By now you’ve definitely heard of CBD, and you’ve probably even tried it (CBD-infused latte, anyone?). But if you’re like us, the details on what it actually does, and how and when to use it, are still murky. And that confusion isn’t surprising; CBD’s explosive growth into the mainstream was fueled in part by far-out claims that have far outpaced scientists’ ability to study it. But with everyone from holistic pharmacists to elite athletes singing CBD’s virtues, there must be something to the stuff, right?
In the case of outdoor athletes—or anyone else who might suffer from exercise-induced inflammation—the answer may be yes. More on that later. First, a quick CBD refresher.
What Is CBD and How Does It Work?
For generations, the only compound anybody cared about in cannabis was THC, the stuff that gets you high. And while CBD (which is short for cannabidiol) also comes from a cannabis plant—hemp, marijuana’s low-THC relative—it won’t get you high (the World Health Organization backs this up), and you can’t overdose on it like you can with opioids (studies have shown that no dosage of CBD is lethal).
THC and CBD are both compounds known as cannabinoids, and they both work by bonding to your body’s cannabinoid receptors, albeit with different outcomes. Our bodies are full of cannabinoid receptors because we produce endocannabinoids (the “endo” part just means we make them naturally). And while the plant cannabinoids aren’t quite the same as endocannabinoids, because we’re closely related to all life on earth, they react with our bodies in similar ways.
The retail CBD we see on grocery store shelves and in coffee shops today is the result of growers cultivating hemp plants that are low in THC and high in CBD. In addition, manufacturers have refined the process to isolate CBD and remove THC from the finished products. CBD products come in three forms: broad-spectrum (THC-free), CBD isolate, and full-spectrum featuring a range of cannabinoids. Remember that distinction.
How Can CBD Help Athletes?
So CBD won’t get you high, and it’s similar to compounds our bodies produce naturally. But what can it actually do? Quite a lot, according to an ever-increasing body of scientific research, and some studies seem to indicate that CBD can help support recovery from exercise-induced inflammation and help support a sense of calm. Those two factors could prove to be the biggest benefits of CBD for outdoor athletes.
Jen Palmer, a naturopathic doctor and the director of education at Charlotte’s Web, one of the original and most trusted CBD manufacturers, says exercise-induced inflammation is our body’s way of healing itself. But keeping that inflammation under control is thought to hasten recovery. “CBD and those other cannabinoids work together in the endocannabinoid system to create balance,” says Palmer. “It creates homeostasis. When it interacts with CB2 receptors, they help moderate that inflammation.”
The key for that, though, says Palmer, might be choosing those full-spectrum CBDs over the isolates. The idea is to let that range of cannabinoids work its way through as many of your receptors as possible. “People also report that it’s a sleep aid—and we know that sleep optimizes muscle recovery. That’s integral to performance, too,” says Palmer.
How and When Should I Take CBD?
Nowadays, CBD comes in myriad forms and doses, and, according to Palmer, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why Charlotte’s Web makes a variety of options, from tinctures to gummies to salves. To help you decide which products are right for you, we asked Palmer and professional climber and BASE jumper Steph Davis for their top recommendations.
CBD Oil: 17mg CBD/1mL
Davis has been taking Charlotte’s Web CBD oil before bed since 2015, when she was struggling to maintain consistent sleep cycles. It provides a higher concentration of CBD than the standard 7mg oils, which Davis finds essential for helping her sleep through the night and recover from her daily exercise. “I immediately noticed the benefit,” she says. “I usually take half a dropper, but if I think I might be facing a rough night’s sleep, I’ll take two droppers.”
CBD Recovery Gummies
A great option for folks looking to reduce their exercise-induced inflammation is the brand’s turmeric-infused CBD recovery gummies, says Palmer, who likes the ginger flavor. “The gummies are great post-exercise,” she says. “Start off with a couple and build up until you feel the benefits.”
Hemp Infused Balm with CBD
Topical balms appear to work differently than oral CBD, says Palmer. After exercise, simply rub the balm into your skin wherever you could use some soothing. Palmer recommends pairing the balm with the gummies after big days. That’s Davis’s program, too. “I’m focused on recovery in general,” she says. “I eat a couple of gummies a day if I’ve put in a hard effort. The balms and creams feel good afterward.”
Charlotte’s Web has earned its claim as the world’s most trusted CBD brand through its profound dedication to quality and positive impact on people’s lives. They created the movement with only one purpose: To help people. As Americans learn how to navigate the exploding CBD market and how it can change their lives, Charlotte’s Web is a hemp brand that people can depend on for high-quality CBD extracts.