CBD for Athletes – Why Are So Many Top-Level Performers Using It?

The trend towards CBD for athletes is such that the cannabinoid features in many well-known sports publications. It doesn’t cause an intoxicating high and is typically derived from hemp, though some sellers take it from marijuana. Like the THC in cannabis, CBD doesn’t have federal approval. That is, barring a Big Pharma product called Epidiolex.

So-called ‘CBD athletes’ prefer the compound to addictive opioids and even over-the-counter drugs. There is now a belief amongst many sportspeople that it’s worth taking CBD for athletic performance. Though the U.S. Government hasn’t legally allowed cannabidiol, you will find it in most states. You can also easily access it in dozens of countries around the world.

In this article, we will check out why athletes use CBD oil. We also discuss a crucial World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ruling that impacts cannabidiol, and highlight five athletes who use CBD.

Why Do Athletes Use CBD Oil?

There is currently an intense debate surrounding CBD oil for athletic performance. One of the primary reasons is its apparent ability to reduce inflammation and thus, speed up recovery. Logically, the more often you can train, the more likely you are to improve in any physical pursuit.

Nagarkatti et al. published a critical study in Future Medicinal Chemistry in October 2009. It looked at whether cannabinoids were potentially useful as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. The researchers found that cannabinoids bonded to CB2 receptors, and have an anti-inflammatory effect. This happened because of a reduction in cytokine, which plays a significant role in the inflammation process.

A review by Burstein, published in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry in 2015, looked at the possible anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol. It found that CBD could reduce inflammation via numerous pathways in the body. It may provide an alternative to other drugs in terms of helping conditions associated with inflammation.

In general, a reasonable degree of inflammation is fine for athletes and can help stimulate positive adaptations to training. However, excessive inflammation hurts performance and lengthens the recovery process. Those who use CBD claim that consistent usage of a small amount is enough to make a difference.

Also, athletes should look to avoid oxidative stress. Preventing oxidative buildup is better than relying on antioxidants. To achieve this, the body must use an internal antioxidant called glutathione. CBD could increase the level of this powerful substance, and may reduce oxidative stress at a higher level than vitamins E or C! Less oxidation means better immune function and less muscle soreness.

Avoiding Pharmaceutical Drugs

There is no question that pharmaceutical medication has saved countless lives over the years. However, in America, society has gone too far the other way. It is now a heavily medicated nation, where the population depends far too much on prescription drugs. The result is a raft of side effects, addiction, financial woes (due to the high cost), and death.

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that around two million Americans misused prescription pain medication. The United States spends more per capita on medicines than any other country in the world. Nearly all Americans use prescription drugs in any 30 days.

Even OTC medication is not nearly as safe as you think. Most people are aware of how deadly opioids are. However, a surprising number still believe that NSAIDs such as Advil and Aleve are entirely safe. These are commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs that you can buy without a prescription.

However, NSAIDs can cause a range of life-threatening conditions among elderly users, including gastrointestinal bleeding. Yet even fit, and healthy endurance athletes should steer clear of NSAIDs, especially during events and long training sessions. This is because the drugs cause an increased risk of renal damage. In general, long-term or frequent use of NSAIDs may elevate the risk of a stroke or heart attack.

Even the above plus points of CBD oil for athletes only scratch the surface.

Benefits of CBD for Athletes

In a stunning development, it appears as if CBD oil for athlete’s foot is effective! At least, according to recent research. Technically known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a common fungal condition that typically affects areas around the toes. It is a fungus that loves moist and warm environments, just like sweaty running shoes or a wet shower room in a gym.


Contrary to what you might have heard, being extremely clean and showering often isn’t enough to guarantee a fungus-free life. The symptoms usually consist of mild burning or itching between the toes. You may also see a rash, and the condition can spread to your hands if you touch the site of infection. When left untreated, athlete’s foot can damage your toes and require extensive medical treatment.

It is a tough condition to treat. Most people rely on OTC anti-fungal powders or creams. However, these options are only useful if you catch the infection early. Otherwise, you will need a prescription medication or steroids. Irritatingly, it isn’t unusual for the fungus to return soon after completing a course of prescription drugs.

It now seems as if CBD cream for athlete’s foot is a viable option. A study by Andre et al., published in Frontiers in Plant Science in February 2016, noted the anti-fungal properties of THC and CBD. It makes sense because there are CBD receptors in the skin. Therefore, rubbing a CBD topical into your toes could help reduce the impact of athlete’s foot. Try it for a couple of weeks to see if it has a positive effect.

It’s All About Recovery

Professional athletes understand the importance of rest and recovery. Although some people use cannabidiol to alleviate pain, the use of CBD for athletic recovery is becoming popular. While reducing post-workout inflammation is essential, there are many other facets to efficient recovery.

It is hard to argue that better sleep quality and duration speeds up the recovery process. Several studies suggest CBD can help regulate a healthy sleep cycle. A study by Murillo-Rodriguez et al., published in the journal, Sleep, in December 2003, found something interesting.

One possible reason is due to CBD preventing the reuptake of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP breaks down when your brain burns carbohydrates for energy, and it gradually accumulates in the brain. When ATP binds to neurons, it inhibits neurotransmitter release, thus slowing down brain activity. As a result, you should feel calmer and ready for a good night’s sleep. The body metabolizes ATP as you sleep, and lower concentrations of it help you wake up.

CBD binds to the same receptors as adenosine. As a result, it could inhibit the reuptake of ATP. This process causes it to accumulate faster and enables the CBD user to feel sleepier sooner. There is also evidence that CBD has an anti-anxiety effect. Those who use CBD oil for athlete recovery also suggest it helps in the following ways:

  • Reduces stress.
  • CBD is an adaptogen, which means it is a non-toxic plant that brings us back to a state of homeostasis, or balance.
  • Protects the central nervous system.
  • Promotes muscle relaxation.
  • Aids with appetite control and weight loss.

With so many purported benefits, it is no wonder that athletes are flocking to CBD en-masse. But is it legal?

Can Professional Athletes Take CBD?

Unfortunately, the answer depends on the sport you complete in. For example, WADA has no issue with CBD these days. It took a long time, but the agency finally made a massive announcement recently that approved the use of CBD in (some) professional sports. It made its decision public on the first day of the calendar year. However, it didn’t remove it from its banned substances list on the official WADA website for a few weeks afterward.

Now, you can use CBD oils, tinctures, sprays, edibles, vape products, and topicals. However, THC and marijuana remain banned. As a result, make sure you only buy CBD products containing minimal or preferably, no THC. Ultimately, it seems as if WADA decided to legalize CBD after careful analysis. The fact that the cannabinoid doesn’t cause an intoxicating high played a big part in the decision.

In sport, there are three requirements for a substance to achieve ‘doping’ classification. They are:

  • Being harmful to the athlete’s health.
  • Enhancing the performance of the athlete.
  • Violating the spirit of the sport.

WADA decided that CBD doesn’t meet any of the above criteria. Point #2 is interesting because thousands of athletes believe CBD does directly help their performance. However, there isn’t much clinical research to support that theory. If that changes, will WADA reconsider?

It is a different story in other professional sports leagues. For example, players in the NBA, NFL, and NHL are not allowed to use CBD. It is also the same story in the NCAA. Athletes plying their trade with most of these franchises live in a place where cannabis is legal, let alone CBD. It is a genuinely ridiculous state of affairs. At least Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball allow it!

Athletes Who Use CBD

Those who compete in athletics, soccer, baseball, golf, tennis and a few other sports can now freely use CBD. However, there are hundreds of others who support athletes using CBD that play in games that don’t allow it. Practically all of the most outspoken supporters of cannabidiol in those sports are now retired. Here are a few sportspeople past and present who believe CBD and athletes are a good mix.

1 – Terrell Davis – NFL

Davis was once among the best running backs in the NFL. The Denver Broncos star believes his career would have been extended if he had access to CBD earlier on. However, a bad knee injury effectively finished him off. Today, he says that his body feels great with no inflammation. Unfortunately, he retired in 2002 after just seven seasons in the NFL; the final three were cut short by injury.

2 – Nate Diaz – MMA

Diaz let the world know about his use of CBD during a press conference in 2016. He casually used a vaporizer pen in front of the media! It was a brave move since it was more than two years before the Farm Bill made hemp legal. According to Diaz, CBD helps reduce inflammation and aids the healing process.

3 – Lucas Glover – Golf

Glover is one of numerous PGA Tour professionals who admit using CBD. Indeed, he now endorses the products of major CBD firm, Medterra. In 2019, Glover spoke to Golf Digest and said the fact he was having his best season in a decade was no coincidence. He says it helps improve his sleep, reduces anxiety, and it even alleviated the pain in his knee.

4 – Gina Mazany – UFC

Mazany is a professional mixed martial arts fighter that fought extensively in the UFC. The Anchorage-born competitor believes that CBD can benefit everyone in one way or another. Reports suggest that she uses it to reduce anxiety and boost the quality of her sleep. It makes sense that a fighter would want to do everything possible to aid recovery after training and competing.

5 – Derrick Morgan – NFL

Morgan is another former NFL standout who played for the Tennessee Titans as a linebacker. Like Davis, he retired from the league prematurely, after playing for nine seasons. After reading about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition common in NFL players, Morgan did some research. He found evidence that CBD could help, and is now an activist hoping to get the NFL to change its existing policy.

Bottom Line on CBD For Athletes

Ultimately, we still need to see further research into CBD for athletes. However, early evidence suggests it could prove a useful alternative for opioid painkillers and perhaps even OTC drugs. CBD athletes believe the compound helps promote better recovery, reduces anxiety, and lowers inflammation. While WADA now allows it, those who play in several North American organizations, such as the NBA and NFL, may need to wait a little longer.

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