Many individuals turn to cannabidiol (CBD) to target specific wellness issues. But CBD is also a critical component in the regimens of athletes and weekend warriors. Active individuals across the globe have turned to CBD and cannabinoids to improve fitness.
CBD for Pains
Working out damages musculoskeletal tissue and sparks inflammation, generating soreness. The body’s repair process leads to adaptive gains in fitness (e.g., strength, stamina, and endurance).  The popular expression, “No pain, no gain!” speaks to this phenomenon.
Traditionally, many athletes managed post-workout/performance soreness with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, the questionable safety of NSAIDs has generated demand for alternative options. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, warned that non-aspirin variants may “increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke.”  NSAIDs are also associated with gastrointestinal bleeding and perforation. 
CBD has demonstrated an ability to suppress inflammatory response.  Because the endocannabinoid system is linked to pain homeostasis, CBD also demonstrates analgesic properties. [5-7] CBD is a safe, effective way to alleviate the aches and pains associated with an active lifestyle.
Mix Martial Arts competitor Nate Diaz is one example of a professional athlete who (publicly) uses CBD for relief.  Triathlete and Ironman competitor Judith Hagger also uses CBD to control training-related inflammation. 
CBD for Gains
The link between CBD and performance enhancement is less explored but compelling nonetheless.
Active individuals may find a boost in stamina from CBD. This can be partially explained by the aforementioned anti-inflammatory/analgesic actions of CBD.
However, CBD has also been shown to suppress cortisol, the body’s principal stress hormone.  While cortisol and stress hormones are essential during exercise, they may also correlate to fatigue and reduced performance. [11,12] Elevated release of cortisol is common during high-intensity and endurance training activities. [13,14] It may be that for certain athletes, CBD mitigates physiologically limiting levels of cortisol. Furthermore, reducing levels prior to intense training may lower baseline cortisol and provide an ergonomic benefit. Research is needed to explore this interaction.
We do know that CBD may produce anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects through its actions on serotonin receptors in the brain.  Reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation prior to an event may be very helpful for certain competitors since excess nervousness pushes intensity to sub-optimal levels. In other words, the athlete will be “out-of-the-zone” if they feel too anxious.  CBD may help reduce their anxiety and land them “in-the-zone.”
Conversely, CBD has demonstrated bi-phasic effects in terms of alertness; large doses may promote relaxation, and small doses may promote wakefulness. If the active individual needs a “lift” prior to training or performing, they may find that a small amount of CBD improves energy and focus. 
In 2018, CBD was officially permitted for use by the World Anti-Doping Agency.  It is quickly becoming the go-to supplement for athletes and active persons everywhere. And with good reason: CBD is an excellent solution to post-workout recovery, and may provide performance benefits during training.
- Chargé, Sophie B. P., and Michael A. Rudnicki. “Cellular and Molecular Regulation of Muscle Regeneration.” Physiological Reviews, vol. 84, no. 1, 2004, pp. 209–238. doi:10.1152/physrev.00019.2003.
- Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “FDA Drug Safety Communication.” S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm451800.htm.
- Tamblyn, Robyn. “Unnecessary Prescribing of NSAIDs and the Management of NSAID-Related Gastropathy in Medical Practice.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 127, no. 6, 1997, p. 429. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-127-6-199709150-00003.
- Nagarkatti, P., et al. “Cannabinoids as Novel Anti-inflammatory Drugs.” Future Medicinal Chemistry, 1, no. 7, 2009, pp. 1333-1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93
- Burns, T. L., & Ineck, J. R. “Cannabinoid Analgesia as a Potential New Therapeutic Option in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.” Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 40, no. 2, 2006, pp. 251-260. doi:10.1345/aph.1g217
- Hammell, D., et al. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis.” European Journal of Pain, 20, no.6, 2015, pp. 936-948. doi:10.1002/ejp.818
- Brownjohn, P., & Ashto, J. “Cannabinoids and Neuropathic Pain.” Neuropathic Pain, 2012. doi:10.5772/36889
- Raimondi, Marc. “Diaz Could Face USADA Sanction for Vaping Cannabis.” MMA Fighting, MMA Fighting, 23 Aug. 2016, www.mmafighting.com/2016/8/22/12596954/nate-diaz-could-face-usada-sanctions-for-vaping-cannabis-at-ufc-202.
- “3 Professional Athletes Who Use CBD to Improve Recovery.” Fyllde, 27 Mar. 2019, fyllde.com/athletes-cbd-recovery-performance/.
- Zuardi, A. W., et al. “Effect of Cannabidiol on Plasma Prolactin, Growth Hormone and Cortisol in Human Volunteers.” Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research = Revista Brasileira de Pesquisas Medicas e Biologicas, vol. 26, no. 2, Feb. 1993, pp. 213–17.
- Mcmorris, Terry, et al. “Heat Stress, Plasma Concentrations of Adrenaline, Noradrenaline, 5-Hydroxytryptamine and Cortisol, Mood State and Cognitive Performance.” International Journal of Psychophysiology, vol. 61, no. 2, 2006, pp. 204–215. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2005.10.002.
- Lautenbach, Franziska, et al. “A Link between Cortisol and Performance: An Exploratory Case Study of a Tennis Match.” International Journal of Psychophysiology, vol. 98, no. 2, 2015, pp. 167–173. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.10.002.
- Hill, E. E., et al. “Exercise and Circulating Cortisol Levels: The Intensity Threshold Effect.” Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, vol. 31, no. 7, 2008, pp. 587–591. doi:10.1007/bf03345606.
- Skoluda, Nadine, et al. “Elevated Hair Cortisol Concentrations in Endurance Athletes.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 37, no. 5, 2012, pp. 611–617. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.09.001.
- Blessing, E. M., et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics, 12, no. 4, 2015, pp. 825-836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
- Robazza, Claudio, et al. “Emotion Self-Regulation and Athletic Performance: An Application of the IZOF Model.” Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 5, no. 4, 2004, pp. 379–404. doi:10.1016/s1469-0292(03)00034-7.
- Murillo-Rodriguez, E., et al. “Potential Effects of Cannabidiol as a Wake-Promoting Agent.” Current Neuropharmacology, 12, no. 3, 2014, pp. 269-272. doi:10.2174/1570159x11666131204235805
- World Anti-Doping Agency. “Prohibited List: January 2018,” The World Anti-Doping Code: International Standard, 2018. https://www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/prohibited_list_2018_en.pdf