Muscle Recovery

CBD oil for bodybuilding: Does it really work and how?

CBD oil has been making impressive waves in the health and wellness industry for a number of years now. More and more professional athletes and fitness fanatics are opting to integrate the supplements into their fitness routines. But can you really use CBD oil for bodybuilding? How does it work and what are the benefits?

Why is CBD good for bodybuilding?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming CBD regularly can have a wide range of benefits, many of which could be particularly valuable for anyone who is serious about fitness. There are a couple of particular benefits that link CBD and bodybuilding.

Using CBD supplements for bodybuilding may be effective because of the way that the compound interacts with the endocannabinoid system. This system, also known as the ECS system, is responsible for maintaining homeostasis within the body. This means that it maintains key body functions that are needed to keep us functioning normally. Some of these key functions include:

  • Metabolism: The chemical reactions in the cells that change food into energy.
  • Pain perception: How much pain you feel and when you feel it.
  • Sleep: Determines whether you feel tired or relaxed and can affect the quality of sleep.
  • Appetite: Can influence when and how hungry you feel.
  • Immune Response: How and when the body responds to injury or illness.
  • Body Temperature: How and when the body regulates temperature in response to environmental changes.

It is believed that CBD doesn’t bind directly to the CB1 and CB2 receptors that are part of the ECS, but rather, they influence the production of natural endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids either activate or deactivate the receptors, which in turn, can influence any of the abovementioned aspects.

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But what this got to do with CBD and bodybuilding? Well, some believe that cannabidiol helps support and maintain these key functions. This means that you’re getting good quality sleep, your body is quickly recovering from injury and illness, and you have plenty of energy. Using CBD for bodybuilding may make it easier to build muscle mass without putting your body under too much pressure.

Why do bodybuilders use CBD oil?

CBD is believed to help support and maintain overall health and wellness, but how can it specifically benefit bodybuilders? One of the main reasons that bodybuilders and professional athletes opt for CBD products is because they can help with recovery times.

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In 2018, Frontiers of Neurology published a study that revealed that CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is associated with pain, swelling, heat and redness. It will be a very familiar feeling if you have ever pushed yourself too hard in the gym. Studies suggest that CBD may help to reduce this pain and swelling which can help recovery times.

Although short-term inflammation is an unavoidable part of building muscle, if you’re serious about bodybuilding, you should avoid chronic inflammation at all costs. Chronic inflammation can last for months and can actually trigger muscle breakdown.

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Long term inflammation can trigger catabolic responses in the body and hinder anabolic responses. Catabolic hormones trigger the breakdown of muscle mass to produce energy. Hence, you should avoid this if you're aiming to bulk up.

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How can using CBD oil for bodybuilding help with chronic inflammation? Many professional bodybuilders take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for chronic inflammation relief. Although these drugs are effective in reducing swelling, pain, and temperature they may actually inhibit muscle growth. A 2017 study concludes that high doses and long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs may compromise muscle strength and hinder muscle growth.

Are there other CBD benefits for bodybuilding?

There are many benefits associated with CBD oil and some of them may indirectly help bodybuilders achieve their goals. How would taking CBD oil for bodybuilding work?

Weight loss and weight management

If you are aiming to trim down, CBD could help you to lose or manage your weight.  As we mentioned earlier, experts believe that CBD interacts with receptors in the brain by influencing the levels of endocannabinoids produced. By deactivating certain receptors in the brain it can affect aspects like our appetite. This is because it can indirectly stop the appetite-stimulating hormone, also known as ghrelin, taking effect.

It is worth noting that this particular study consisted of animal participants and studies with human participants will be needed before a solid conclusion can be drawn.

Another study supports this theory as researchers found that CBD can be linked with increased levels of leptin. Leptin is essentially the opposite of ghrelin, it is a hormone that makes us feel full and satisfied. This study was conducted on mice and researchers found that increased levels of leptin can be linked with reduced cravings for unhealthy, sugar-rich foods. Although more human trials will be needed before a concrete conclusion can be reached, it is possible that CBD could help you achieve your weight loss goals faster.

Improved sleep

You can perfect your workout routine, your supplement plan, and your diet but this cannot replace good quality rest. The body needs good quality sleep to recover and repair damaged cells. Sleep impacts almost every process in your body, believe it or not.

From immune response to appetite, and breathing to blood pressure; sleep has a major effect. Sleep will also impact the release of growth and stress hormones, which is particularly important to bodybuilders and gym-goers.

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Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD oil can help you feel relaxed. This is important to get a good night's sleep. Experts believe that CBD can help to support the ECS too, ensuring healthy sleep cycles and quality rest.

Reduced stress

Exercising releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body. This is why healthcare professionals recommend exercising to people who are suffering from stress, sadness, or nervousness.

Of course, some level of stress is quite healthy but chronic stress can impact your health negatively. Long-term exposure to high levels of stress can cause high levels of cortisol in the body. This stress hormone is a catabolic hormone that stimulates the break down of molecules to produce energy. The body releases stress hormones to prepare the body for the flight or fight response.

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However, persistently high levels of cortisol can eventually start to breakdown muscle. Bodybuilders often take anti-catabolic supplements to protect their muscle mass. CBD is believed to have anti-catabolic properties and therefore offers a more natural alternative to other supplements.

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Does CBD affect muscle growth?

To discuss the effect of CBD on muscle growth, we must first explain how you increase muscle mass.

When you exercise, the strain causes tiny tears in the fibres of your muscles. This is what causes that burning sensation that we’re all familiar with. Although this sounds extreme, the body repairs these microscopic tears quickly.

The body repairs the damaged fibres by forming new muscle protein strands. We call these new protein strands myofibrils, and they increase in thickness and number. This is what we see as muscle growth.

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So, how does taking CBD for bodybuilding affect muscle growth? You may have noticed some brands suggesting that their CBD products can help boost muscle building processes. However, there is no concrete scientific evidence to support this claim, at present. It is also against FDA regulations to make health or medical claims about CBD products – so be wary when choosing a CBD oil for bodybuilding.

Considering the known properties of CBD, it could potentially make it easier for you to build muscle mass. CBD doesn’t directly help you gain muscle, but it may help indirectly. Exercising is a requirement of building muscle – substances cannot help you increase muscle if you do not also exercise regularly.

One can use CBD for inflammation and muscle pain and this helps support a faster recovery. If you need to spend less time recovering, you can spend more time working out. Therefore, you can build more muscle.

We know CBD acts as a natural alternative to anti-catabolic supplements. Although it doesn’t directly help you increase your muscle mass, it may help you protect yourself against muscle breakdown.

It is worth noting that CBD cannot replace anabolic hormones. Anabolic hormones trigger the production of molecules like insulin, testosterone, oestrogen, insulin, and growth hormones. There are anabolic supplements available, but CBD products are not a suitable replacement.

Should you take CBD oil before or after a workout?

You can take CBD oil before or after your workout, it depends on your desired results.

If you take CBD supplements for bodybuilding before hitting the gym, you will feel the effects during your workout. This means that it can help your body to function at optimal levels, boosting your energy and potentially helping you to smash your gym goals. Therefore, you may be able to push yourself a bit harder during your workout.

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Alternatively, you can take CBD supplements after you hit the gym to reduce soreness, pain, and inflammation. One could also use CBD oil for muscle pain. Many bodybuilders who opt for CBD after the gym report that they have relied less on painkillers after particularly demanding workouts.

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Everybody is different and the effects of CBD can vary. Effects may even differ from product to product. For this reason, we recommend trying both before or after your trip to the gym. This way you will see the difference yourself and you’ll be able to make an informed decision that suits your individual needs.

CBD bodybuilding dosage

The typical dosage recommended to bodybuilders is between 2.5 mg and 10 mg of CBD oil per day. This is a general guideline that experts recommend for anyone that wants to care for their overall health and wellness.

There are many options when it comes to CBD products. You can choose between oils, tinctures, topicals and edibles. Each method will have slightly different effects and will have different release times.

Products that you take sublingually like oils and tinctures are more fast-acting in comparison to products that you need to ingest like capsules or edibles. Topical creams, on the other hand, may be more suitable for muscle pain relief. One can apply it directly to the affected area.

When trying a new CBD oil for bodybuilding, we suggest starting with a lower dosage. This means that you can monitor how your body reacts to the product and gives your body time to get used to it. You can gradually increase your dosage over time until you are happy with the results.

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Taking too much CBD can make you feel sleepy or drowsy. If you find yourself feeling sleepy, try to reduce the amount of CBD you’re taking or take it less often. Alternatively, opt for a product with a lower strength.

It may take some time to find your preferred dosage as it’s a trial and error process. Every product will have more accurate dosage directions on the packaging and you should always read the label. You could also consult your doctor for more specific information for your needs.

CBD can interfere with prescription medications, making them less effective. For this reason, we recommend speaking to your doctor before trying CBD products, if you're taking any medication.

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The bottom line

So, can you really use CBD oil for bodybuilding? Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD may be beneficial to bodybuilders as it can support overall good health and wellness – a large part of performing well in the gym.

Although some studies suggest that one could potentially use CBD to support weight loss and reduce inflammation, we need more information. At the moment, the majority of CBD testing involves animal participants and more human trials are needed before experts can give concrete evidence in favour of the claims about the health benefits of CBD.

CBD products are unlikely to have any adverse effects and so, you can try them out, alongside your usual workout routines and see if they work for you.

You may also like to read: Top CBD Balms for Muscle Recovery

Breffni O'Brien

Breffni is a chef-turned-content creator. When she's not collecting houseplants or old books, Breffni can be found writing for her sustainable living blog or knitting. She is also fond of olives, interior design, and exploring the great outdoors.

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