Athletes regularly push their bodies to the limit, so proper recovery is essential.
Since CBD was dropped from the list of banned substances for all international sporting bodies, more and more athletes are turning to CBD oil to support their active lifestyles.
Some take their relationship with CBD even further; not only are they open about taking CBD, but they are also actively endorsing the product and sometimes even establishing their own CBD companies.
If you know anything about the benefits of CBD oil, you’ll be able to guess why so many athletes are in favour of using the supplement.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- Is CBD oil good for athletes?
- Is CBD oil legal for athletes?
- Which famous athletes use CBD?
Let’s dive in.
In this guide:
Is CBD good for athletes?
The ECS is present throughout the body and involved with many processes, including appetite control, pain response, sleep patterns and inflammation response. Taking a CBD supplement daily is thought to help support the normal function of the ECS.
While CBD might not be a cure or treatment for any particular condition, it is an accessible and readily available supplement that is well-tolerated by most healthy adults. This is why many athletes are adding it to their daily routine, either before bed or in a post-workout smoothie.
Is CBD for athletes legal?
CBD has many benefits for athletes, yet some are still hesitant to try it. The most common concern is that it could show up in a drug test and lead to a fine or even a ban from professional sports.
In essence, these concers comes down to one question: Is CBD legal for athletes?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is an international and independent agency that harmonises anti-doping policies across all sports and all countries. Each sporting body determines its own rules, but they are all guided by WADA.
In 2017, WADA removed CBD from its prohibited substances list. This means that athletes across almost every sport can now freely use CBD for athletic performance and to help recovery during both training and competitions.
However, while CBD is legal for athletes, THC is still prohibited. This is because THC is classified as a Class B controlled substance in the UK and is on WADA’s list of banned substances.
It’s important to note that some CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, but there are legal limits on how much THC can be in a product in the UK.
The THC level should always be below 0.02%, and this can be confirmed through third-party lab testing, and this information should be available to consumers through a CBD certificate of analysis.
In addition, for athletes concerned about passing drug tests, note that CBD will not show up on a drug test, but THC will. Therefore, provided your CBD product does not contain high levels of THC, there should be no risk to athletes.
In short, CBD is legal for athletes, but THC is not – so check your CBD’s certificate of analysis!
Benefits of CBD oil for athletes
This is just a snapshot of the reasons why more and more athletes are choosing to use CBD but should give you all you need to know.
CBD oil can support the digestive system
Gastrointestinal problems are inconvenient in daily life, but they can be detrimental for athletes.
CBD works on the cannabinoid receptors in the body’s ECS, which controls the parts of our body associated with regulation and control, including the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, pancreas and kidneys.
This, in turn, promotes better digestive health and appetite.
CBD aids recovery
CBD has been the focus of studies into a potential treatment for pain and inflammation. Since CBD interacts with the ECS, which is involved in inflammation response, CBD is being explored for its potential to aid athletic recovery.
A 2021 study investigating the role of CBD in sports recovery revealed promising potential for CBD to aid recovery from exercise and sports-induced fatigue. The study highlights the need for further evidence to solidify findings and provide guidance on dosages and frequency of use for maximum results.
However, this is promising for athletes following gruelling training plans. By enabling more efficient recovery, CBD could potentially support athletes in undertaking more frequent and intense training without compromising their health.
The effects of an athlete’s intense workouts are often muscle soreness. To speed up recovery from muscle soreness, athletes resort to methods like hot and cold therapy, massages and mobility exercises.
Among these, CBD balms and rubs are a great support tool. Massages, known for improving blood circulation, reducing muscle soreness and improving tissue functionality, can be further enhanced by adding CBD balms.
Athletes use CBD oil for sleep
Getting enough, high-quality sleep is essential for athletes, not only to aid recovery but also to help athletes achieve continuous training gains.
CBD is known to have relaxing effects on the human body, which can support athletes in falling and staying asleep. CBD does this by increasing natural endocannabinoids that help sleep cycles, thereby improving the length and quality of sleep.
Many of our body’s most vital processes occur while we sleep, including repairing damage and building new tissue. This makes sleep critical to improving athletes’ muscle growth, focus and concentration.
CBD oil supports the body’s natural systems
More than anything, CBD has been found to encourage balance and support the body’s natural processes.
As we mentioned earlier, CBD works in the body by interacting with the ECS. The ECS maintains homeostasis throughout the body and is essential for regulating things like hormones, which can be disrupted by intense activity.
Athletes put a lot of stress on the body and expect it to perform under adverse conditions. In order to perform at their best, it’s essential to give the body the right fuel for performance.
Alongside a varied and balanced diet, many athletes take supplements to ensure they are getting the right nutrients they need for performance. CBD is just another supplement to consider that makes this possible.
Benefits of CBD oil for athletes
Promotes digestive health
CBD supports gastrointestinal health and appetite
Enables better sleep quality essential for muscle repair
Support's the body's systems
Supports essential bodily systems that improves athletic performance
Aids muscle recovery
Possible inflammation response qualities of CBD aids muscle recovery
Risks and side effects of CBD for athletes
Similar to any supplement athletes incorporate into their routine, there is potential for side effects when taking CBD.
However, CBD is generally well-tolerated and safe, with any potential side effects being minimal.
Here are a few side effects for athletes to be mindful of:
- Dry mouth
CBD may reduce saliva production, resulting in a dry mouth. This could lead to discomfort for athletes engaging in strenuous training sessions.
- Changes in appetite
CBD might increase or decrease appetite, potentially disrupting athletes’ dietary requirements.
While CBD is not a sedative, it can lead to feelings of drowsiness. Athletes following demanding training routines may find this fatigue interfering with their workout routines or hindering their performance.
- Digestive issues
In some cases, CBD may cause digestive issues such as an upset stomach or diarrhoea. For athletes in the midst of training or competition, these issues can significantly hinder their performance.
How to choose the best CBD oil for athletes
The biggest concern for professional athletes looking to add CBD to their routine should always be quality, as this will ensure legal THC levels.
There are three types of CBD products available:
- Full-spectrum contains CBD, other beneficial cannabinoids and legal levels of THC.
- Broad-spectrum contains CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids but no THC.
- Isolate contains just the cannabidiol compounds
For peace of mind, athletes should choose either an isolate or a broad-spectrum product. This will minimise the risk of accidentally ingesting THC.
Alongside clear and transparent labelling, CBD sellers should also offer third-party lab testing and a certificate of analysis (COA) for every batch of CBD. This will show the concentration of each cannabinoid in the product, so you can be sure you aren’t taking a product with high levels of THC.
Athletes should also think about the types of products that would work best for them.
- CBD oil is the most common way to add it to your daily routine. The drops are placed under the tongue and absorbed through the tiny blood vessels and will get to work fast.
- CBD capsules are similar to vitamin supplements and are absorbed through the digestive system, which means a lower bioavailability.
- CBD muscle balms are applied directly to the skin and activate cannabinoid receptors in the skin but do not absorb into the bloodstream.
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17 famous athletes who use CBD
Given the many benefits of CBD for athletic performance, training and recovery, it is not surprising how many athletes are using the component.
These include some of the world’s most famous players in a range of sports.
Let’s take a look at the stars of rugby, boxing, NFL and more who have been enjoying the benefits of CBD for years.
1. George Kruis
George Kruis is a renowned rugby player with over 12 years’ professional experience, including five successful seasons with the Saracens and as a member of the England Performance Squad. He now plays with Japanese side the Panasonic Wild Knights.
George was first referred to CBD by his then Saracens teammate Dominic Day.
Day had started including a CBD supplement in his daily routine to help him recover from a knee injury and had been very impressed by the instant improvement. Dominic Day suggested it would also be beneficial for Kruis in helping him to recover from recent ankle surgery.
2. James Haskell
Another English Rugby player who takes CBD is James Haskell.
The retired rugby player is one of the UK’s most famous rugby internationals and has 78 senior England caps.
After retiring from the sport he signed up with MMA outfit Bellator, and is renowned for his dedicated training and fitness regime, as well as the impressive physique he has as a result.
Haskell and his wife Chloe Madeley, a fitness influencer, also have a strong social media presence. They share a great deal of content about fitness and nutrition, mostly focusing on better training and recovery.
He has released a number of YouTube videos about the benefits of CBD, where he shares how we and Madeley like to take CBD before a workout.
3. Ben Franks
Ben Franks, probably one of the world’s top rugby players, in another CBD fan.
The Australian-born athlete debuted his career with New Zealand teams the Crusaders and the Hurricanes, before moving to England to play with the London Irish and then the Northampton Saints.
In his 20 year career, he has so far secured two Rugby World Cup titles and almost 50 caps for the All Blacks.
Franks has spoken about how he has used CBD for years, well before it became a popular supplement for athletes. He was first recommended to use CBD by a team mate, and has been using it to improve his training and performance ever since.
4. Megan Rapinoe
Women’s soccer legend Megan Rapinoe is not only an exceptional ball player and feminist icon, she is also an enthusiastic advocate of CBD for athletes.
Her successful career stretches back to the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in 2004. She has competed on teams in the US, Europe and Australia, and now plays for the Seattle Reign Football Club.
She has been widely praised for her superb leadership of the US Women’s National Team, taking them to gold in the 2012 Olympics as well as the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Rapinoe has spoken publicly of the advantages of CBD oil as a healthy, natural method to maintain general wellbeing while training and competing. She’s also discussed the importance of changing the “status quo” around pain management in sports.
5. Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski is a celebrated player in the US’ National Football League (NFL). A former leading player with the New England Patriots, he now plays with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
His career to date has included three Super Bowl wins, and he was selected in the NFL’s 2010’s All-Decade Team and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Gronkowski has spoken out about the benefits of CBD for athletes, speaking about the difference CBD would have made to his wellbeing earlier in his career. He has publicly called for the NFL and other governing bodies to legalise the use of CBD oil for injury recovery.
6. Eugene Monroe
Eugene Munroe is another US NFL player who has been vocal in his support for CBD use, particularly for athletes.
Munroe was a very successful NFL player who played with the Jackson Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens. He retired in 2016 at age 29 over concerns about head trauma he’d sustained throughout his career.
Munroe became the first active NFL player to advocate for CBD and cannabis in 2014, publicly arguing that CBD should be used to encourage wellness.
7. Mike Tyson
He was the first heavyweight boxer to hold WBA, WBC and IBF titles simultaneously.
Mike Tyson is not only one of the most famous names in boxing, but he is also probably the athlete who is the most vocal promoting CBD oil.
Tyson was a champion boxer and was the undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990.
Tyson has not only been very vocal in promoting the benefits of CBD for athletes, but he has also publicly stated that he uses CBD for training, as well as using it both before and after fights.
He has been a supporter of CBD for years. Tyson also has his own legal marijuana farm and company that sells cannabis products.
8. Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz is a leading athlete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a lightweight fighter with 19 recorded wins out of 30 fights. He was also crowned The Ultimate Fighter 5.
He also enjoyed attention-grabbing wins against Ray Maynard, Donald Cerrone and Connor McGregor, the latter fight breaking the record for pay-per-view in the sport.
Diaz is a regular user of CBD, and has not only publicly advocated for its use but has used it in public appearances in front of the media.
He generated a fair amount of attention when he vaped cannabidiol at the post-fight press conference following his famous face-off with Connor McGregor. Diaz took the opportunity to talk about the positive impacts the compound has on the human body and explain how he takes CBD to help to restore his wellbeing.
9. Alex Montagnani
British Mixed Martial Arts (BMMA) star and actor Alex Montagnani competes at welterweight and has a stunning professional record of 10 wins to just three losses so far.
He is known in the sport as the “Mean Albatross” for his tenacious and relentless fighting style.
Montagnani widely advocates for CBD on social media, and CBD oil in particular.Like many of his fellow athletes, he’s shared how CBD oil has allowed him to take his training to another level, promoting better all-round health.
10. Kieran Kevan
Bodybuilding is an exceptionally competitive discipline that is extremely demanding on their athletes.
Kevan is also a vocal CBD user, regularly sharing his passion for CBD products on Instagram. He describes how CBD is useful in helping him relax after a workout as well as aiding with post-competition wellbeing.
11. Tomas Wolfe
UK Bodybuilding Fitness Federation (UKBFF) Northwest champion Tomas Wolfe is one of the biggest names in UK bodybuilding at the moment.
He has also become a staunch fan of CBD throughout his career, and often promotes its benefits to his growing fan base.
In particular, he talks about the power of CBD for athletes to promote wellbeing in the mind and body, which is particularly useful when dealing with competition.
12. Paul Pierce
Seasoned National Basketball Association (NBA) Paul Pierce played a total of 19 seasons in the sport, many of those as captain of the Boston Celtics.
During his career, he earned 10 All-Star selections and was a four time All-NBA team member. He is now an analyst on ESPN shows The Jump and NBA Countdown.
Pierce uses CBD for a very specific reason: to manage mental wellness following a traumatic event.
In 2000, at the height of his career, he was the victim of a violent attack in a Boston nightclub. The attack, where he was stabbed 11 times and had a bottle smashed in his face, left him with emotional scars.
13. Charley Hoffman
CBD is becoming especially common in the golfing field, with a number of professional golfers becoming involved in the CBD industry in one way or another.
Professional US golfer, Charley Hoffman, has had four PGA tour wins to date, and has won a total of six international tournaments.
Hoffman has shared how CBD has helped him with post-competition wellbeing recovery, as well as encouraging relaxation.
Other famous golfers who are known to use CBD include Bubba Watson and Lucas Glover.
14. Eddie Hall
Officially crowned the World’s Strongest Man in 2017, Eddie Hall is one of the most physically powerful men on earth.
He was the first, and to date only, many to deadlift 500kg (over 1,102 lbs) in international competition.
Hall is also a regular CBD user and often speaks publicly about its ability to improve physical wellness. He has also made efforts in the field of CBD awareness raising, helping to educate the public about this 100% natural compound and dispel myths about the link between THC and CBD.
15. Albee Layer
Hawaiian surfer Albee Layer is another proponent of CBD for athletes. The pro surfer is well known for not only his prowess in the waves, but also his raw, progressive style that pushes the boundaries of the sport.
He debuted in the 2008 season and continues to compete at a global level.
Layer first started taking CBD while recovering from his second hip surgery and was highly impressed. Since then, he’s been a vocal supporter of CBD for athletes, proudly promoting their benefits for better daily health.
16. Ross Rebagliati
Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati is not only a leader in his sport, he also won the first ever gold medal for snowboarding, taking the gold for Men’s Snowboarding at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Rebagliati is an active supporter of not just CBD but also medical cannabis, having his own medical marijuana business.
He has spoken about how he believes CBD has the most health benefits and can be very effective boosting personal wellbeing. He is a strong proponent of CBD oil for athletes and non-athletes alike.
17. Brooke Ence
There are also a number of CrossFitters who have embraced the CBD trend. Amateur and professional CrossFit athletes alike have adopted hemp oil and other CBD products to aid with general wellbeing.
Brooke Ence is one elite CrossFit Athlete who has publicly promoted the benefits of CBD for athletes. She said that she’s been taking CBD for quite some time and that it has been very valuable for her training and for her life in general.
Other professional CrossFitters, including five times Games athlete Noah Ohlsen and four times Games athlete Alex Anderson have shared how they noticed significant improvements in their lives since adopting CBD.
Final thoughts on CBD for athletes
Given the many benefits of CBD for encouraging general wellbeing, it is no surprise that so many athletes are big fans of the compound.
Whether you are one of the world’s most famous players or an amateur athlete, there seems little doubt that CBD could be extremely useful to support performance.
Although the world’s leading authority on drugs and sport, the WADA, has ruled that athletes are free to use CBD, it is always important to check the rules set by your sport’s own governing body, as well as the laws where you live.
Otherwise, you’ll find it worthwhile learning more about how CBD could help you to improve performance, aid with training and assist in recovery to make you a better athlete.