In the Gym: Protein, Pre-workout, and… CBD?
If you’re one of the 23% of Americans who enjoy the benefits of regular exercise, you’re probably familiar with the practice of supplementing your fitness regimen with things like protein powder, creatine, and amino acids.
These supplements can be a safe way to mitigate the physical toll exercise has on your body, as well as encourage muscle recovery and growth. By optimizing these processes, we can get the most out of our workout, and grow stronger and faster. Post-workout recovery is important, too!
The positive effects that CBD has been shown to have makes it worth considering as a daily supplement. Whether you’re interested in weight lifting, cardio, or both, this article will explore the effect CBD can have on the two main factors of exercise: muscle recovery and muscle growth.
CBD & Muscle Growth
Muscle growth is the result of a physical stimulus (lifting weights, sprinting, etc.) and a biological response (hormones). During intense exercise you essentially break down your muscle tissue, and your body responds by releasing hormones that build it back up. As long as you keep breaking down this tissue (lifting heavier weights, running faster), your body will continue to try to adapt by repairing your muscles (making you stronger).
CBD for Sleep
Other than the physical workout that stimulates growth, the key biological factor that increases muscle mass is Growth Hormone (GH). GH is the hormone responsible for repairing and building the muscle tissue that was broken down during your workout.
Our bodies primarily produce GH while we sleep, particularly in phases of deep NREM sleep. This is where the benefits of CBD come into play. By making it easier to fall and stay asleep, CBD helps create the ideal sleeping pattern for the optimum production of GH. This ensures that our muscles are getting the maximum GH possible during rest.
Considering the impact GH has on our muscles, and the importance of sleep in its production, its definitely worth considering CBD as a potential supplement for anyone looking to build muscle mass.
CBD and Cortisol
Cortisol is our bodies “stress hormone”. When our brain senses stress, it releases Cortisol to assist in our “fight or flight” response. This stress can be triggered by a variety of emotional or physical factors, but the bottom line is that our body assumes we are in danger, and wants to flood our bodies with glucose to use as fuel — to assist in the theoretical “fight” or “flight” we are about to be in. Cortisol creates this glucose by breaking down our bodies proteins into amino acids that are then released into our bloodstream — and turned into glucose. These proteins are found in our muscle tissue, which is why reducing Cortisol is beneficial to muscle growth.
(It’s important to remember that Cortisol isn’t “bad”. When it’s released at normal, balanced levels, it serves several routine purposes other than “fight or flight” response, such as waking us up in the morning. It only becomes detrimental when our brains—due to chronic stress — keep pumping out cortisol. The more cortisol our bodies produce, the more muscle tissue it breaks down to keep creating glucose.)
So, if your goal is to preserve and pack on as much muscle as you can, you should be limiting Cortisol production to only the minimum amount needed for these basic functions. This means finding ways to lower your stress levels, and CBD has been shown to do just that.
By reducing the chronic stress that causes these elevated Cortisol levels, CBD could potentially be an important piece of anyones supplement stack.
CBD for Pain Relief
The muscle building process discussed earlier is also responsible for the stiffness and muscle soreness we experience a day or two after a workout. Though this soreness is a sign that our bodies are adapting and our muscles are growing, it is uncomfortable and can lead to periods of rest until it naturally goes away. This stiffness also leads to reduced flexibility, which significantly increases risks of injury while training.
CBD has been shown to be just as effective as over the counter pain relievers (like Tylenol) at reducing this painful soreness. Transdermal applications of CBD (gels or creams that deliver CBD into the bloodstream) have been shown to be effective at targeting specific areas of the body.
CBD for Inflammation
Due to its anti-inflammatory abilities, CBD can be especially beneficial for individuals training for endurance events, like marathon runners or triathletes. Their intense training programs and long workouts result in chronic inflammation – particularly of the muscles and tendons that make up their joints. This inflammation is typically treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin and ibuprofen.
These medications are reasonably safe when taken in moderation, but long workouts and intense training typically require endurance athletes to take more than the recommended dosage. This overuse can cause serious side effects, like kidney damage. A Canadian study claimed that the risk of acute kidney injury doubled within 30 days of beginning to take NSAIDs.
CBD on the other hand, has been shown to be just as effective as NSAIDs, but without effecting the kidneys. By reducing this inflammation quickly and safely, regular CBD use could allow endurance athletes to train and compete at the top of their game.
Even though CBD doesn’t directly improve our physical fitness, it still has the potential to be useful in optimizing the bodily functions that do. By making it easier for our bodies to work effectively, and naturally manage the hormones and functions that result in improved physical performance, its overall effect could be very beneficial.
This top-down approach to athletic optimization is just the beginning of a new way of thinking about our bodies and how they work. By moving away from artificial “quick-fixes” like hormone injections and NSAIDs, we can actually focus on how we can help our bodies do their jobs, instead of trying to do it for them.