Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Before we dive in, let’s clarify the term “active individual.” This is a subjective term and my idea of “active” may seem crazy to some, and others may think I live a sedative lifestyle. The idea of being active is, that we're all able to live the way we want. The concepts that follow are the same for those training for their first 5k or someone training for their 5th Ironman. If you are taking the time to read this, consider yourself being among the group of “active individuals.”
Why would an active individual consider supplementing with CBD?
Reason #1 - Recovery
Over the past few years, recovery has become one of the most important concepts in the fitness world. One might think that the type of workout, technique, intensity, and overall effort exuded during the workout might be the biggest factor in fitness and they are right, but with a twist. The frequency which an athlete can exude maximum effort during intense workouts is the differentiating factor. So, that addresses effort and intensity but what about technique? If the technique is missing, injury will ensue and recovery time will increase; negating both intensity and effort.
For example, a good athlete might be able to endure high intensity training 3 to 4 times per week, while a professional athlete can intensely train 6 to 8 times per week. Someone who hasn't been training might endure one high intensity training session and spend a week recovering. Please don’t misconstrue this and assume that the average Jane just needs to go crush 2 workouts a day for a few months and she’ll be seeing podium time at the CrossFit Games. The point is that pro’s not only train like pro’s, they recover like pro’s. The ability to recover properly and quickly allows them to train harder and more frequently than their competition. Therein lies the benefits of recovery. Trainers who can keep their athletes healthy and train them with high intensity, will more frequently achieve victory.
Back to Jane - If Jane built up to 2 a days and really took CNS, muscular, and metabolic recovery seriously, she may not have the technique to reach the Games podium in a few months, but she would be one bad momba jamba.
I get asked the question, “Is CBD good for muscle recovery?” all the time. First off, I don’t really like this question. It should be rephrased as, “Are non-psychoactive cannabinoids good for recovery?” Notice the difference between the two? There are 115 cannabinoids out there and a lot of them have some great benefits! Yes, cannabidiol (CBD) is awesome and one of the most prevalent cannabinoids in the hemp plant but there are many more to the industry.
The second part of the question that throws me off is “muscle recovery.” Recovery isn't just about muscles! That is why I typed out the long-winded titillating intro. If you don’t think about the three major areas of recovery, you’re not going to be cultivating bigger, stronger muscles. There are three major layers to recovery: muscular, metabolic, and recovery of the nervous system. If any one of these three aspects are lacking, you’ll be in the creek of performance looking for a paddle! (Remember the definition of performance; "being active" is unique to all of us)
Metabolic Recovery – What is metabolic recovery? This is busting butt and fueling your muscles properly. Getting nutrients in your body when your body needs them. If you are not strategically consuming healthy nutrients, you’re not going to recover properly. While a “strategic plan” may sound like overkill; remember eating healthy food when you actually feel hungry is a strategic plan within itself. Spend some time researching this, it’s a great investment in both time and money.
Also, we are all different (thank God) my diet won’t work for you and your diet won’t work for me. As Socrates would say “know thyself.” Biohack yourself and do what makes you feel awesome, don’t let someone else try to shove their plan down your throat unless you understand and agree with the plan.
Here are some quick tips (that I follow). Full disclosure – dieting has been such a polarizing topic for so long, I feel like I’m about to lay out my political views! So, I will say this: you may not agree with my diet and I may not like your diet, but we can still be friends.
Work out supplements- Supplements work, obviously we can’t dive into all of them right now, so I’ll just leave this one little tip about supplements. Use them as directed! If you are supposed to build up a tolerance to your pre-workout, do it. What good do your nutrients do if you have diarrhea all day long and aren’t absorbing any of them? Are you supposed to take a break from your supplements to ensure your body is taking care of itself properly? Is there a loading period?
Breakfast – I love breakfast, actually I love breakfast foods. From a health perspective, traditionally breakfast foods suck. So make sure that a good portion of your breakfast is veggies. If you do this you can’t go too far astray.
Macros – Try studying up on macro-nutrients and counting your intake for a few days. I’m not a fan of counting macros as a lifestyle, but it’s good to know where you stand. Do you eat enough? Do you eat too much? Counting macros is a good factual way to find out. Research how many macros you need, especially if your training is super intense.
Feed your body – After a giant work out, eat! Eat healthy, drink a shake, do your thing but fuel your muscles. Breaking down your muscles so they build back up stronger and bigger than before is the hardest part. Eating to give the muscles the tools to rebuild should be the easy one, but we often miss the window to fuel the machine. Experts say eating within 45 minutes of a workout will help with protein synthesis.
Prepare to fuel your muscles – Plan on getting hungry after a lot of physical activity. Don’t jump in the car after a huge pump with no food. You could end up at a drive through window….
Electrolytes – Getting to know what you need before a big workout is important. Some people need exogenous electrolytes. They sweat a lot of them out. Look up how to use electrolytes properly, if you need them and aren’t using them properly your workouts probably feel like pretty crappy. And on the other hand, if you’re overdoing the electrolytes you may experience some negative side effects.
Just like Mama Said – Eat your veggies! Every diet (carnivores excepted) involves a lot of veggies!
Cannabinoids and Metabolic Recovery
As mentioned above, finding a diet that works for you is paramount to recovery. However, what about stomach issues like IBS, GERD, Chron’s disease, celiac disease and other issues concerning the digestive tract? These issues make it difficult to get the proper macro nutrients into the body and send them where they need to go. A lot of times people find a food allergy that is causing an autoimmune response and ceasing exposure to the allergen usually helps a lot! So, if you suffer these issues go see a doc and see if you have a food allergy.
Can cannabinoids help? Anecdotal evidence seems to show cannabinoid-based products do help with a lot of issues concerning the gastro digestive tract.
A major reason to supplement with cannabinoids is to calm down and bring the nervous system back to homeostasis. “Did you say Nervous system? I thought we were talking about metabolic recovery?” Righto, When the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) is engaged it also stimulates the enteric nervous system. What is the enteric nervous system? Our second brain; the digestive tract, the enteric nervous system has more neurons than the entire spinal column! In addition, the gut uses over 30 neurotransmitters including: acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin. Over 90 percent of the body’s serotonin and over 50% of the body’s dopamine can be found in the gut. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is powerful.
The enteric nervous system is stimulated by the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) this aids in defecation and provides a nerve supply to the colon, rectum and anus. Conversely, the ENS is stalled when the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is engaged. Beside losing all the nerve supply to the gastrointestinal system, blood is also diverted to the muscles when the sympathetic nervous system is engaged. What does blood carry? Oxygen. When the gastrointestinal system is deprived of oxygen for too long it messes up our gut’s bacteria. A lot of gut issues can arise from an imbalance of intestinal fauna and flora.
Furthermore, cannabinoids interact directly with the enteric nervous system. There are a lot of cannabinoid receptors in the gut. Supplementation with cannabinoids to bring the receptors in the gut back to homeostasis has shown to help with slew of intestinal issues.
Application – I’m not giving medical advice, if you have a serious issue please consult with a doctor. If you want to try cannabinoid-based products for gut issues use an application that interacts directly with the enteric nervous system, it will also go systemic from there. Use cannabinoids in a pill form, or use a sublingual tincture but don’t just hold it under your tongue, just swallow it. Remember holding a tincture sublingually yields a higher absorption rate, +/- 40%. While sending liposoluble hemp extractions through the first pass metabolism yields a +/- a 10% rate (depending on fatty contents in the stomach). This means you can eat a little more of the tincture than you hold sublingually.
While cannabinoid based products won’t help you grow and repair muscles, they may help if you have intestinal issues getting in the way of macro nutrients getting where they need to go.
Note - use a full spectrum product, they are finding some good benefits to the gastrointestinal tract in minor cannabinoids like CBG. Some people also lump cannabinoids together assume that if you’re an avid THC user you might be getting gut benefits from this. THC has been prescribed as an appetite stimulus to patients who have trouble eating after chemo or taking HIV medications; conversely, there is a syndrome call cannabinoid hyperemesis. This is usually found in long term daily marijuana users. Someone who suffers from cannabinoid hyperemesis will experience repeated vomiting! Not the goal here folks. Because the endocannabinoid system has such a strong presence in the gut, oral administration of THC can have a wide spectrum of effects.
Additionally, more Delta-9 THC gets broken down in the liver than if you were to smoke or vape the Delta-9 THC. Delta-9 THC gets broken down in the liver to 11-hydroxy -THC, which is also a strong psychoactive. Therefore, people interact differently with edibles. People who have eaten edibles and have been strongly impacted by them often give me the hairy eye when I say, “cannabis extractions have a low absorption rate.” THC has a double whammy orally.
The goal of working out (for a lot of us) is looking good and building strong, functional muscles. This means breaking down the muscles and letting them repair themselves to be bigger and better than they were. Eventually the muscles can handle more repetitions and heavier loads. Oh ya, they look like they can handle more weight and reps too (#lookgoodnaked)! When the muscles are damaged, they become inflamed and tender to the touch. The goal is to give them enough rest so they don't experience this, then break them down again.
“Okay,” you might think, “great, I got it. I’m gonna destroy myself in the gym every day!” Cuidado here Mr./Mrs. Gung-Ho. Overtraining actually makes you weaker, tired, depressed, and prone to injury and infections. A large part of overtraining is, once again, listening to your body. The time needed to recover properly is extremely individualized. This is based on muscle memory, old and new injuries, and genetics. Apart from giving muscles the time and nutrients they need to recovery; the shape and consistency of the muscle is also important.
This means bodywork. The muscles should be long and smooth and the fibers are free of knots. The muscles are gliding smoothly in the fascia. Love your body, spend time and money on it. Take a lot of salt baths, stretch, get massages, see a physical therapist if needed. This is one of the biggest separations between the pros and average gym warriors. The pros prioritize (and have access to) the bodywork they need.
Bodywork is very easy to neglect and detrimental to muscle recovery when something doesn’t get fixed. For example, (from personal experience) I know that a lot of aging athletes who played high impact sports suffered from hamstring tares, sprains, and pulls. If the hamstring is not restored properly and is weak this can lead to issues in the knees, hip, lower back, ankles and even on the bottom of the feet. The hamstring was used in this example because that’s my Achilles heel, but it could happen with any big muscle that is left untreated.
Cannabinoids and Muscular Recovery
This is one place where cannabinoids really shine. Using cannabinoids topically will help with delayed on set muscle soreness (DOMS) and the swelling that occurs because of it. CBD desensitizes sensory receptors that tell the brain, “Hey big boss we got pain down here!” The brain responds with the first line of defense against pain, “Okay sensory receptors pipe down. Here’s some inflammation for you!” Taking CBD orally has been shown to help with overall inflammation, but spot-shooting sore muscles with a topical cannabinoid-based rub is a great way to deal with sore muscles.
Furthermore, using a topical cannabinoid-based analgesic in conjunction with other therapeutic methods to recovery quicker will help. Dampening down the pain signal to the brain means that otherwise painful body work can be endured a little easier. Whether it is a deep tissue massage or a method of self-myofascial release, cannabinoids can help.
Application of Cannabinoids for Muscular Recovery – A good topical usually has more than just CBD. Always look for full spectrum hemp extract. Next, what are the other active ingredients? If you’re gonna take the time to rub it on, make sure there are other ingredients that will help in the cause. Arnica is good for inflammation. Menthol increases blood flow. Different essential oils help soothe muscles.
Regularly supplementing with a cannabinoid-based product that goes systemic, like a tincture, is a good way to combat full body inflammation. Additionally, because most of these products are liposoluble, topical application will yield only negligible (if any) systemic absorption. Therefore, you can spot shot with a topical product while maintaining a systemic supplementation regime.
I hope this blog was helpful!
Stay help friends!