Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Muscular and metabolic recovery, compared to the other recovery types, tend to be much easier to understand and practice. Recovery of the nervous system, however, can be a bit more complex. The nervous system is not tangible. Up until recently, it wasn’t even included as an equal part of the recovery pie. Thankfully that line of thinking is outdated. Now, coaches and athletes across the fitness and sports world have begun putting heavy emphasis on the nervous system and how it affects recovery.
An athlete can follow a diet to the tee, perfectly execute a training program, and still not see any gains. In fact, an athlete neglecting nervous system recovery could be experiencing some really negative side effects and not know why. Chronic fatigue, disruptions in sleep patterns, trouble gaining muscle, odd food cravings, lack of appetite, and emotional volatility can all be symptoms of nervous system fatigue.
Big movements take a large toll on the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS, consisting of the brain and spine, controls most of our body. Taxing the CNS is one reason that giant heavy movements like deadlifting and squatting are so exhausting. If you’ve ever tried to max out on these exercises, you understand that you only get one or two real shots, then your CNS and muscles get fatigued. This is why powerlifting competitions are so incredible. Powerlifters must strategically max out on three giant movements: deadlift, squat, and bench.
The other major part of the nervous system is the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS consists of the nerves and ganglia outside the brain and spinal cord. Inside the peripheral nervous system resides the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The autonomic nervous system takes care of the body's involuntary responses. The ANS consists of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. Most commonly referred to as “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”.
I love studying all the nervous systems in the body. When a woman sees her child pinned under a car, she calls on her “fight or flight” response and the body directs all of its resources to deadlifting the car off the kid. And she does it! This is not that unusual. Yes, you can look up sites that debunk this by claiming the average car weighs 3,000 pounds and usually a person is only lifting 500 or so pounds of the car, a few inches off the ground. While that might explain the behemoth-strong man lifting part of a car, it doesn't explain a 120-pound woman doing the same. I want to know how this works! This is literally why Jack Kirby created the Hulk, he saw a lady lift a car off her kid.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is where the superhero lives. This is when the adrenal glands pump out cortisol and adrenaline, your heart beats faster, blood swells your muscles, and voilà! You’re ready to fight or run for your life. The problem here is that the nervous system that controls involuntary bodily functions evolved before a lot of the stimulants common in today’s world were invented.
For example, while the sympathetic response was evolving, Jane may have been a hunter and gatherer. She would have been gathering away in a field of flowers and berries, happy as can be, and then bam! Her fight or flight response is engaged because a friggin’ saber tooth tiger just clipped her girlfriend. We can only hope that this kind of thing didn’t happen very often, thus preserving her adrenal functions to situations of dire need.
Today (in extreme case scenarios) a person could stay in the sympathetic nervous system until their body fails. For example, someone who is constantly in the sympathetic nervous system might spend their days like this: I hope my kids are okay, my spouse sucks, espresso, mocha-frapa latte, my boss is a prick, vodka, the people I work with suck, nightmares, coffee, workout, repeat… I hope just reading something like that makes you want to engage in a parasympathetic activity. When the person who is constantly in the sympathetic nervous system needs the fight or flight response in times of dire need, their adrenal response is minimal because it’s worn out.
The odd thing is that a person who spends too much time in the sympathetic nervous system can follow a diet and consistently stay on a workout routine. However, their workouts wouldn’t be very intense or worthwhile. Eventually they would end up with chronic illness of one kind or another until they experience heart failure.
If the sympathetic nervous system involuntarily turns us into the Hulk, the parasympathetic is when our body involuntarily heals itself. This is precisely why so many claim that meditation can heal so many ailments. I believe this, if you get out of the way of your body it can do amazing things. If you give the body the tools it needs and don’t poison it, the body really knows how to take care of itself.
Nervous System Recovery and Cannabinoids – The important takeaway from all this is that while trying to recover properly in all other areas, don't forget about the nervous system. If the nervous system is overlooked, gains, recovery, and overall health goes out the window. It is important to perform parasympathetic activities like meditating, yoga, light jogs, walks, and sleep. The fight or flight response is a tool, it is your superhero, do not waste it! As grandpa said, “don’t sweat the petty stuff, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.”
Application for Nervous System Recovery - If you have trouble with stress and anxiety a cannabinoid-based product is a fantastic option. Taking a good full spectrum tincture and going for a light jog or walk are great ways to settle the nerves. Additionally, keeping yourself away from the fight or flight response when it is not necessary is very helpful. A good example of this is driving. Road rage is a sun-of-a-gun! A cannabinoid product that works quick is handy to keep around situations like this. Arcanum’s Quill is a good one, a 90% absorption rate delivers a couple mgs of CBD and full spectrum extract directly into the bloodstream in less than five minutes.
Sleep – Sleep has its own section because it is imperative to all three areas of recovery. Metabolic, muscular, and nervous system recovery all lapse if you do not sleep properly. I won’t go into sleep tips here but treat sleep like a job and get on that job 7-9 hours per night! Cannabinoids can be extremely helpful as well. Cannabinoids have been shown to deliver a deeper, longer lasting, more restful sleep.
The sleep cannabinoid, CBN, is known for its sedative properties when properly paired up with other cannabinoids and terpenes. A couple milligrams of CBN makes for a great night sleep! If you haven’t tried Arcanum’s C3, it’s a fantastic, non drowsy side effects night of sleep.
Application for sleep – We have put out a lot of information on serving size but be careful here. A lot of people will say to take a “mega-dose” of CBD to sleep better. Give anything that involves a “mega dose” the hairy eye. Too much CBD in the body will make you tired because your body will be trying to metabolize all the extra unneeded cannabinoids. Furthermore, your endocannabinoid system is expressed all over your body in every major organ and gland, when you take a megadose it puts the endocannabinoid system in “clean up cannabinoids” mode not “use and utilize cannabinoids mode.” Not only is this a waste, mega-dosing may have some negative side effects that we don’t understand yet. So make sure you get your CBD, CBN, CBG, etc… products from a trusted source who has targeted and specific formulations and dosages.
I hope this helped you understand cannabinoids (CBD) and recovery.
Until next time,
Stay healthy my friends!