, the most salient are recovery from workouts, better energy levels, and improved sleep.
At present, it is much easier to find CBD than THC. In the United States, both remain on the list of controlled substances. The issue with CBD is confusing because it comes from the hemp plant as well as from marijuana. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, but not CBD. In general, it is easy to find, but a handful of states, such as Idaho, make it tricky.
Does CBD Build Muscle?
In bodybuilding circles, any supplement capable of helping boost muscle mass is snapped up by eager gym rats. There is a suggestion that CBD can help with the muscle-building process.
First and foremost, be wary of any brand that makes health claims concerning cannabidiol. The FDA has clearly outlined that such an action is illegal. Vendors can’t make any medical claims or say CBD cures or treats any condition. It doesn’t matter whether there is compelling evidence.
Even if CBD does not directly build muscle, it could have an array of benefits that pave the way for an individual to increase their muscle mass. Think about it: If you could recover faster, you could complete more workouts overall. Through this process, you would likely benefit from a higher level of muscle. No ingredient or product in the world helps you gain muscle without also working hard!
CBD may offer an alternative to anti-catabolic products, which are taken to reduce muscle loss.
Those familiar with bodybuilding have probably heard of anabolic and anti-catabolic supplements. Catabolic hormones cause muscle loss. As the name suggests, anti-catabolic products reduce the production of catabolic hormones. Anabolic supplements boost the production of anabolic hormones. This particular process helps protein synthesis and leads to faster muscle growth.
CBD doesn’t replace anabolic products. However, it potentially offers an alternative to anti-catabolic ones. Remember, CBD connects with the CB receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). It could help regulate the body’s metabolism and appetite.
Why Do Bodybuilders Take CBD?
There are many potential benefits for bodybuilders that use CBD. However, one of the most crucial is the impact of CBD on inflammation. The inflammatory process involves swelling, pain, heat, redness, and loss of function. It is an essential immune response that can keep us protected from harmful microorganisms.
Bodybuilders need acute inflammation. It is a short-lived process that helps kill foreign bodies. After it achieves this process, the antibodies change gears and remove residue while repairing damaged cells. If you have ever trained hard, you will experience the pain of this form of inflammation. Though it hurts like hell, it is a good thing!
What you don’t want is chronic inflammation because it causes muscle breakdown. It can persist for months or longer without the necessary immune response to shut it down. As well as damaging muscle growth, chronic inflammation contributes to various diseases such as arthritis and Alzheimer’s.
Now that we have examined some of the claims, let’s see what the science says.
CBD and Muscle Growth – What Does the Research Say?
Realistically, the best oil for muscle growth probably won’t directly boost your muscle mass. However, CBD could have a significant indirect impact.
High cortisol levels can slow down muscle growth. If you produce a lot of this stress hormone, you will find that it hurts your muscle-building exploits. CBD potentially reduces the level of stress a person feels. As a result, you benefit from a lower rate of cortisol production.
A relatively old study published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research revealed something interesting. It found that CBD possessed anti-catabolic properties that helped it regulate the body’s hormone levels. In volunteers who used CBD oil, cortisol levels were kept at bay. This process allowed for enhanced muscle growth and protein synthesis throughout weight training.
The anti-catabolic properties of CBD could also lead to the slower breakdown of muscle mass. Once again, this could result in trainees building a greater level of muscle. However, this study only featured a small sample size and involved 300mg to 600mg doses of CBD. Most people consume less than 50mg a day.
CBD Oil and Bodybuilding – More Research into Its Benefits
There are many other ways in which CBD is beneficial for bodybuilding. This includes:
- Faster muscle recovery
- Improved sleep
- Lower stress & anxiety
- Weight management
- Boosted energy levels
- Decreased DOMS
There’s little doubt that CBD oil and natural bodybuilding is a dynamic duo. Anyone who has weight trained for a considerable period knows that all of the above are key components of better and more consistent workouts.
As it happens, there is research available that indicates CBD helps with everything just mentioned. Let’s take a look.
Faster Muscle Recovery
Remember, chronic inflammation hinders muscle recovery and can kill your gains. Fortunately, it appears as if CBD could help with post-workout inflammation, thus helping the body recover faster from an intense workout.
The standard way to tackle chronic inflammation is through NSAIDs. A 2017 study by Lilja et al. found that high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs can inhibit muscle growth. CBD, on the other hand, could help reduce chronic inflammation without hindering the muscle-building process. Cannabinoids are strong anti-inflammatory agents. CBD, in particular, has a distinct way of interacting with the ECS that could help reduce inflammation.
A review of over 130 studies by Rudroff and Sosnoff, published in Frontiers in Neurology in 2018, found something interesting. It discovered that CBD could reduce inflammation in the body, improve mobility, and reduce pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. The reviewers said CBD was “Anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antiemetic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective.”
The body needs sleep to rebuild and heal the muscle tears associated with weightlifting. If you don’t get enough rest, your body has problems synthesizing protein into muscle. Sleep impacts almost every tissue in the body, including breathing, the immune system, and growth & stress hormones.
A Swiss study published in Pharmaceuticals in 2012 compared CBD with nitrazepam. The researchers found that a 160mg dose of CBD increased the volunteers’ sleep duration.
Lower Stress & Anxiety
The enemy of muscle building, cortisol, also comes to the fore when we’re stressed. Symptoms include low concentration, anxiety, and low self-esteem. We’ve already outlined how CBD could help reduce cortisol levels, and research shows it can reduce anxiety.
A 2019 study, published in The Permanente Journal, looked at over 100 adults with anxiety or sleep problems. Ultimately, the final sample included 72 adults. Almost 80% of them reported decreased anxiety scores after using CBD for a month. Their rate of anxiety remained low throughout the three-month study.
Those who are serious about bodybuilding also try to keep their body fat percentage down. It so happens that CBD could help with weight loss. A study published in Nature found that CBD potentially increases the levels of leptin in the brain. Leptin is the hormone associated with making us feel full.
With higher leptin levels, you are less likely to feel cravings for unhealthy, high-calorie foods that can prevent you from reaching your ideal body fat level.
Boosted Energy Levels
It is tough to do a great workout when you feel sluggish. CBD could help by regulating the blood sugar levels in your body. This, in turn, impacts the level of insulin you produce. By maintaining a lower insulin level, the body burns more glucose into energy rather than converting it to fat. As well as seeing better muscle-building results, you may also enjoy having more ‘zip’ in your workouts.
We’ve already mentioned research that shows how CBD could help improve sleep duration which, of course, impacts energy levels throughout the day. Also, a 2014 study found that CBD could act as a wake-promoting agent in some people.
If you’ve ever felt pain that lasts for several days after an intense workout, you’ve experienced the joy of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). You will likely feel this burning sensation 12-24 hours after training. While it is part and parcel of the process for some lifters, others might decide that their DOMS is too painful to train for a few days.
However, CBD could help reduce the soreness you feel after a tough session. A review of studies published in 2008 found that CBD could help alleviate chronic pain. A growing number of bodybuilders claim that using cannabidiol helps their DOMS dissipate faster, and helps get them back in the gym quickly.
Now that you can see the benefits of CBD oil for bodybuilding, let’s look at the professionals that use it.
Bodybuilders Using CBD
- Lee Priest: Born Lee Andre McCutcheon, this Australian bodybuilder competed in the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB). There, he won a multitude of titles over a career that spanned almost two decades. Priest has recently spoken out over how CBD has proven more beneficial to him than opioids.
- Joey Swoll: Joey Sergo is a leader in the fitness industry and has featured in numerous fitness and bodybuilding magazines. These days, he offers online coaching, but only for serious trainees. One look at his physique suggests that he employs a brutal training regime of his own. He is another big name in the fitness industry that apparently uses and endorses CBD for recovery.
- Dave Palumbo: As well as competing in various competitions, Palumbo was the Editor-in-Chief of Muscular Development magazine. He also founded RxMuscle.com and owns Species Nutrition. Again, he seemingly believes cannabidiol can help bodybuilders in their recovery phases.
How to Use CBD When Bodybuilding
The Frontiers in Neurology study in 2018 stated that high doses of up to 1,500mg of CBD per day and chronic use are tolerated by humans. However, CBD oil is relatively expensive, and you don’t need to use a huge amount. If you are a cannabidiol novice, you should use between 1mg and 6mg of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight daily. This means a 180-pound bodybuilder should use between 18mg and 108mg per day.
Yet, most experts recommend beginning with a maximum of 10mg a day to see how CBD affects you. As for timing, most trainees are happy to use it directly after a session.
Many CBD experts suggest starting at a serving of 10mg per day; however, bodybuilders may find themselves needing more.
You have the option of consuming CBD oils or edibles. Some people prefer to vape the substance because it potentially has a faster effect and higher bioavailability.
If you’re using CBD for muscle soreness, you should consider investing in topicals such as a cream. Rub the CBD cream into any parts of the body that feel sore, and gauge the effects.
Final Thoughts on CBD Bodybuilding
In the end, there is unquestionably a positive link between CBD and bodybuilding. Unfortunately, the cannabinoid is not federally legal in the United States. This is one of the reasons why there is relatively little clinical research into it at present. Until researchers can perform unencumbered tests, it is difficult to see the FDA change its stance.
Fortunately, its use is widely accepted, and those who want to use CBD for bodybuilding shouldn’t find it too hard to locate. There are dozens of reputable brands that offer the cannabinoid. Possible benefits include lower stress, better sleep, and reduced inflammation. It is the latter that has the most considerable interest for individuals looking to build muscle.
If you want to give it a try, there are many options, including edibles, tinctures, and topicals. It is best if you begin with a small amount to see how your body reacts. Gradually increase how much you take until you are happy with the outcome.