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CBD For Athletes: Can It Benefit Recovery?

by Angel Ferrer 4 min read

CBD For Athletes

CBD For Muscle Recovery Post-Workout

There’s no denying the increased popularity of both cannabis and CBD as therapeutic aids for a myriad of health conditions. Their use as health aids has more recently spilt over into athletics and competitive sports as a way to enhance recovery, calm nerves, improve sleep and more.

A recent Gallup poll examining Americans’ opinions on the plant showed two out of three support legalization of both cannabis and CBD.

As an industry, CBD is expected to reach $1.8 billion in sales within the next three years with no signs of slowing down. And it’s even been called “the new avocado toast,” popular among millennials and older generations alike.

One lesser discussed group that could benefit from CBD use is athletes. Unfortunately, current competitive regulations often are in conflict over the best approach to CBD. Some organizations permit it; others restrict its use under certain circumstances, while many ban CBD outright.

Below, we explain the details of CBD, current regulations surrounding its use in sports, as well as the importance of CBD supplementation as a health aid for athletes’ strenuous lifestyle.

A Brief Introduction to CBD

What is CBD? (and will it make you high?)

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana. Due to regulations in the United States and abroad, most CBD is extracted from hemp.

Hemp is found in the cannabis family but unlike marijuana, only contains trace amounts of the compound responsible for psychoactive experiences (THC). This nominal amount isn’t enough to get anyone “high”. In general, as long as the concentration of THC is under 0.03% in the final CBD extract, it is legal for possession, use and sale.

Preliminary research conducted on CBD has shown great promise with regards to its purported health benefits applicable to both athletes and non-athletes alike.

Is CBD legal?

The short answer is “yes”, but there are some restrictions to be mindful of. The2018 Farm Bill made CBD legal in all 50 states, provided that CBD meets stringent legal requirements (originating in the US, grown on an industrial or research hemp farm, and testing less than 0.3% THC).

Does CBD give an unfair advantage to some athletes?

It’s difficult to answer this question with any level of certainty, as CBD research pertaining to athletic performance and CBD is still a developing field. Nevertheless, the World Doping Agency recently agreed that CBD does not influence performance enough to merit a ban for athletes. It may improve performance, but it’s believed to improve performance only as much as a healthy diet and lifestyle might.

If CBD is legal for athletes, why is there still conflict over its use?

The cannabis plant contains a host of compounds outside of CBD. These are collectively known as “cannabinoids,” and include THC, CBCA, THCVA, CBGA, and others.

Only CBD is legal for athlete use. However, extraction of CBD is complex and brands are not always careful in their processes. Low-quality CBD may be labeled “CBD isolate” but contain trace amounts of the above cannabinoids, which are still prohibited.

If an athlete accidentally purchases an impure CBD product, theycould test positive for cannabinoids in their pre-competition drug test. Many athletes still feel they cannot risk CBD use and many coaches restrict CBD use.

Several professional sports organizations, such as theNFL andNCAA, list even pure CBD as a “banned substance” and penalize athletes who use it. Though theMLB seems indifferent to CBD and theNHL is beginning to make history by using it for player health, overall, pro sports stands in opposition to CBD use.

Why is CBD important for athletic recovery?

Though more research is necessary to fully confirm CBD’s benefits, early studies point to positive results from CBD usage for athletes. Here’s why:


One of the most significant elements of recovery is managing inflammation.

A small amount of inflammation can encourage blood flow and healing of damaged muscles. Greater amounts of inflammation, though, can cause damage to muscles and stress to the body. It’s important to keep inflammation to a healthy level to ensure muscles, as well as other systems like your immune system and kidneys, remain fully functional.

Athletes are at risk for dangerous levels of inflammation due to the continued levels of both physical and mental stress they exert on their body. Couple that with other factors like anxiety from competition or lack of sleep and it could spell disaster.

Early studies and anecdotal evidence seem to point toanti-inflammatory properties in CBD. Some have found it decreases muscle soreness, while others believe it protects them from the damaging effects of over-inflammation.

Many athletes also prefer CBD to NSAIDs because of the known health risks of taking NSAIDs long-term.


It should come as no surprise that sleep loss resultsin lack of focus, slower decision-making, and fatigue. While these are just unpleasant side effects for most of us, for athletes, one moment of hesitation could end an entire career. Sleep is crucial for athletic success.

CBD seems to influence individuals’ sleep cycles differently, based on the individual, dosage, and other circumstances. However,many find they fall asleep sooner and rest more deeply when using CBD. Athletes are using CBD to ensure a good night’s sleep—something we all can appreciate.


Eight out of ten coaches at US universitiesnotice anxiety struggles in their athletes. While many college students suffer from social anxiety, others battle performance anxiety. Athletes with performance anxiety may experience increasedsymptoms such as rapid heart rate, lack of focus, and exhaustion around competitions.

Researchers recentlyanalyzed 49 studies of CBD for signs of possible benefits. While more research is necessary to confirm the findings of this analysis, the researchers believed CBD showed potential to decrease anxiety. Many individual stories support these findings. For athletes, CBD could provide an all-natural means to relieve anxiety.

CBD Benefits For Atheletes

Though many major organizations are hesitant to allow CBD use, players in more accepting sports are beginning to see its potential for health. An athlete’s lifestyle puts stress on their muscles, joints, immune system, emotional state, and more; many find CBD naturally decreases this stress for their body. If it’s helping our athletes improve their health and well-being, while also not in any way impacting the competition itself, why not allow it?

It’s time to allow our athletes to use GetRebel for recovery.