Boost your post-workout recovery with a touch of clever cannabis

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the key compounds found in cannabis. Unlike its perhaps better-known sister compound tetrahydrocannabidiol or THC, it is not psychoactive and does not cause users to experience a ‘high.’ However, it is a useful treatment for muscular pain and soreness after working out. 

Everyone can feel pain after a workout, even the fittest of us. Sometimes this pain, soreness, and stiffness can last for several days and inhibit our ability to go about our everyday lives. The pain is caused by microscopic tears in muscle fibers that happen when we exercise. These tears then cause inflammation, which in turn triggers the body to begin the repair process. It is this reparative process that causes us to feel pain and stiffness. 

So how does CBD help with this? 

The Science Bit

CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors found naturally in the human body. The body actually produces its own endocannabinoids, which are responsible for regulating bodily functions, including mood and sleep (as well as post-workout pain, of course). CBD is thought to give these endocannabinoid receptors a boost and to prevent the absorption of pain-regulating anandamide, leading to higher concentrations in the bloodstream. It is also believed to reduce the underlying inflammation that causes muscular pain after exercise. 

This pain, and sometimes associated inflammation and swelling, is the body’s natural response to being injured. Even if you’re not ‘injured’ in the traditional sense after your workout, your muscles have been asked to do things outside of their usual remit and micro tears can result. The body is designed to protect itself from injury, so fluids and other healing elements rush into the muscles to help them heal. It is actually the healing that causes the pain and swelling.

It is thought that CBD helps with post-exercise pain and inflammation by binding to TRPV1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are well-known for helping us to manage pain and inflammation, so it makes total sense that a boost of CBD would offer relief. 

However, CBD doesn’t do this directly – instead, it prevents us from feeling pain by preventing glycine receptors (a type of naturally-occurring protein) from sending pain signals to the brain. Pretty cool! 

Choosing a Product 

While edible methods such as gummies, baked goods and even beverages are becoming incredibly popular ways for users to get CBD into their system, they aren’t necessarily the best way to take it if you’re looking to relieve post-exercise pain. This is because edibles need to be digested before their effects are felt; it can take as long as two hours. By contrast, creams and lotions are applied topically and directly onto the painful muscle or area, so relief comes much more quickly. Simply rub your CBD cream into the affected area and wait. What’s even cooler is that topical CBD treatments don’t just relieve pain; they fight the muscular inflammation that causes it too. 

With any CBD product, you want to make sure there’s plenty of active ingredient in there. Most CBD creams and topicals will have a number of other ingredients, often arnica or peppermint that have great soothing powers on their own, you still need a good amount of CBD in there for it to work. 

Now, of course, their slower action doesn’t mean that edibles are completely useless for post-workout pain; if after your workout you’re not in any immediate discomfort but anticipate that you’ll feel sore and stiff eventually, you can pop an edible in your mouth and stave off the pain before it begins. 

If you’re new to CBD and aren’t sure what to get and where to get it from, check out  or visit your local health food shop. If you’re planning to buy your product online, be sure to check local laws and regulations as CBD is not currently legal at the federal level (it is legal in the majority of states, but it’s best to do your research).  

Risks and Side Effects

While CBD is generally well-tolerated by most of the population, like any substance there is the possibility you will experience side effects. Reported side effects of CBD are usually mild, and can include nausea, tiredness and fatigue, and increased irritability. It also raises the level of a blood-thinning hormone called coumadin.

There is also a possibility that CBD will negatively interact with other medications you are taking – especially if those medications already have an impact on your liver function. This is because CBD can impact your liver’s ability to metabolize medications and change the amount of that medication that ends up in your bloodstream. 

This mechanism is similar to the impact grapefruit juice can have on liver function, so if you are taking medication that recommends you avoid grapefruit you should also avoid CBD. If you are taking any medication at all, consult your doctor before adding CBD to your regimen. 

Because CBD is currently marketed as a supplement and not as a medication, understanding the correct dosage can be difficult. There is no official guidance available. While there is no evidence that increasing your dosage increases your risk of side effects, it is best to start low and work your way up. You wouldn’t take more prescription medication than you need: even if CBD is a natural substance, you still don’t want to go overboard.

Because it remains unregulated, people who use CBD also run the risk that their product of choice will be contaminated with other substances, or that it contains ingredients not listed on the packaging. While these substances may not be dangerous in themselves – we’re not implying they contain anything harmful – this can be an issue for people who have sensitivities or allergies. If you have any concerns about the product, or any reason to believe it is not exactly what it claims to be, do not ingest / apply it. It simply isn’t worth the risk.